The Enchanted Loom : Symphony No. 8 : full orchestra
by Carl Vine (2018)
Also known as: Symphony No. 8
Score SampleView a sample of the score of this work
The term Enchanted Loom was coined in the 1930s by British
neuroscientist Sir Charles Sherrington to depict the function of
the human brain as it weaves together our personal impression of
the outside world and constructs, from raw sensory data, our
internal sense of location, identity, and "mind". This poetic
reference to the Jacquard loom reflects only certain aspects of
brain function, yet it has resonated with generations of
neurologists since then.
This symphony conjures five imagined states of brain function.
i. the loom awakens
In his book "Man on his Nature" Sherrington imagines a brain emerging from sleep. "The brain is waking and with it the mind is returning. It is as if the Milky Way entered upon some cosmic dance. Swiftly the head mass becomes an enchanted loom where millions of flashing shuttles weave a dissolving pattern … a shifting harmony of subpatterns." A few pounds of fatty tissue floating inside our skull commences its daily task of recreating our sense of place in the universe, weaving perception into recognisable structure.
ii. the social fabric
Viewing society as a fabric woven of contrasting elements is especially apt from the perspective of an enchanted loom. Although aspects of our social role derive from external factors like genetics and historical accident, our ultimate sense of belonging is produced by our minds. Happiness is unlikely without acceptance by and usefulness within a community.
iii. sheer invention
The source of creativity is endlessly fascinating. I am drawn to Oliver Sacks' studies in hallucination suggesting that unexpected images and unprecedented concepts are a natural byproduct of random brain cell activity, possibly even influenced by the geometry and topography of the brain itself. Even if brains are weaving machines they can still surprise us.
Euphoric states serve many useful biological functions. They are generated entirely within the brainpan and delivered to our sensory systems, often without prompting, as reward, enticement, or both.
v. imagining infinity
One of the most astonishing feats of our brains is the ability to conceptualise and picture as concrete entities the very boundaries of the universe. We have to accept that our personal identity is manufactured by these lumps of grey tissue floating inside our heads, but the fact that they are simultaneously able to contemplate the edges of infinity is truly awesome.
Instrumentation: Piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, cor anglais, 2 clarinets in Bb, bass clarinet in Bb, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, percussion (4 players) [I: tamtam, 2 wood blocks, snare drum, crash cymbals, 3 suspended cymbals; II: bass drum, 3 low concert tomtoms; III: glockenspiel, xylophone, 4 tuned gongs, medium tamtam/gong; IV: bell tree, triangle, large suspended cymbal, crotales], harp, strings.
Duration: 25 min.
Contents note: i. the loom awakens -- ii. the social fabric -- iii. sheer invention -- iv. euphoria -- v. imagining infinity.
Commission note: Commissioned by Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
- In the form/style of: Symphonies
Performances of this work
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