for female voices, viol consort, and The Dervishes
Carrie Henneman-Shaw, soprano
Elizabeth Pearce, soprano
Kayleigh Butcher, mezzo-soprano
Molly Herron, The Dervishes
Kivie Kahn-Lipman, bass viol
Loren Ludwig, bass viol
Doug Balliett, violone
Premiered on October 17, 2015 on the SONiC Festival
About the work
Cecilia Payne (later Payne-Gaposchkin) was one of the first students to enroll in Harvard’s graduate astrophysics program in 1923. In 1925, she published one of the most transformative dissertations in the history of astrophysics “Stellar Atmospheres, A Contribution to the Observational Study of High Temperature in the Reversing Layers of Stars.” The work made inferences about the stars based on their spectra which upended contemporary knowledge about the star’s chemical composition.
The text for Stellar Atmospheres is taken from Payne’s thesis, largely from the exhaustive data sets she presents. For me there is a beautiful correlation between science and art in that both are about making observations and trying to subvert yourself to following where they lead. This piece is largely about exploring the overlap of process in both fields.
The Dervishes, designed and built by Andy Cavatorta, create sound from air resonating through fourteen carefully tuned corrugated tubes. Robotic controls can spin each tube at a variety of precise speeds, producing four possible pitches per tube. The spinning also produces a tremolo and a Doppler-based vibrato.