Einstein’s Dream was commissioned by Andrew Litton and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra with funds made possible by the Norma and Don Stone New Music Fund. Lasting 14 minutes, the work was premièred on March 31, 2005 at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas. McTee’s score calls for string orchestra, percussion, and computer-processed sounds recorded on CD. The percussion parts are performed by three players: I – medium and large suspended cymbals, flexatone, glockenspiel, small and medium triangles, and castanets; II – medium and large suspended cymbals, flexatone, tubular bells, bell tree, and maracas; III – bass drum, tam tam, mark tree, ratchet, and gong.
Composed to celebrate the World Year of Physics (2005) with Einstein in the 21st Century as its theme, Einstein’s Dream consists of seven continuous sections as follows:
1. Warps and Curves in the Fabric of Space and Time
I require the clear constructions of Bach.
– Albert Einstein
I’ve always enjoyed blending the past with the present – the old with the new – for example, placing antique and contemporary furniture side by side, or in the case of Einstein’s Dream, quoting Bach in the context of newly composed music. To pick up on Einstein’s dream of unification and to wrap that dream around present world conflicts, I have borrowed from a Bach chorale entitled, Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott (We all believe in one God), transposed to the key of “e” for Einstein. The “relativity” of past and current musical idioms is intended to uncover new temporal relationships and engage multiple levels of memory in an environment of contrapuntal pluralism.
2. Music of the Spheres
Music of the Spheres refers to music thought by Pythagoras and later classical and medieval philosophers to be produced by the movements of celestial bodies. The “harmonious” intervals of the octave, perfect 5th, and perfect 4th (E – B – E, for example) represented a kind of cosmic harmony and unity of all that exists. In my Music of the Spheres the upper strings intone the previously heard Bach melody, this time harmonized only by a sustained octave in the celli and basses.
3. Chasing After Quanta
The more one chases after quanta, the better they hide themselves.
– Albert Einstein
In composing this section, I relied on a computer music technique known as granular synthesis, the process of creating new sounds from tiny fragments of existing sounds called grains. Representing clouds of “acoustical quanta,” the granular sounds in this section accompany a 12-tone, canonic (chasing), orchestral texture whose melodies are based on the notes of Bach’s name.
4. Pondering the Behavior of Light
If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.
– Albert Einstein
In speaking about his renowned theories, Einstein made it quite clear that music was the driving force behind his intuition, and although recreational, violin playing also “stimulated intellectual growth” and sustained “the order and harmony that were the hallmarks of [his] science” – WonderWare, Inc.
In the music of this section, huge, luscious triads are overtaken by tight, shimmering, octatonic clusters while the bass line falls in major and minor thirds to complete a 12-tone row. An extended violin solo based on the trumpet theme from Ives’ Unanswered Question is punctuated with computer music gestures reminiscent of earlier moments in the piece.
5. The Frantic Dance of Subatomic Particles
Scurrying string melodies based on the Bach chorale tune are set against a palette of computer music sonorities derived from a recording of DSO Artistic Administrator, Victor Marshall, reading, “I require the clear constructions of Bach.” Using granular synthesis software, the words are broken up into a myriad particles and rearranged to create a texture in which the words cannot be understood, just as the contours of an object cannot be seen on a molecular level. Additional computer sounds are constructed from the sounds of clocks winding up, ticking, and breaking apart, accompanied by similar sounds from the percussion section of the orchestra.
6. Celestial Bells
Using the same source recording employed in the previous section, the sounds of speech are transformed into bell sounds both through granular synthesis and by rebalancing and redistributing the sounds’ frequencies. The orchestra plays clusters of notes to match the detuned qualities of the bells, eventually imploding into a single note, E.
7. Wondering at the Secrets
To me, it is enough to wonder at the secrets.
– Albert Einstein
One of the most striking applications of granular synthesis is its ability to stretch sound in time without necessarily changing its pitch. In composing Einstein’s Dream, and in thinking about new temporal experiences, I became very interested in the perceptual effect of time-stretching and decided to apply it to the same Bach chorale tune used throughout the work. Time-stretching is perhaps loosely analogous to the way in which Einstein’s equations of relativity predict that gravity, or the curvature of space-time by matter, not only stretches or shrinks distances, but also appears to slow down or dilate the flow of time. Concepts of before and after merge. What most intrigued me about musical time-stretching was its ability to shift the listener’s attention toward the inner components of the sound – the harmonics and the overlapping resonant regions – as if inviting a kind of meditation to wonder at the secrets.
- from Cindy McTee’s website