"The universe is made of stories, not atoms" - Muriel Rukeyser
I know what Part IX is all about, and yet, I completely fail to explain it every time I try. It’s about what is maybe the most central precept of our physical universe: that information is conserved. It’s about black hole thermodynamics and the holographic principle. And it’s about stories – stories of particles, particles born in ancient eons, a few of which come together for tens of years to form you and me, and soon disperse to live other lives and make other things for ages to come. It’s about the stories of individual photons that exist outside the realm of time itself, traveling the length of the universe before they are stopped by a human hand, a leaf on a tree, a cloud in the sky. It’s about the mark that those pathways leave on the universe, and the way that reality emerges from the summation of all those tracings. It’s about how the little bits of information now inside you may someday be emitted as radiation from evaporating black holes, at a point in the future when the universe is many, many times its current age. And it’s about being in, and also containing, the universe.
The results of a simulation of a 350 light year-diameter swath of universe, evolved through 14 billion years , a project led by a team of scientists at MIT. At this scale, tiny dots represent clusters and superclusters of galaxies, and the web-like structures show the filaments of dark matter binding them into great walls.
Entitled, Boundary Etchings, Part IX is a short, sparse piece for mostly strings and percussion that is meant to be, in a sense, the distant reflection of Part I. The strings, for the first time, are divided spatially, with a quartet playing from the back of the room. The relationship of the two groups is, in a sense, that of a storyteller and a library: the quartet encapsulates and preserves from a distance the essence of the orchestra’s pathway through the piece. The evaporating upward glisses of Part I are now transformed into downward falls, representing the redshifted light traveling to us from an ancient and expanding universe. Melodic motives developed over the course of the first eight movements are now frozen into harmonic structures, as if encoded on a two-dimensional film. At a point about two-thirds of the way through, most of the motion ceases. The organ enters, very slowly reflecting the opening row of Part I, but using extremely low frequencies. It’s accompanied by strings, flatly sustaining the minor-triad structures developed through the early movements, and faint fluctuations of a motivic fragment from Part IV. A solo cello enters and presents the last intact melodic phrase of the piece, before the remaining elements fade into darkness.
Inspired by and dedicated to Fritz Zwicky, Jacob Beckenstein, Stephen Hawking, Gerard t’ Hooft, Leonard Susskind, Jenny Hollowell, and the majestic and impossible Hercules Corona-Borealis Great Wall.