Splendid Silent

multi-percussion solo / 10 minutes

Current prevailing cosmological theories show that nearly all chemical elements originated inside stars. The many elements present on earth and indeed in the human body itself originated from stellar matter: lighter elements like hydrogen, helium, or oxygen were formed during stars’ normal "life" cycle, a period of time during which stars slowly collapse under the weight of their own gravity to form heavier and heavier elements like metals. Eventually, many stars compress until they have an iron core, at which time they can no longer support their own structure, going supernova. During a supernova the heavy elements that were formed are dispersed into a nebula and will drift throughout the galaxy to form non-star bodies like planets and asteroids. According to NASA astronomer, Michelle Thaller, "we are dead stars looking back up at the sky." There is a certain irony in the fact that life on earth, which is made out of star matter, also derives energy directly from solar fuel (in the form of plant photosynthesis).

Splendid Silent for multi-percussion solo uses instruments made of heavy metals like iron and brass (an alloy of copper and zinc), alongside instruments made of carbon-based wood and skin. Aesthetically, the music moves from a raw analog of natural processes in the first movements to ritualized sounds imitating human behavior, ending finally with a monophonic melody reminiscent of song. The title of the work comes from a poem by Walt Whitman, "Give Me the Splendid Silent Sun." In the poem, Whitman grapples with the dichotomy of transcendentalist isolation in nature versus a more human-focused life. He initially longs for “nights perfectly quiet, [...] and I looking up at the stars,” but finally concludes in the end that he must have "Manhattan crowds, with their turbulent musical chorus, [...] faces and eyes forever for me."

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Recording: Tia Harvey, percussion solo. Cook Recital Hall at Michigan State University, April 28, 2015.

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