Short History of the Universe (as related by Nima Arkani-Hamed), A


clarinet quintet
Solo Instrument(s) with Ensemble, String Quartet, Clarinet, Clarinet and Ensemble
cl and string quartet
commissioned by Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts for premiere performance on January 11, 2013 at the Barns at Wolf Trap. Many thanks to the JACK Quartet, Peter Robles, and Wolftrap for helping to make this commission possible.
First Performance
11.1.2013: Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, VA, USA: Derek Bermel/JACK Quartet

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Programme Notes

During my tenure at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, I have attended several lectures on the subject of space-time, gravity, and the multiverse by the renowned theoretical physicist Nima Arkani-Hamed. Nima's talks  always expansive, extroverted, and inspiring  describe phenomena at both tiny and enormous ends of the cosmic scale. His depictions (and diagrams) of gravity are exciting and dynamic, and I wondered how they might be expressed in musical terms. As I had been discussing with the phenomenal JACK quartet the possibility of writing a clarinet quintet for them + me, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. Inspired by Nima's powerful sense of cosmological narrative, "A Short History of the Universe" presents musical depictions of our constant companion gravity, expressed both horizontally (in time, i.e. duration/speed) and vertically (in space, i.e. pitch/contour). Glissandi on the clarinet and in the strings spring away from and bounce back to the original notes. By exploring various ways of stretching and compacting, or "curving" musical spacetime, I hope to evince a sort of general relativity for the ears. Derek Bermel

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