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SDSSJ0826+5630 (2023)

World Premiere – April 14, 2023

Spencer Schaffer, trombone

Quartet Integra

 

In January 2023, a radio signal from the most distant galaxy studied to date was picked up by the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India, giving researchers an approximately 9-billion-year lookback into the universe’s past. This galaxy, commonly known as SDSSJ0826+5630, emitted the signal when the universe was approximately 4.9 billion years old. The telescope was able to pick up the signal due to a naturally occurring astrophysical phenomenon called gravitational lensing, in which a large gravitational field in between a light or radio source and an observer will bend the source’s signal around the gravitational field, putting it into focus for the observer (under the right conditions). This concept was predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity.

 

This piece is my reflection on the concepts of space, time, spacetime, and distance, all through various musical parameters: pitch, register, timbre, and instrumentation to name a few. The unique identities of the instruments – that of the string quartet, of the individual instruments within the string quartet, and especially of the trombone ­– are challenged throughout the work. Long, timeless phrases are defined via a constant shifting and recrystallization of prismatic textures. This work is dedicated to Spencer Schaffer, for whom I composed the piece.

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