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Kimbell:Celestial Encounters (Performance & Conversation)

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Published on Feb 22, 2013

Fantasy Sonata:
Celestial Encounters, Nebulae, Energies, Dark Forms
Program Notes by Edmund Kimbell:

Conceived in the tradition of the nocturne and "night music" the Fantasy Sonata is a musical and philosophical reflection on recent astronomical and cosmological research. In addition to evoking the mysterious beauty of cosmic phenomena and the vastness of space, it delves inward as a spiritual quest prompted by the wonders of space exploration. As the sonata proceeds, the initial narrow perspective of glimpses of space probes, comets and asteroids is progressively widened to encompass galactic dust and gas clouds within which stars are born and die, the primordial atomic forces that initiated the quiet but insistent power of life, and finally black holes and other unknown space mysteries. Full use is made of the piano's sonorities and technical possibilities to create sound pictures that range from minute to gigantic.

The first movement, Celestial Encounters, was inspired by pictures sent back by the Voyager and Giotto space probes. In the very beginning, staccato notes in irregular rhythms mimic radio signals from spacecraft and answering frequencies in outer space. A plaintive melody takes over and is developed in increasingly complex figurations to depict various types of encounters within the solar system involving objects both natural and man-made; these include inter-crossings of asteroid, comet and planetary orbits, spacecraft fly-bys of the outer planets and Halley's Comet, and culminate in a body smashing into a planet. Here is a dramatic example of art presaging nature, for this movement was written eight years before Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 plunged into the planet Jupiter! As the shock waves subside, the opening melody is restated, but at half speed and softer, as if to broadcast it into the infinity of space.

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