The Solar System Set to Music: A Near-Perpetual Homage to Bach
532.25 septendecillion years of fugue, or what Pluto has to do with the longest palindrome in existence.
By Maria Popova
I have a soft spot for music made with unusual means or from unusual raw materials, and have long been fascinated by unusual notation. Naturally, I’m head-over-heels with Daniel Starr-Tambor’s Mandala — a remarkably dimensional musical composition created by assigning each planet in the Solar System a particular note along the natural harmonic series, starting with Mercury’s B and going all the way up by two octaves and a ninth to Pluto’s C#. The composition is a palindrome, which means it can be played the same way in either direction, and, with more than 62 vigintillion individual notes, it’s the longest palindrome in existence — by far. At the accelerated tempos of the Solar System, it would continue without repetition for over 532.25 septendecillion years — a sort of soundtrack for near-infinity.
An homage to Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Art of the Fugue, embedded in the piece is the iconic composer’s “musical signature” — the arrangement of the stereo imaging reflects the precise position of the Solar System at the moment of Bach’s birth, viewed from the perspective of the Sun as it faces the constellation Libra, “so that each note chronicles his birthday on every planet.”
If Bach is calling to us from the outer planets, I hope he would accept this music as a fitting response.” ~ Daniel Starr-Tambor
It hardly gets more faceted and cross-disciplinarily creative than this — bravo.
Published January 17, 2012