New York Concert
Five years after its New York debut Isotone returns to New York with a brand new concert. The Isotone Concert Series has been energizing audiences in the "Atomic City" of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, for eight years as well as performing throughout the Southeast. The first New York concert was well received. Commenting on the 2011 concert Matt Weber of the “I Care If You Listen” blog wrote that “’Isotone: A Collision of Music and Physics’…certainly lived up to its name…. Isotone captured the excitement, energy, and humor, as well as the dangers, of physics.”
The May 21 concert at Peter Norton Symphony Space’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre draws on international as well as local talent. Celebrated Canadian Composer Janet Danielson composed “Six Pieces of a Reverberant Cosmos” for Isotone in 2014. The work is based on “The Book of the Cosmos: Imagining the Universe from Heraclitus to Hawking” by renowned Canadian author Dennis Danielson. The composition will be presented along with a series of short readings by the author.
The second half of the concert moves from the mind to the lab, presenting tributes to the neutron research facilities of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The first work is “Spallation Quartet” by New York composer Larry Spivack. The work premiered a year ago at the ORNL Spallation Neutron Source auditorium and was streamed live around the world. Spivack joins forces with New York composer and guitarist, Adam Schneider to compose “High Flux Isotope Reactor” which will receive its world premiere at the May 21 concert and includes special audience participation.
Musicians participating in the concert include graduates from both Juilliard School and Indiana School of Music. At the core is the Cumberland Piano Trio, including Susan Eddlemon, violin, Dan Allcott, cello and Emi Kagawa, piano. Joining the trio are percussionists Larry Spivack and Scott Eddlemon and guitarist Adam Schneider.
The Isotone Concert will be performed 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at Peter Norton Symphony Space’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia, 2537 Broadway at 95th St.
Tickets cost $25 for adults and $15 for seniors & students. Tickets may be purchased online by clicking here.
Isotone Program Notes
Six Pieces of a Reverberant Cosmos
for Piano Trio & Percussion
This work is based on six cosmological writings from the ancient world up to the present. The concepts of specificity, precision, and limits featured in these passages—abstract when expressed in text or number—are given sonic expression.
Proud Waves (Book of Job, 4th-6th century BCE)
From the murk of a pre-cosmic existence without time or light, rhythm appears in the form of a Richard Feynman bongo solo, setting bounds for the inchoate waves and leading the dancing chorus of the morning stars.
Warring Atoms (Boethius, 6th century CE)
Boethius’ vision of the constant governance of love operating in both macrocosm and microcosm is here represented by the stately framework of the opening of the harmonic series, within which the energies of tone “molecules” are explored in their rotational, translational and vibrational motion.
Wonderfully Sly and Smooth Motion (Thomas Digges, 1576)
Thomas Digges hoped to reassure readers grappling with the new Copernican view of the earth as a spinning, tilting planet whose hapless inhabitants now feared buffeting cosmic winds, collisions with comets, and unrelenting vertigo. This piece is a scale model of 24-hour rotation, each hour compressed into 15 seconds, and perhaps not as sly and smooth as Digges suggests.
No Clockwork is More Precise (Johann Heinrich Lambert, 1761)
The isotropic and isochronic Newtonian cosmos promised complete predictability of cosmic motion; though quantum mechanics and hyperbolic geometry have shown that the irrational and unpredictable are not so easily swept away. In this piece isotropic space is suggested by the pentatonic scale, which consists of five pitch classes in a uniform 2:3 relationship with each other. The irrational component of the seven-tone diatonic scale, fa-ti or the twelfth root of two, has been removed. Lambert’s hierarchy of waves is suggested by the appearance of the first twelve beats of the well-known folksong “O Waly Waly,” each beat of which is stretched out to twenty seconds. On each of these stretched tones you will hear a repetition of the melodic fragment at a more normal pace. But as the pitches rise, the rhythmic intensity increases, and strange modal effects result.
Steel, Clay and Light (Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, 1926)
The revolution brought about by spectroscopy may eventually be seen as more significant than the Copernican revolution. Through spectroscopy the composition and location of distant cosmic entities can be confirmed, and solid matter, even impervious substances like steel or clay, can be analyzed in minutest detail, each substance displaying its unique fingerprint of colour and absorption lines. Spectral data are usually presented visually, but what if the spectra were presented sonically?
