I am very excited to be returning this week to Pittsburgh for the symphony’s performance of Rainbow Body, and I am much more excited than usual! The PSO has already played
this piece twice, and so knows it very well, and the conductor, Peter Oundjian, just conducted it earlier this season with the Baltimore Symphony- and he is really a phenomenal musician and really deeply “gets” the piece.
We are also presenting it in a very interesting and different way. The Baltimore Symphony wanted to do a collaboration with the Space Telescope Science Institute of Johns Hopkins University, where all of the data for the Hubble Space Telescope is stored, and so put the senior astrophysicist, Mario Livio, and myself together to see if we could come up with something interesting. Professor Livio saw something immediately, and this week you will see the fruits of that vision.
The title, Rainbow Body, comes from an idea in Tibetan Buddhism which
says that when an enlightened being dies, his or her body doesn’t
decay, but instead is absorbed back into the universe as energy and
light. For me, this had a resonance with the fact that
I built the piece on a fragment of music of the Medieval mystic,
Hildegard of Bingen, and her music was being “absorbed” back into my
musical universe, as it were.
Professor Livio, however, saw a beautiful connection with astronomy –
the images from the Hubble that showed the death of stars were an
almost literal version of Rainbow Body- their physical existence was
literally reabsorbed as energy and a splay of light back into the
universe, actually creating the shape in which the Tibetans think
of as Rainbow Body! The images
you will see during my piece on a large screen above the orchestra are
stunningly beautiful- for me, they are a kind of divine poetry.
Two other little details about these performances- the world famous
Symphony Fantastique bells that the PSO uses (they are literally rented
by orchestras all over the world because of their impressive sound)
will make an appearance at the end of my work! I heard them back stage
when I was in Pittsburgh in January, and I couldn’t
resist putting them in!
The other detail, which I am normally not fond of mentioning, but will
here, is that at the end of the work, the orchestra actually “cheers”
underneath all of the commotion of the brass and percussion. This
creates a surreal and very loud and exciting dimension to the
orchestral sound. You may or may not be able to tell it is “cheering,”
but you will definitely notice something!
Best wishes to all!