Island Universe for Woodwind Quintet
Island Universe was commissioned by Western Michigan University as part of their celebration of the 100th anniversary of the school of music and was premiered by the Western Wind Quintet. The work is divided into five movements with a total duration of eighteen minutes.
My idea to write Island Universe was generated by two major streams of inspiration. The first after seeing a sculpture exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston created by artist Josiah Mc Elheny in which he depicts five large”mobile-like galaxies” created from glass and wire suspended from the ceiling. The scale and detail of these forms was both beautiful and thought provoking. Included in the written information about the exhibition were five quotations about the universe. It was from these five quotations that the titles for each movement of my piece were drawn and these ideas were used to help me create the musical fabric and form of the piece.
The second stream of inspiration is from the fabulous photographs sent back to earth by the Hubble Telescope. These images greatly expanded our knowledge of space and showed us that we are part of a much larger than previously thought of, ever expanding universe. The Hubble Telescope sent back breathtakingly beautiful images of galaxies, solar systems, stars and birthing of stars in all shapes, sizes and colors all of which inspired me to create the musical materials from which the piece was made.
In writing Island Universe, I created five sound mosaics by combining a variety of musical materials, textural combinations and instrumental colors. My piece is an evolving tapestry of ideas that are tied in essence (or molecular makeup) but exist in a three-dimensional space. The repeated eighth-note gestures throughout the work serve as grounding and organizing feature and works as thread of connectedness between the voices that then spiral away.
Since its inception, I conceived Island Universe to be presented in a variety of performance venues ranging from the concert hall to local planetariums where it could be used as part of their educational programs. The addition of live music performance to lectures on astrometry, the study of galaxies and solar systems as well as to be combined with images from the Hubble Telescope would offer the public a deeper level of understanding and enjoyment. My work illustrates a way in which artists connect to and draw inspiration from science and the natural world. Through this interaction of the arts and sciences together can heighten the public’s awareness of a mutual respect for the natural world our vast universe.