Light Years

for violin, cello and piano

A recording of this trio’s first movement can be heard on YouTube:
Light Years: I - Light Years

The title of this piece is “Light Years” because it was inspired by various aspects of our universe that can be observed over the extreme distances we call light years. The first movement, also called “Light Years” was inspired by radio waves and how radio telescopes detect very faint signals coming from ancient galaxies. Long high notes represent those faint signals and sparkling note patterns evoke patterns of stars. Cascading gestures abstractly mimic the long bands of stars reaching outward from the center of spiral galaxies, and tempo changes sometimes “warp” the music just as gravity not only creates cycles and orbits in the universe, but can also pull them out of shape.

The second movement, “Blue Stars”, was inspired by extremely heavy and extremely bright stars that cast off a blue-tinted light. In this movement, high piano sounds represent the brightness of these stars, while low heavy sounds evoke the immense gravity they possess. The swirling cycles of string pizzicato notes that begin this movement can be thought of as cycles of stars or even as the gaseous nebulae that often appear within them. Overall, there is a rhythmic playfulness in this movement that is somewhat enhanced by my American interpretation of the color blue.

In the last movement, “Gravity”, I use musical ideas to express how gravity continually attempts to pull everything onto a single point. That “point” is the note middle C, even though that pitch rarely appears in this movement. Like the stars circling in a galaxy, all the pitch structures used orbit at various distances around middle C, but don’t come into contact with it. Eventually, though, gravity pulls the music downward with increasing speed and drama until octaves of the pitch C are obtained. This is only a brief encounter, though, and like the remains of an exploding star the music begins expanding as its energy dissipates. It gets quieter and slower as notes grow farther apart. In the end, what remains are distant floating remnants that seem to have escaped gravity’s downward pull.

(duration ca. 20 minutes)

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