“A Shout Across Time” Review – The Sun and the Moon and the Stars

Solar eclipse

Monday night, an appreciative audience in Evanston was treated to a free multimedia exploration of space, time, gravity and astronomy set to music courtesy of the Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). The program titled “A Shout Across Time,” featured music by the Lake Shore Brass Quintet and an orchestra, conducted by Ben Bolter, and  made up of musicians from the Bienen School of Music of Northwestern University. The event, which was held at the Nichols Concert Hall at the Music Institute of Chicago celebrated Albert Einstein’s theories on general relativity, black holes, and gravitational waves, and the upcoming solar eclipse that will pass through southern Illinois on August 21, 2017.

Multimedia screen Photo by Ellen Beth Gill

The performance was organized by Kyle Kremer, a doctoral student at CIERA having earned his undergraduate degree in both music and astrophysics. As part of Kremer’s “Cosmos in Concert” initiative, Kremer’s goal is to “use music as a tool to make the science more accessible.”  It was funded by Laura Sampson, a CIERA postdoctoral  and winner of the prestigious 2016 “For Women in Science” Fellowship from L’Oréal USA. Dr. Sampson’s fellowship mission is to develop astronomy outreach programs such as “A Shout Across Time.” During the performance, after she humorously quipped that now she’s a biologist, Sampson gave a brief lecture on gravitational waves.

Sampson told the audience that the first astronomers were the ancient people who looked at the night sky. Eventually they recognized patterns, and used the repeated positions of the stars and planets to create calendars. From the ancient astronomers,

Quasar Image ESA/Hubble

Sampson moved on to Galileo, with his pioneering use of the telescope and blasphemous theories about the earth’s rotation, and then talked about Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, later refined by Albert Einstein, who introduced the concepts of curved space, timespace, and relativity. Einstein taught that large objects in space do not move by pulling on each other as Newton theorized, but move through time and space ripples called gravitational waves. Einstein’s famous formula E = MC2 basically means that time and space are the same thing.

Lake Shore Brass Quintet Photo by Ellen Beth Gill

The musical part of the performance included two pieces. First, “Eclipse,” arranged by Kremer and played by the Lake Shore Brass Quintet. “Eclipse” had three movements one for each of the sun, the moon, and the earth. The Sun’s corona danced in all the colors of the spectrum to “Fire Dance” by Emmy Award winning Composer, Anthony DiLorenzo. The calming grayscale moon images were set to the familiar “Clair de Lune” by Claude Dubussy, originally the third movement of “Suite Bergamasque” composed in 1890, and revised before publication in 1905. The coastlines and mountain ranges of the earth emerged from “A Western Fanfare” by Eric Ewazen.

Black hole

The program ended with the orchestra of musicians from the Bienen School of Music playing “A Shout Across Time” composed by Ira Mowitz with an accompanying soprano, Katherine Weber, whose operatic voice added richness and body to the piece. The music highlighted the short film of the same name.

Orchestra conducted by Ben Bolter Photo by Ellen Beth Gill

Similar programs, and showings of the short film accompanied by orchestra, have played in Montana State University at Bozeman, and at West Virginia University in Morgantown.

For more information see Cosmos in Concert.

Photos not otherwise credited by NASA

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