Dark Matter: A Tribute to Vera Rubin
The Latest Update
A Completed Score (!) and a Our Residency with Alexandra du Bois
This fall is going by so quickly that we’d better take a moment now to update you on our project Dark Matter: A Tribute to Vera Rubin.
The first exciting bit of news to share is that we now have a completed score from Angélica Negrón! The result is the absolutely fantastic piece Why Does the Moon Keep Following Us? This piece—which will open our set of three commissioned works—is based on an anecdote from the opening of Rubin’s memoir Bright Galaxies: Dark Matters. She recounts, as a young child, asking her father during a drive home in Philadelphia why the moon appeared to be heading to the same destination. Angélica’s piece skillfully captures the essence of this story, meditating on the universality of child-like wonder and curiosity prior to formalized knowledge.
To establish a lush sonic landscape, Angélica created a fixed electronic track that spans the length of the work, utilizing as raw material sun sonifications from NASA along with micro samples of 80’s and 90’s pop songs that have the words “stars” or “moon” in the title. As the flute, clarinet, and piano emerge from the celestial electronic introduction, intricate polyrhythms are formed along with soaring melodic motifs. [I had goosebumps the first time I listened to the MIDI, which is not something I can say happens all that often with a MIDI mockup.]
To add to this thrilling development, very soon, we will also have a finished score from Alexandra du Bois—the second piece in the set. In August, Parhelion Trio had the pleasure of working with Alexandra for an entire week at Avaloch Farm Music Institute. The approach we took in these workshops was unusual in that, rather than asking her for near-completed scores, we requested that we read her sketches, allowing her impression of our sound and our execution of her ideas to inform the final composition. We are filled with gratitude that Alexandra agreed to try this experimental approach with us for the week.
I’ve asked Alexandra to write about her piece and her experience workshopping her sketches with us:
“My new work for Parhelion Trio draws from a personal narrative combined with the backdrop of the inspiration received and interpreted from the life’s work of astrophysicist Vera Rubin. The work was recently deepened through a real-time immersion in rehearsing sketches of the work at Avaloch Farm Music Institute with Parhelion Trio. The piece functions at times as landscape, at others internally as found space, but both where size and scale are unknown or not perceived.
In working intimately with Parhelion Trio, both in terms of scope of the project and musically, in rehearsals of initial sketches of the new work, a sound specifically created for Parhelion’s unique, exceptional sound palette, color, and powerfully charged character has emerged and I’ve been able to dive fully into their under-engaged instrumentation that for me accesses, aurally, elements of Vera Rubin’s life and work regarding dark matter in a particular way. Parhelion’s combination of instruments combined with their artistry, sensitivity, and virtuosity, along with their strong commitment to new work and its actualization at the highest level has been a fulfilling process. This has been the foundation from which the inspiration received from studying the work of Vera Rubin has allowed this new trio to grow, taking me down sonic and philosophical paths I had never previously envisioned.”
We truly can’t wait to share this music with you! If you have any questions about this project or would like to know to provide additional support, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much for following!
Workshops in August and some words from composer Angélica Negrón
Hello and thank you all for your interest in this project, “Dark Matter: A Tribute to Vera Rubin”!
We are excited to announce that Parhelion Trio will be workshopping with our composers in August at the amazing Avaloch Music Farm Institute. We are very excited to make these incredible sounds come to life in such a dreamy setting!
Recently, I asked Angélica Negrón to share a few words about this project:
“I’m incredibly honored and excited to be a part of the Vera Rubin project celebrating the late female astrophysicist and her contributions to our view of the cosmos. In my music I often explore the intersection between sounds and our natural world and I’m particularly interested in amplifying and highlighting the sometimes-overlooked magic in the sounds around us. When Parhelion Trio approached me about this project I was very curious about it as I hadn’t heard of Vera Rubin before. As I started to learn more about this incredible astrophysicist I was saddened by the thought of not knowing of her influential work before. I feel very fortunate that I get to be a part of a project that celebrates the life of this extraordinary scientist so others can get to know her and be inspired by her work through the lens of the work that we create inspired by all she’s given us.”
You are so inspiring, Angélica! We are so honored to have you, Alexandra, and Danielle composing on this project. We can’t wait to share this music dedicated to Vera Rubin with the world!
Watch this page for future updates! If you haven’t already, follow us on facebook here.
Thanks for all your love and support!
Dark Matter: A Tribute to Vera Rubin is a multimedia project that aims to celebrate and raise the public profile of the late astrophysicist Vera Rubin, a woman whose work ushered in a “Copernican-scale change in cosmic consciousness” (New York Times), through new music composed by three female composers: Angélica Negrón, Alexandra du Bois, and Danielle Eva Schwob.
An under-recognized figure to the general public yet deeply respected in her field, Vera Rubin is best known for her discovery of dark matter in the universe and championing women in the sciences. She was a mentor for an entire generation of female-identifying scientists, having already paved the way for greater inclusion in observatories and university astrophysics programs.
In addition to highlighting her life and achievements, this project has several broader purposes:
- To promote the work of women in the fields of science and music
- To inspire young women to enter the fields of science and music
- To connect communities across the fields of science and music
Produced by Sarah Carrier and Danielle Schwob, commissioned by The Parhelion Trio, and co-presented with SYZYGY New Music, Dark Matter consists of two parts: an evening-length event at a major planetarium and a touring educational program that combines selections from these pieces along with interactive dialogue.
The project is currently under development in collaboration with the astrophysics department of the American Museum of Natural History. Through presenting music forged with compelling narrative and effective staging by theater artist Michael McQuilken, audiences will be offered a path to understanding the magnitude of Rubin’s work through artwork produced in her spirit.
The music will honor Vera Rubin through programmatic explorations of her life and work through themes that convey her tenacity, warmth, and brilliance. For inspiration, composers will consult Vera Rubin’s memoir “Bright Galaxies, Dark Matter” as well as an unpublished collection of memories and anecdotes. The three composers tasked with realizing this endeavor were selected for their existing works exploring the intersection of music and science and their work’s potential to reach broad audiences.
(Image courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History)
Oculus pro oculo totum orbem terrae caecat (An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind) was commissioned and premiered by Kronos Quartet. It has been described as “a stunning piece that explored the landscape of war and conflict with a sorrowful tone of foreboding, chaos and devastation” (BBC Manchester), as “an impressively sustained essay in musical melancholy” (The Guardian, London) and as “the most impressive work by a composer of that age I have heard since the early pieces of Thomas Adès a decade earlier” (Los Angeles Times).
Drawings for Meyoko is a piece inspired by the black and white illustrations of Ecuadorian artist Melissa Murillo (aka Meyoko). The piece intends to evoke an atmospheric and dreamy world in which her bizarre characters could exist by the use of playful patterns and voices mostly mumbling nonsense syllables. Drawings for Meyoko incorporates found sounds and micro-samples from my previous pieces to create electronic soundscapes that constantly evolve through shifting rhythms.
Start and End Dates
07/27/2018 — 12/07/2019
New York, New York