In September 2007, Professor Peter F. Michelson (the Principal Investigator of Fermi’s LAT instrument) and Mr. Pierre Schwob, CEO of the Classical Archives, approached composer Dr. Nolan Gasser to create a musical composition to celebrate the launch of the (then called) GLAST Space Telescope. Having no prior exposure to the science surrounding the mission, Dr. Gasser commenced an intensive self-study of particle physics and cosmology – at least enough to allow him to reasonably portray, in musical terms, the nature and objectives of the new space observatory. Two years later, Gasser has become a self-proclaimed physics “freak”, an enthusiasm he has brought to bear on the two compositions now written in association with Fermi and its current symposium – the GLAST Prelude and Cosmic Reflections, which receives its world premiere tonight.
The GLAST Prelude, for brass quintet, Op.12 was “premiered” on June 8, 2008 in Cocoa Beach, FL at a pre-launch reception co-sponsored by Stanford University and General Dynamics; given the inherent uncertainty surrounding a launch date, the Prelude was pre-recorded by the world-renown American Brass Quintet, who will present the work again tonight. As conceived by Gasser, the Prelude follows a specific narrative, wherein the nature and contextual history of the Fermi mission are presented. The Prelude proceeds in four basic sections: Part 1 begins with a powerful fanfare evoking the image of Fermi upon the Delta II rocket – with all the rumblings and excitement it yields as it readies for launch; following a subtle transition, Part 2 presents a brief musical portrait of the historical and scientific evolution leading up to the gamma-ray telescope and the Fermi mission (including a depiction of the full electro-magnetic spectrum – where the two trombones, in mirror image, represent the ever-intensifying EM waves); Part 3 presents a brief musical portrait of Fermi – the mission and its scientific expectations, the instruments aboard, and the nations involved (including a contrapuntal medley of participating national anthems); finally, Part 4 returns to the launch pad and culminates in the actual launch of Fermi and a sense of the dazzling discoveries it heralds. Once recorded, the music was then joined and enriched by the stunning video prepared by Rich Melnick of NASA Goddard, which will likewise be presented here tonight.
From the onset, a much larger, orchestral work was intended to follow the Prelude, to be presented in conjunction with the current symposium. This work, Cosmic Reflections, Op.15, is written for full orchestra and narrator, and will likewise be supported by a video presentation created especially for this concert by Rich Melnick. The ambitions of this work are by no means modest: to textually and musically portray the full history of the Universe, from the Big Bang to the cold, diffuse days of the distant future – though always with our own human existence, and our unique ability to reflect upon our cosmic origins, placed squarely in its narrative. The “libretto” was co-written by physicist and writer Dr. Lawrence M. Krauss and Mr. Schwob, himself a gifted amateur cosmologist. The work, lasting around 40 minutes, is in 3 large parts, book ended by a Prologue and Epilogue – though the work proceeds without interruption.