An Unaware Cosmos

Complete Work Title: 

An Unaware Cosmos — modular cycle for multiple soloists and chamber ensembles


Performance Medium: 

various soloists and mixed chamber ensembles of two to six instruments (see below for details).


Movements: 

• Unweaving a Rainbow, for viola (or violin, or violoncello) and piano
• Transient Dominion, for Flugelhorn (or trumpet), bass trombone, piano, and percussion (tom-toms, cymbals, tam-tam)
• The Indelible Stamp of Our Lowly Origin, for four contrabasses
• Blind Watchmaker, for contrabassoon and 2 percussion (4 woodblocks, 4 log drums)
• Celestial Teapot, for percussion (vibraphone, crotales, tam-tams) and piano (or harp)
• La Contagion sacrée, for trumpet, horn, trombone, and percussion (optional, one player: afuche, sand blocks, or rattle)
• The Illusion of Permanence, for violin and violoncello
• Shadows on the Horizon, for string quartet
• Die Tyrannei der Mehrheit, for low brass (four parts, up to four players per part, drawn from bass trumpets, euphoniums, tubas) and percussion (2 to 4 players: chimes, tam-tams; gongs, bell plates, and almglocken, ad libitum)
• Pascal's Fallacy, for saxophone quartet (SATB, ATTB, AAAA)
• A Fleeting Symmetry, for guitar, harp, and harpsichord
• Glorious Accidents, for 4 woodwinds (double-reeds and/or saxophones)
• On the Perimeter of Ignorance, for piccolo, celesta, and flexatone
• A Splendid Torch, for solo piccolo trumpet
• Que sçay-je?, for solo Eb clarinet
• A Delicate Geometry, for voice (countertenor or mezzo-soprano), electric guitar, and accordion (or harmonium or positive organ)
• ...e pur si muove, for solo violin
• La vanité des superstitions, for alto flute, English horn, bass clarinet, horn, and bassoon
• A Noble Ideal, for solo xylophone


Duration: 

variable (c.10:00-30:00+)


Dedication: 

A celebration of humankind’s quest for knowledge through skepticism and critical inquiry, and to those freethinkers who have devoted their lives to such noble pursuits.


Date Composed: 

2012-18


Performance Information: 

• The individual modules in this cycle are mutable, allowing for the resulting music to be fragmented, dislocated, suspended, disrupted, and penetrated in often unpredictable ways, and exploring a variety of relationships—timbral, spatial, conceptual, structural—both within and between modules.

• At least three modules must be included in any performance of An Unaware Cosmos.


Additional Information: 

• This work was supported in part by a faculty fellowship from the University of North Texas Institute for the Advancement of the Arts. 


Performance History: 

The International Contemporary Ensemble:
• 28 October 2018, Southern Methodist University, Caruth Auditorium (Dallas, TX); realization with six modules: A Fleeting Symmetry, Celestial Teapot...e pur su muove, A Noble Ideal, The Illusion of Permanence, Unweaving a Rainbow.
• 27 October 2018, University of North Texas, Voertman Concert Hall (Denton, TX); realization with six modules: A Fleeting Symmetry, Celestial Teapot, ...e pur su muove, A Noble Ideal, The Illusion of Permanence, Unweaving a Rainbow.

The International Contemporary Ensemble, UNT faculty and student performers, and guests:
• 26 October 2018, University of North Texas, Murchison Performing Arts Center WInspear Hall (Denton, TX) [premiere performance of complete cycle].

Nova Ensemble:
• 28 November 2017, University of North Texas (Denton, TX); realization with five modules: Que sçay-je?Celestial TeapotOn the Perimeter of Ignorance, Blind WatchmakerThe Illusion of Permanence.

Joseph Klein, JAMU student ensembles:
• 21 October 2015, Janáček Academy of Music and Performing Arts (Brno, Czech Republic); realization with eight modules: Transient DominionUnweaving a RainbowThe Indelible Stamp of Our Lowly Origin, Celestial TeapotLa contagion sacrée, Blind WatchmakerThe Illusion of Permanence, Shadows on the Horizon.

Joseph Klein, UNT faculty and student ensembles:
• 18 March 2014, University of North Texas (Denton, TX); realization with three modules: Transient DominionUnweaving a RainbowThe Indelible Stamp of Our Lowly Origin [premiere].


Program Notes: 

The history of art, music, and literature through the ages is rife with works rooted in their respective cultural mythologies; in contrast, the influence of science and mathematics on the arts has been primarily theoretical in nature (e.g., the overtone series and musical temperament, the golden ratio in ancient Greek architecture, tessellations in Moorish tile work, or the introduction of perspective in Renaissance painting).  Only during the past half-century or so have such paradigms—as manifestations of objective reality—served as a basis for artistic expression. 

While my own work has regularly drawn upon models and metaphors from mathematics and the sciences as an expression of the natural world, I have become increasingly compelled in recent years—in part as a response to the preponderance of works that extol the pervasive mythologies of our present culture—to create a work that pays homage to those freethinkers who have devoted their lives to the pursuit of truth, many of whom suffered persecution and punishment by the authorities of their respective eras.  In that spirit, An Unaware Cosmos was conceived as a celebration of humankind’s quest for knowledge through skepticism and critical inquiry, as well as a rebuke of the tribalism, superstition, and sophistry that continue to characterize much of our society well into the 21st century.  Concepts relating to cosmology, evolutionary biology, and genetics—as well as aspects of materialism, existentialism, humanism, and other nontheistic philosophies—have informed this modular work for multiple soloists and mixed chamber ensembles.

The polyvalent and mutable arrangement of the nineteen modules that comprise this cycle are intended to explore a variety of relationships—timbral, spatial, conceptual, structural—both within and between modules. In performance, music from these distinct modules is fragmented, dislocated, suspended, disrupted, and penetrated, often in unpredictable ways. This approach to form suggests an Eternalist model of time, whereby all possible events theoretically exist, while our ability to experience them is restricted to the present moment; thus, any given realization of An Unaware Cosmos is simply one of a potentially limitless number of ways the work may unfold.  Applying this concept to the listening experience challenges our teleological assumptions regarding musical form, which are themselves the result of centuries-old cultural biases.

An Unaware Cosmos was supported in part by a fellowship from the Institute for the Advancement of the Arts at the University of North Texas.  The complete cycle was premiered on 26 October 2018 at the University of North Texas Murchison Performing Arts Center.