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Atoms of Silence : for symphony orchestra

by Andrián Pertout (2018)

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Atoms of Silence


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Atoms of Silence : for symphony orchestra / Andrián Pertout.

Library shelf no. 784.2/PER 7 [Available for loan]

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Work Overview

Atoms of Silence was commissioned by Julian Burnside AO QC, was composed for the Australian Discovery Orchestra (ADO), and is dedicated to American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, and author Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996). "Atoms are mainly empty space. Matter is composed chiefly of nothing," states Sagan in Cosmos (1980), to then explain that "…beyond a single atom we confront an infinity of the very small. And when we look up at the night sky we confront an infinity of the very large. These infinities are among the most awesome of human ideas. They represent an unending regress which goes on not just very far, but forever…" The actual title has been derived from 'Atoms of Silence: An Exploration of Cosmic Evolution' (1981) by French Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves CC OQ, which in turn was derived from a line from the poem 'Palme' by the French Symbolist poet Paul Valéry (1871-1945). "Every atom of silence, is the chance for a ripened fruit." According to Reeves, at the essence of this statement is the proposition that the "epic cosmic organization is structured in time. Every second, something ripens a little. Nature does its work in secret and blossoms in its own good time." In a chapter about music in the aforementioned book, Reeves explains that, "in order to write music the composer chooses a certain number of elementary tones. He then places them in a particular sequence that will unfold in time. If these tones have been chosen randomly, and if there is no relation between a tone and the ones that preceded it and follow it, we have noise. If they are ordered according to a particular structure, whether that of J.S. Bach or that of the Beatles, we have music. There is an infinite number of ways to make noise, but a much more limited number of ways to make music."

The conceptual framework of Atoms of Silence incorporates various notions of symmetry within its harmonic structure - a combinatorial series of repeated chords arranged according to the morphology of Pascal's Triangle, and rhythmic structure - an imitative series of repeated melodies and motives systemized according to the multifaceted symmetrical components of tiling rhythmic canons. The utilization of these musical materials within a regenerative compositional process of repetition intended to generate a sonic portrayal of the repeated patterns present in the textile or fabric patterns of indigenous Philippine artwork, as well as the symmetrical construction of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Banaue Rice Terraces, or Stairway to the Sky.

Work Details

Year: 2018

Instrumentation: Piccolo, flute, oboe, cor anglais, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, contrabassoon, horn, trumpet, tenor trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion, harp, strings.

Duration: 11 min.

Difficulty: Advanced — Professional

Dedication note: Dedicated to Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996)

Written for: Australian Discovery Orchestra

Commission note: Commissioned by Julian Burnside.

First performance: by Olivier Ochanine, Sun Symphony Orchestra — 27 Nov 18. 3rd Asia-Europe New Music Festival, Vietnam National Academy of Music, Hanoi, Vietnam

The composer notes the following styles, genres, influences, etc associated with this work:
Carl Edward Sagan (1934-1996), Hubert Reeves CC OQ, Paul Valéry (1871-1945), Dan T. Vuza, Jean-Paul Davalan.

Performances of this work

19 May 2019: at Australian Discovery Orchestra (Ian Roach Hall, Scotch College). Featuring Australian Discovery Orchestra, Kevin Purcell.

27 Nov 18: 3rd Asia-Europe New Music Festival, Vietnam National Academy of Music, Hanoi, Vietnam. Featuring Olivier Ochanine, Sun Symphony Orchestra.

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