Matt Curlee, Composer | Regina Demina, Physicist | Brianna Williams, Dance
September 26, 2015 at 7:00 pm
Sproull Atrium, Eastman School of Music
Even while in the midst of preparing the original incarnation of H, I knew that, at its completion, I wouldn’t really be finished. The piece grew out of personal quest that is itself by no means done – maybe just beginning. But also the very structure of the piece demanded it: because H attempted to be very cosmological in scope (and also not be 17 hours long), it had to be an overview. These subjects that I find to be deeply beautiful, to be profound and inspiring, could each be placed on a sort of stage like a character, but not fully developed. So the thought arose to return to some of those characters, to their scientific basis and the musical ideas associated with them, and to really tell their stories.
H was about the universe, but it was inspired by scientists past and present; from the very beginning they were the heroes of the project, and I decided it was time to get one of them involved. Regina Demina is a professor of physics at the University of Rochester, the parent institution of the Eastman School of Music, where I studied and now teach. Beyond that, she played a critical role in the discovery of the Higgs Boson at the Large Hadron Collider (CERN, Geneva), as a deputy project leader of one of the teams that designed the CMS detector, and also collaborates on the D-Zero experiment at Fermilab near Chicago. Her work and expertise in electroweak symmetry breaking places her at the very cutting edge of experimental physics and an extraordinarily exciting time. I’m so honored to have collaborated with and learned from Regina as we’ve prepared this performance, in a way that has truly shaped and informed the music.
And I can’t wait to share what we’ve been working on! It’s a cycle of three movements for string quintet, clarinet, and marimba called Fermion Histories, which will be interpreted graphically, live and in real time by Regina. (By the way zero background in quantum mechanics or even, say, differential calculus, is required to enjoy this performance...although there may be a test at the end. The diagrams and equations that underlie this fundamental layer of our existence are, by themselves, beautiful and crystalline, and to see them emerging slowly in front of you…well, we tried it the other day, and it was really something.)
Performed against Fermion Histories in an alternating fashion will be a second cycle called Genomic Histories, comprised of chamber arrangements (for 8 voices, accompanied) of the three choir movements from H. These form their own parallel narrative from a human perspective, concerning the essence of life, consciousness, and death. Equally, each can be seen as a meditation on the preceding Fermion Histories movement...the two cycles represent similar concepts reflected on the vastly seperated length and time scales of subatomic particles and of biology. The two cycles are introduced by a prologue, which sets a text by Erwin Schrödinger about the nature of reality; the whole performance will run about 50 minutes.
We're very grateful to the First Niagara Rochester Fringe Festival 2015 and the Eastman School of Music for making this performance possible. If you're unfamiliar with the venue, Sproull Atrium is in the building across Gibbs St. from Eastman (containing Sibley Library), facing the corner of Gibbs and Main. Admission is $10, and tickets are available through the festival in advance, or at the door.