CERN’s Summer of Rock

When a rock star visits CERN, they don’t just bring their entourage with them. Along for the ride are legions of fans across the world – many of whom may not be the typical CERN audience. In July alone, four big acts paid CERN a visit, sharing their experience with the world: Scorpions, The Script, Kings of Leon and Patti Smith.


@TheScript tweeted: #paleofestival we had the best time! Big love. #CERN (Image: Twitter).


It all started with the Scorpions, the classic rock band whose “Wind of Change” became an anthem in the early 1990s. On 19 July, the band braved the 35-degree heat to tour the CERN site on foot – visiting the Synchrocyclotron and the new Microcosm exhibition. The rockers were very enthusiastic about the research carried out at CERN, and talked about returning in the autumn during their next tour stop.

The Scorpions visit Microcosm.

Two days later, The Script rolled in. This Irish pop-rock band has been hitting the top of the charts since the early 2000s, with albums such as “Science & Faith” and “#3”. During their visit to the CCC and the ATLAS control centre, the band tweeted photos and messages to their 2.2 million followers. "There’s a deep connection between music and physics,” said lead singer Danny O'Donoghue. “ATLAS and the LHC really bring physics to life, and also share the knowledge with the world, which is very important."

That evening, The Script donned their CERN helmets on stage at Paléo and asked the audience to make a “C” sign for CERN. The resulting photo appeared all across their social media – an epic tribute to their visit.



The next day saw a visit from Matthew and Jared Followill from the platinum-selling rock band Kings of Leon. “We’d seen Particle Fever and had read news stories about the big discoveries made here at CERN,” said Jared, the band’s bass guitarist. “Our visit has made us that much more interested in learning more.” He went on to describe his visit on Twitter as “incredibly enlightening and encouraging for our future”.



Awesome day @cern @atlasexperiment. Made me wish I had graduated high school.

A photo posted by Jared Followill (@jaredfollowill) on


Patti Smith and former ATLAS spokesperson Peter Jenni at the ATLAS control centre.

Finally, on 25 July, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame star Patti Smith visited CERN with her full band in tow. An icon since the 1970s, Patti is widely known for her song “Because the Night”. She spent the morning touring the CERN site, visiting the AD Hall, the CCC, the ATLAS control centre and the Synchrocyclotron. Patti spoke with Monica Bello of the Arts@CERN programme, and at some length with Peter Jenni, former ATLAS spokesperson.

While these musicians were touring the Laboratory, CERN also welcomed visitors to the newly reopened Microcosm exhibition. Proof that you don’t need a platinum album – or even a physics background – to enjoy a CERN tour.

The LHC jams at the Montreux Jazz Festival

CERN joined the A-list line-up at the Montreux Jazz Festival for its third annual ‘The physics of music and the music of physics’ performance.

The event featured a “recital” by the LHC itself! Through a process known as “sonification”, collisions in the ATLAS experiment were converted into musical notes. Jazz pianist Al Blatter joined in with his musical magic to produce a cosmic duet, which you can listen to here.

The show also featured an improvised performance by CERN’s Robert Kieffer (Beam Instrumentation group) and Gaëtan Parsihian (CNRS, Marseille). Using sounds recorded around CERN, the duo created an experimental piece that – with the help of a circular speaker system – engaged the audience from every direction.

Highlights from the Montreux programme – including live sonification of LHC collisions – will be featured at Researchers’ Night on 25 September. Check out future issues of the Bulletin for more details.


by Katarina Anthony