Dark Matter Sounding

Research output: Other contribution


Composition for orchestra, commissioned by Ealing Youth Orchestra and the London College of Music, supported with funds from the Ambache Charitable Trust, the Leathersellers’ Charitable Fund, the Penny Trust, and RNCM Research. The piece was developed through a series of workshops with the young performers, who had input into the creative aspect of the work as well as insight into my research and how this was applied to the compositional process.
Programme note:
Dark Matter is the terra incognita in the mapping of space.
Invisible to the human eye and scientific instruments, Dark Matter emits no light, scatters no light, and is transparent.
Dark Matter remains elusive to astronomers and physicists, who have been working to illuminate its make-up for nearly eighty years.
Dark Matter does not consist of atoms, and is not formed of substances currently known on Earth. Numerous theories suggest it may variously consist of particles such as neutrinos, MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects), WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and supersymmetric particles. Many of these particles are not (yet) proven to exist.
In a series of workshops, we asked:
What is the sound of Dark Matter?
- If we can’t see it, could we hear it? And what would it sound like?
Working with images and text from scientific research into Dark Matter, the orchestra explored sounds, textures, characters, interactions and trajectories. Following these experiments with the sonic potential of the science, Dark Matter Sounding took shape with a focus on ‘translating’ the properties of mysterious/imaginary particles into sound:
WIMPs interact weakly
MACHOs bend light
Supersymmetric particles can only be created or annihilated in pairs
Images from the ground-breaking research of scientist Vera Rubin, provided visual impetus, and were used to generate the structure of the piece. Her diagram of galaxy rotation (the earliest proof of the existence of Dark Matter) appears as a graphic score in Dark Matter Sounding. The players in this section interpret lines, curves, and dots in place of standard music notation.
Dark Matter Sounding is a voyage into the unknown...a journey through an impossible landscape...an exploration of imagined possibility...
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputScore and recording
PublisherNina Whiteman
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

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