Pythagoras, Christian philosophers and even modern musicians have been fascinated by Musica Universalis (Music of the Spheres). But the music of the spheres is not "music" as we understand the term today. Rather it refers to the harmony, phases, and relationships between the planetary bodies; their sizes, their speeds, their resonances. As the planets move across the heavens they fall in and out of sync with one another creating an infinitely complex, non-repeating pattern of harmonies.
This piece explores these ideas through music. The Earth cycles through its seasons, marking each with a digitally altered piano. Mars announces it’s movement around it’s 687 day orbit with a manipulated trumpet tone beginning at each extreme of it’s orbit. Saturn sparks new patterns of improvised percussion as it travels across the sky in an arc lasting nearly 30 years. Other patterns manifest themselves for the listener to uncover as the piece progresses.
Taking the date Galileo first observed Neptune (28th December 1612) as it’s starting point, the planetary positions at the outset of this piece are those on that exact night. The piece compresses 24 full years of planetary movement into 24 minutes. With each passing year a bell tolls marking off the passage of time. In the 6th year the influence of The Great Comet of 1618 is felt as it passes through the solar system disrupting rhythms and the sonic texture. As the celestial bodies progress the complexities within the piece build and evolve with the movement, until finally on the stroke of midnight on the 28th of December 1637 the final bell rings marking the end of the piece.
This digital representation of the solar system is simplistic, and reduces concepts of scale and orbital shape to much simpler patterns, and uses some artistic license. If to scale the issues of size would mean certain planets would be indiscernible in the image, whilst others would be so far from the central point of the sun as to not fit within the confines of the screen. Whilst all planets orbit the sun in an anti-clockwise direction, Venus and Uranus both rotate about their polar axis in a clockwise manner. As the points here do not rotate, their orbits have been converted to a constant retrograde motion to reference this. The sun’s equatorial and polar rotations have been shown separately in an additional model as they would not be scalable within the centre of the main model. Finally, as there is no trajectory data for The Great Comet of 1618, it's course and speed are artistic license rather than a factual recreation.
released May 11, 2016
Music created by liam thomas maloney
Hassan Hussein (Piano)
Will Hardy (Trumpet)
Kier Hall (Marimba)
Built using Iannix, Ableton Live, MaxMSP, and LAConvolver.
Additional MaxMSP abstractions from Karlheinz Essl's RTC library. essl.at