. . . just as a violin string’s different vibrations produce different notes, energy strings’ unique vibration patterns correspond to different subatomic particles. If this picture is correct, all of physics can be summarized as the harmonies of tiny vibrating strings, chemistry as the melodies of interacting strings, and the universe as a symphony of all strings resonating distinctly. Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics, on String Theory
Physics of sound. Physics of the universe. Both attempt to describe and define how the world moves and vibrates. Molecules of air bump into each other, creating patterns and waves of sound, very similar to the way that water moves. When I was asked to write a piece to celebrate the dedication of a new performance space and audio recording suite in our music school, it seemed appropriate to focus on how sound works and how musicians gather together to “play” with sound, whether on the stage or in the studio.
But this piece was also intended to commemorate the son of the benefactor, as well as the mother for whom the Music School was named. Tragically, the grandmother and grandson had both died relatively young and had never met. The school and this new space was the connection between them, a musical connection across time and space. It struck me that the physics of sound could be extended into the quantum and string physics theories that I had been reading and studying for a number of years. There was a congruency of language used to describe our universe in motion, elegant and apt. So, through the lens of a musician who works daily with the physics of sound and also pursues a layperson’s understanding of quantum physics, I wrote “Still Point.” Written for choir, two synthesizer keyboards, and an electronic wind instrument, the piece was premiered a year ago this week.
Live performance recorded at the dedication of the Dr. Thomas D. Pappert Center for Performance and Innovation, Mary Pappert School of Music, Duquesne University. Sung by the Voices of Spirit under the direction of Christine Jordanoff, EWI solo by Mike Tomaro.
©2010 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved
Still point, still point
Like a pebble in a pond, a word was sung
and hung in silence until the world began.
Still point, still point
First sound from whose center came the waves.
The ripples of vibration that set the world in motion, in motion
A universe of motion, a coherent dance of sound
Form and pattern rising from a sea of possibility
Each sound becomes a pebble dropped, each note becomes a wave
Each resonance of harmony intensifies a place
where ripples and waves intersect, time and space fold, connect
through generations never met into a
still point, still point
Music, sound, harmony
Gathering communities, communities who play with sound,
who ride its waves, explore the pool creation’s made
Perhaps in hope to hear an echo of that still point
From which a word was sung and hung in silence until the world began.
For a detailed look at the connections between music and quantum physics, see “The Birth of the Blues: How Physics Underlies Music” from the IOP Science/IOP Publishing
All text, video, and music ©2010, 2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved