Written for Oliver Zeffman and Music x Museums, a concert which "looks at different ways in which composers have explored time as the essential medium through which their works are experienced."
Why Do You Grieve has two starting points: first, a Bach chorale whose first line gives the piece both its title and the notes of its musical material. Second, Stephen Hawking’s work, which for Marsey highlights the difference between the ‘small, simple ‘time’ of our daily lives, and the kind of huge, relativistic ‘time’ used when discussing large celestial objects’.
Parsed through Marsey’s lucid visual imagination, abstract notions of physics become processes that can be translated into music. As objects fall towards a black hole, extreme gravitational forces distort them, stretching them into a string one atom thick – an extraordinary process called ‘spaghettification’. Marsey applies this process to music, imagining the music of Bach inscribed on Voyager 1’s golden disc while the space probe is pulled into a black hole.
Why Do You Grieve has a sinister, rumbling undertow that seems constantly to drag on the glassy, celestial layers of counterpoint high above, creating a lurking sense of dread. Lonely horn calls echo across the music’s wide-open texture. At the end of the piece the music seems to rise up, sparkling optimistically in the major mode before fading away. This closing section refers to Hawking radiation, which offers a glimmer of hope: some energy is theoretically able to escape the seeming inevitability of a black hole, radiating away until the black hole evaporates.
-- Programme note by Anthony Friend
The premiere of Why Do We Grieve, for 11 instruments. Performed at the Science Museum under Oliver Zeffman, part of his Music x Museums series.
New work for Music x Museums·
A new piece, Why Do You Grieve, will be performed at the Science Museum on Tuesday 17 May, accompanying the Hawking Exhibition there. Ticket here.