Celestial Musicology


Full Score: PDF
Audio: (GB Tracks)
1 - VLA.EXE

2 - Heliosphere

3 - Tau Ceti Toccata


Instrumentation: flute, Bb clarinet, piano, solo percussion, violin, violoncello, game boy
Duration: ca. 15:00
Year of Completion: 2014
Order:
Program Notes:

Combining live performers with the sound chip of the original Nintendo Game Boy, Celestial Musicology is a sonic exploration of our universe with a nod to the connection between gaming and astrological themes. Video games and outer space have always been closely linked: Space Invaders was a mainstay of coin-operated arcades, while more recent entries Starcraft and Halo are cornerstones of the PC and home console market, respectively. This rich history provided a vast landscape of inspiration to me as a composer, and it is my hope that listeners will come away from this piece wanting to learn more about the real subjects and events explored in each movement.

The Very Large Array is a Y-shaped collection of 27 radio antennas located in New Mexico. The primary purpose of the VLA is to collect imaging data on the observable universe, from black holes and pulsars to the birth and death of stars. "VLA.EXE" is a musical interpretation of what that data might sound like if it were filtered through the Nintendo Game Boy and the onstage performers. The music is essentially a chaconne - a repeating series of four chords that slowly change as the piece progresses. Each section of the music represents the sound of a different phenomenon in the universe, ending with a spectacularly chaotic stream of data.

The NASA Voyager probes launched in 1977, taking advantage of a rare planetary alignment for a speed boost to explore the outer planets of our solar system. After several years of false alarms, NASA announced on September 12, 2013 that Voyager I had finally left the influence of our sunís heliosphere; the charged particles of solar wind emitted by our star. Steady pulses of notes permeate this movement, gradually building in intensity until finally stopping just before the movement ends. A high-pitched single note figure represents transmissions sent back to Earth from the probe - the final transmission is heard in the glockenspiel as the movement comes to a close.

Both Voyager probes carry a golden record containing images, music, and audio greetings from a wide selection of mankindís history. Tau Ceti is a star similar to our sun and thought to contain habitable planets, and "Tau Ceti Toccata" is an interpretation of what they might include on their golden record if intercepted by humans. Driving single-note riffs and ascending chords alternate with a quirky melody, briefly interrupted by a lyrical theme. All of the musical material combines at the close of the movement in an exciting explosion of alien space funk.

NOTE: Please email me before ordering the Game Boy option on this piece. Order times will depend on the speed at which I can acquire additional cartridges and the original grey Game Boy systems.


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