Archive for August 18, 2011


Posted in Art, Music with tags , , on August 18, 2011 by telescoper

I just spent an amusing evening watching a football match with the sound turned off on the TV and some experimental compositions by George Ligeti playing on my sound system. I thoroughly recommend playing music instead of listening to the commentators, by the way; it’s much more fun! Anyway, a piece that worked particularly well was the pioneering electronic composition Artikulation (1958). Having a look on Youtube I found this wonderful video which adds an even more appropriate visual to Ligeti’s extraordinary sound world than a football match, in the form of a graphical score (created by Rainer Wehinger) which you can follow along as the music plays.

To quote from an explanatory article I found on the web:

In order to capture the dynamics of the performance Rainer abandoned the conventions of standard notation, concluding it was ineffective in dealing with compositions devoid of regular meter and harmonic scale. The alternative system he developed relied on color, shape, width and position to capture Ligeti’s work. Color in the score was used to denote pitch or timbre, combs represented noise, dots marked impulses and the width of the elements indicated their duration. The video below maps Ligeti’s compostion on to Rainer’s graphical score to demonstrate how effectively it describes the performance.

I imagine many readers of this blog won’t agree with me, but I find the result absolutely fascinating. The visual score has an abstract beauty on its own, but together with the music it creates a particularly interesting effect; each page of the score had me trying to imagine in my mind’s ear what was going to happen next….

More Cosmological Haiku

Posted in Poetry, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on August 18, 2011 by telescoper

In view of my current rather hectic schedule – why else would I be up at this ungodly hour? – I thought I’d combine another bit of recycling with some audience participation. I’ve updated below the list of Haiku I posted some time ago with some new ones I’ve jotted down at random intervals over the intervening months.

How about a few Haiku of your own on themes connected to astronomy, cosmology or physics?

Don’t be worried about making the style of your contributions too authentic, just make sure they are 17 syllables in total, and split into three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively.

Here are some of my own to get you started:

Quantum Gravity:
The troublesome double-act
Of Little and Large

Gravity’s waves are
Traceless; which does not mean they
Can never be found

The Big Bang wasn’t
So big, at least not when you
Think in decibels.

Constant and Dark Energy
Are vacuous names

Microwave Background
Photons remember a time
When they were hotter

Isotropic and
Homogeneous metric?

Galaxies evolve
In a complicated way
We don’t understand

Type Ia Supernovae
Gave us the first clue

Cosmic Inflation
Could have stretched the Universe
And made it flatter

Is what I’m told is my Job
Title. Whatever.

“Clusters look cool,”  said
Sunyaev and Zel’dovich,
“because they are hot”.

is produced by inflation,
normally speaking.

Gravity waves are
a kind of perturbation;
they make you tensor

Bubble collisions
Leave marks in the C-M-B
To please A. Linde

This Haiku contains
“Baryon Oscillations”
in its middle line.

What should we build next:
S-K-A or E-L-T?
Or maybe neither…?

J W* S T,
(the James Webb Space Telescope);
long name, big budget

* “W” has to be pronounced “dubya” for this one to work!

Contributions welcome via the comments box. The best one gets a chance to win Bully’s star prize.