|PROJECT | ASTRONOMIA|
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ASTRONOMIA, (1995) (duration 10') for marimba and quadraphonic tape is the third from a set of four pieces entitled Quadrivium. The four pieces in Quadrivium are designed to be played either individually or together as a complete uninterrupted cycle. All the pieces are focused in one way or another on sound spatialization. In the case of ASTRONOMIA, multiple tempos are superimposed to create the effect of objects moving in orbits at different rates. The piece is a rhythmic etude exploring the vast rhythmic possibilities stretching from grid-based periodic worlds to off-the-grid a-periodic material.
Quadrivium was composed in 1994/95 while I was holder of the Fredric A. Julliard/Walter Damrosch 1995 Rome Prize in Music Composition. The full Quadrivium received its first performance in April of 1998 in Rome.
The use of the latin term Quadrivium is not without irony. The Quadrivium, meaning the four ways, (Astronomia, Mathematica (Arithmetica), Geometria, Musica) were the subjects of the medieval liberal arts education. While composing this collection of pieces, I was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. The Academy is a place intended for artists and scholars to find inspiration from the great arts of antiquity; I find this humorous. No indication in my early life pointed toward an eventual stay in Rome for the purpose of greater artistic enlightenment. I was really amused the day that the former First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton presented me with the Rome Prize in the White House! Today the irony only deepens; I am a Full Professor in a major University with all rights and privileges due!
In the American Academy there hangs a series of portraits of the educated men who were former fellows, most from well-to-do established American families. Somewhere the process really became a democratic selection with women, people like me from the other side of the tracks, and other non-insiders invited to participate. It is a fine tradition, but in honesty no longer functions with its original intent. The original Rome Academy, at the Villa Medici, was invented by Louis XIV to provide home for artists who were copying the imperial design of Rome for translation to imperial France and in particular Versailles.
Selected Performance History for Astronomia:
Astronomia, Michael Crain, UC Davis, Dept. of Music