Music of Reality I & II


Where does beauty come from? Did we invent it, or was it always here - a property of the universe?

As you read this, astronomers and particle physicists are drawing closer and closer to an explanation of our beginnings: how the universe transitioned from nothing into something. These discoveries are thrilling to follow, but what is their connection to our everyday experience? We live in a world of values - love, truth, beauty - did these also come into being in an instant? Perhaps, in the interaction of quantum chaos and physical laws, the seeds of beauty can be found.

This is a piece about chaos and order, and how these forces interact to spark creation. The process begins with a resonant chime, bubbling out of a quantum soup of piano clusters. This is the beginning of a chain reaction, which ultimately gives rise to the melodic rhapsody at the heart of the piece. At the centre point, an explosion of matter is heard - an expansion, and the setting in motion of violent physical forces. Where will beauty be found when the dust settles?


In July, 1837, Charles Darwin drew the first evolutionary tree in scientific history in his Transmutation Notebook B (left image).

Since then, the metaphor has evolved to encompass a wider animal kingdom (right image - Hillis Tree of Life, Science, 2003, 300:1692-1697).

darwin tree.png
web of life picture.png

More recently still, the idea has been challenged by research into horizontal gene transfer between unicellular organisms (Olendzenski L and Gogarten J.P., 2009). In this case, the ‘tree’ may be more accurately described as an intricate ‘web’ of genetic relationships.

What we know, beyond doubt, is that DNA connects every living creature on earth. When walking in a garden, we are just a few genetic steps away from the birds, the grass, trees and insects that surround us, and the science can help us see this plainly. For me, this sense of connectedness is an essential source of joy, and one that continually takes new forms as I increase my knowledge. This piece follows the evolution of these emotions in a chain of songs and dances.