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An Unaware Cosmos — modular cycle for multiple soloists and chamber ensembles
various soloists and mixed chamber ensembles of two to six instruments (see below for details).
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.
Ball State University New Music Ensemble; Brent Nichols, conductor.
JAMU student and faculty performers, with guest artists Heidi Dietrich Klein (voice) and Richard Shuster (piano).
Eszter Krulik, violin; Richard Shuster, piano
The International Contemporary Ensemble — Pala Garcia, violin; Katinka Kleijn, violoncello; Daniel Lippel, guitar; Nuiko Wadden, harp; Jacob Greenberg, piano/harpsichord; Nathan Davis, percussion
The International Contemporary Ensemble, UNT faculty and student performers, and guests
Joseph Klein, JAMU student ensembles
Joseph Klein, UNT faculty and student ensembles
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 combined, 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.