Specific Resonances (Owen Gingerich, 1993)
Carbon, which is necessary for life, can be produced only under exacting conditions. Within the roiling cauldrons of giant red stars, two helium-4 alpha particles sometimes bind to form beryllium-8, whose lifetime is less than the blink of an eye. But with a specific resonance or level of excitation, a third alpha particle will bind with the ephemeral beryllium to make carbon-12. In this piece the alpha particles are presented as four-tone chordal motifs, followed immediately by two echoes. Then two of the motifs combine in a brief dance, while the third floats by unconnected. Yet the level of excitation increases. Beryllium is presented as crystalline arpeggios, alluding to beryllium’s emerald manifestation. As the intensity increases, the third helium-4 appears and carbon-12, symbolized by a scale line utilizing all twelve tones, emerges from an obscure process. However, this scale is mundane and short-lived, ascending, descending, and then vanishing into the dance of the stars.
for violin, cello and 2 percussion
by Larry Spivack
According to the ORNL web site, Spallation Neutron Source “is a one-of-a-kind research facility that provides the most intense pulsed neutron beams in the world for scientific research and industrial development. SNS produces neutrons with an accelerator-based system that delivers short (microsecond) proton pulses to a target/moderator system, where neutrons are produced by a process called spallation. State-of-the-art experiment stations provide a variety of capabilities for researchers across a broad range of disciplines, such as physics, chemistry, materials science, and biology." Larry Spivack musically portrays the spallation process as follows:
I. Hydrogen Ion
Emerging from the Ion Source, a procession of the single proton (violin) with two electrons (double-stops on vibraphone). The hydrogen ion is aware that it will be broken up in the name of science, but it is trying not to be negative, which is physically impossible.
II. Linac and Foil
The hydrogen ion marches into the Linac (line accelerator) like a young, eager recruit reporting for duty. It is accelerated to a very high energy. Its two electrons are trapped in the Foil (tam-tam), leaving a proton with a positive charge (splash cymbal).
III. Ring and Target
Upon entering the Ring, protons (violin and cello) are formed into bunches and begin pulsating in rhythm. They are forced to collide with the Target, liquid mercury. The result is spallation: the spinning off of neutrons (glockenspiel) which are collected. The neutrons are proud about their future participation in nuclear experiments.
High Flux Isotope Reactor
for electric instruments
by Adam Schneider & Larry Spivack
Following the success of Spallation Quartet, Isotone founder Scott Eddlemon wanted a new work to pay tribute to the other, and much older, neutron facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the High Flux Isotope Reactor. According to the HFIR website, the facility, constructed in the mid-60’s, “is the highest flux reactor-based source of neutrons for research in the United States, and it provides one of the highest steady-state neutron fluxes of any research reactor in the world. The thermal and cold neutrons produced by HFIR are used to study physics, chemistry, materials science, engineering, and biology. The intense neutron flux, constant power density, and constant-length fuel cycles are used by more than 500 researchers each year for neutron scattering research into the fundamental properties of condensed matter.” The HFIR has been in the news lately for producing Plutonium-238. This is a different isotope from plutonium-239, which is used in nuclear weapons. Pu-238 is used as fuel in space power systems. The radioactive material produces heat as it decays, and that heat is converted to electricity for vital tasks on spacecraft.
The venerable HFIR still encompasses exciting and ground-breaking physics, so Eddlemon wanted to ratchet up the representation in the music. Thus, while Spallation Quartet uses all acoustic instruments, from violin and cello to vibraphone and cymbal-guy, Eddlemon wanted to use all electronic instruments for this companion piece. He sought out guitarist and composer Adam Schneider to work in collaboration with Larry Spivack, composer of Spallation Quartet. The collaboration produced an eclectic rock genre work for electric violin, electric cello, two electric drum kits and, of course electric guitar. The work is in three movements:
I. Flux Trap
The movement begins with an aggressive theme evocative of the production of fast neutrons in the U-235 core. The beat becomes more relaxed and swing-like as these neutrons are “leaked” into the moderating “island” surrounding the core. Finally, a series of variations model the tapping of the trapped flux of neutrons into tubes where they are beamed to various stations for experimentation.
II. Reactor Pool
This movement is a “dip” into the deep pool of water covering the reactor core. The violin melody portrays the beautiful blue glow of the Cherenkov Radiation.
III. Neutrons for Research
The final movement works through eight key changes as neutrons are directed to researchers for various studies. The movement ends with a burst of energy from the guitar directing neutrons to over fifty audience “researchers” who receive these neutrons with sophisticated gathering devices passed out during intermission.