cl and string 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


"A surprisingly playful work, from the rubbery glissandos of the opening multiverse to the songlike heart of space (imagine a Schubert-inflected Middle Eastern bluesy dirge) and the jaunty dance and hymn-like close of twistor scattering, in which A Mighty Fortress is Our God seemed to echo faintly through a slightly demented cosmos. All that freewheeling postmodernism made for an engaging, extremely enjoyable listen  an intriguing new work from a very 21st-century composer." Washington Post

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

Museo d'Arte Contemporaneo Roma (MACRO) (Rome, Lazio, Italy)

Derek Bermel/Quartetto Indaco

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