Beck and NASA Bring ‘Hyperspace’ to Life with an Audiovisual Experience


Beck and NASA collaborate to create an immersive visual album for “Hyperspace” (Courtesy Indigo Show)

By Kate Button, Arts Writer, Copy Editor


On Aug. 12, Beck released a new version of his 2019 album, “Hyperspace.” This new release features a visual component created in collaboration with NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. This visual album, hosted on Beck’s website, features images curated and processed through artificial intelligence. As stated on the site, “Hyperspace: A.I. Exploration is an interstellar journey through a series of hybrid data and music videos featuring real NASA data transformed through artificial intelligence by Osk scored to Beck’s Hyperspace.”

This project seeks to answer the question, “How would artificial intelligence imagine our universe?” The Osk artificial intelligence program was trained on data from NASA’s various photographs and recordings of stars, planets and space. The visual album features 3D visualizations, animations and simulations to supplement the data provided by the NASA archives.

The Auditory Experience

Each track from the 2019 “Hyperspace” album is set to images from corresponding NASA missions. Some tracks from the album were reworked to flow more smoothly with the NASA images, as the soundtrack of Beck’s album progresses from the sun and the planets in our solar system, to larger structures and phenomena within our universe, galaxy and beyond. 

The 2020 audio release of “Hyperspace” features new remixes and soundscapes inspired by the 2019 album. These new takes on the album reiterate themes of exploration that are seen and felt throughout the audiovisual experience. However, the most successful track on the extended section of the album is “I Am The Cosmos.” This cover of Chris Bell’s song brings a sense of humanity to the tracklist. Beck recorded this acoustic track while in quarantine, and in the context of the 2020 release, it brings an unrefined and honest viewpoint amid more glamorous and stylized space-focused songs. Four tracks — “Die Waiting,” “See Through,” “Hyperspace” and “Star” — were reworked for both the visual album and the traditional audio release. The new takes on these tracks add percussive elements that help to emphasize some transitions between NASA’s images. The 2019 version of “Hyperspace” feels dreamy, soft and glides through references to space. The new layout of “Hyperspace” brings the audience into space — it is real and immediate, with an emphasis on percussion that echoes the harsh reality of the final frontier. 

The Visual Effects

“Hyperspace: A.I. Exploration” opens with “Die Waiting,” a track paired with images of the sun — primarily captured from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. From the 2019 album, “Die Waiting” was one of my favorite songs. I hadn’t expected to see this track set to solar imagery, but the pairing emphasizes discussions of mortality, while the images inspire an awe-filled appreciation of our small place in the larger universe.

Throughout the visual album, some songs — while rearranged — are used to aptly pair the audio experience with the visual effects. The original “Hyperspace” was filled with references to the sky and space, and these pairings are further continued in the visual experience. “Stratosphere” is matched with images of the Milky Way from the Spitzer Space Telescope, “Star” is paired with images of various stars and galaxies taken from the Hubble Space Telescope and “Dark Places” is matched with images and animations of black holes observed through the Hubble Space Telescope. These corresponding images work to continue the discussions of space present on “Hyperspace,” but rather than a simple auditory experience, these pairings truly immerse the audience in the “hyper-real.” The visuals of space are completely immersive, and at times the visuals call attention to the more human lyrics present in Beck’s songwriting. Yet, in the video focused on Earth, I felt a sense of defamiliarization and I couldn’t quite place what I was seeing. In these juxtapositions of space, humanity and natural life, I truly felt a sense of awe and curiosity regarding space and the worlds beyond our own. Space and planetary concepts and structures are brought to life and made much more accessible through this multimedia presentation. 

From the visual album, my favorite video was for “Chemical,” which paired with images of Saturn from the Cassini-Huygens mission. As I watched this video, I was completely mesmerized by the presentation of images and animations that brought this planet to life. The AI presentations of NASA’s data flow effortlessly and are beautifully matched with the gentle waves of Beck’s music. The rings of Saturn are presented in such a different way than I’ve seen before, and the accompaniment with “Chemical” created such an immersive experience. While “Chemical” was my favorite video, I do have to acknowledge the video for “Saw Lightning,” which paired with images of Mars. I was not a fan of “Saw Lightning” in the context of the 2019 “Hyperspace” album, but the visuals of Mars fit with the tempo of the track, and I was able to appreciate this track more in the context of the visual album. 

The Audiovisual Immersion

Lately, visual albums have become more of a trendy release for artists to explore, showcasing their craft in new ways. Typically, I am not a fan of visual albums because I generally like to appreciate the music on its own while having the freedom to see what images the sounds inspire — and along a similar line, I rarely ever watch music videos. However, “Hyperspace: A.I. Exploration” helped me to appreciate the visual album platform. I had enjoyed listening to the original “Hyperspace,” and I was excited to see the new directions it would take in a visual format. 

This collaboration with NASA presents a new avenue for future visual albums. The music was beautifully paired with images of space, and I found myself wanting to learn more about NASA’s missions that led to the photographs featured in the visual album. The website format of the visual album allows users to scroll along through the solar system and beyond, and some sections in between each planet help to echo the vast size of space. Each section offers information on the missions, technology and links to learn more from NASA. The AI presentation of the visuals offers an exciting look at how data and music can be combined to create something artistic and informative. 

“Hyperspace: A.I. Exploration” offers a unique look at what the future can hold in balancing art, science and technology, and this audiovisual experience immerses the audience in the beautiful and haunting elements of space.


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