. Interchanging Idioms: Chasing Dark Dwarf Galaxies - a tribute to astronomer Sukanya Chakrabarti to

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chasing Dark Dwarf Galaxies - a tribute to astronomer Sukanya Chakrabarti to

a new work by Chip Michael

Butler County Symphony Orchestra held a "call for scores" earlier this year, requesting works dealing with space travel. I discovered the call in early January and wasn't going to submit anything because I didn't have anything written specifically for space travel, and the call ended February 1st. However, I read an article about astronomer Sukanya Chakrabarti on Jan 13th. It seems she's attempting try find Galaxy X, a galaxy made up of dark matter.

Ok, I thought the search to find something you can't see was a pretty cool concept. So, I set out to write an orchestral piece to honor her quest.

The score was finished in time to submit to the Butler County Symphony Call, but wasn't selected. The Fermi Paradox by astro-physicist Leon Steward was chosen as the winning piece. However, my piece Chasing Dark Dwarf Galaxies is still a strong work, particularly since it was completed in just two weeks. If you click on the picture above, you can listen to the first couple of minutes.

If you're a conductor, music director or some how associated with an orchestra and would like to see a score to consider programming this work, drop me an email. Here's hoping Sukanya Chakrabarti is successful in her quest.


Program Notes

What exists outside our own planet is often explained by conflicting theories. Just as one theory is presented and information is gathered to prove it, new information is brought to light which either changes the theory or spawns a completely new one.

There have been manned missions into space to the extent of the moon. Unmanned probes have gathered more information from our neighboring planets and even the farthest reaches of our own solar system, experiencing interplanetary magnetic fields, solar winds, cosmic rays, the heliosphere and out into the interstellar medium. Telescopes on land or orbiting the earth have gathered additional data about distant stars and galaxies attempting to peer into the origins of the universe itself.

Observations of the universe have discovered light reacting to matter, bending and shifting in ways that cause scientists to ponder. However, current theories about how light and matter function have left some observations unexplained. Fritz Zwicky first postulated about dark matter in 1934 to explain missing mass in galaxies. Dark matter is detectable using radio waves and observing the gravitational pull on visible objects in the universe. So, while we can observe its effects, we can not actually see it. Dark matter is considered a core component for models of galaxy formation.

Recently (2002), two scientists discovered halos around galaxies potentially containing hundreds of dwarf galaxies made up of dark matter, or Dark Dwarf Galaxies. In January 2011 astronomer Sukanya Chakrabarti announced the potential existence of a heretofore unknown dwarf galaxy about 260,000 light-years away, Galaxy X.

Chasing dark dwarf galaxies is at the forefront of astronomical research. According to Chakrabarti a better understanding of Galaxy X could “be a major step in verifying our understanding of how the universe condensed from primordial matter and energy after the big bang.”

Chasing Dark Dwarf Galaxies is a musical representation of looking into space trying to discover the anomalies, to see what isn’t there and how what we see (or hear) is being shifted by what we don’t. Based on hexachords, these pitch sets are shifted slowly through the piece often creating the illusion harmonic shifts while remaining static, other times the harmony shifts without being audible until long after the shift has occurred. There are elements insinuating what radio waves might sound like coming back from space, as well as the haunting echo of the unknown. The music is less a narrative and more an experience.

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