I composed Nocturnes as part of an interdisciplinary celebration of Galileo’s 450th Birthday that took place on February 15th, 2014 at Pitt’s University Art Gallery. The event was cosponsored by Pitt’s Department of Music, Department of Studio Arts, and the University Art Gallery. For the celebration, we presented Nocturnes along with an exhibit of Michael Morrill’s Linea Terminale paintings which are themselves inspired by Galileo’s moon drawings. Thus, Nocturnes takes its inspiration from Michael’s paintings and the broader idea of celebrating Galileo’s life scientific contributions.
Like Linea Terminale, the music consists of four sets of three miniatures. About the time I was finishing the twelfth section, it occurred to me that the common character of all the movements was that of the nocturne. I realized that the whole time I’d been composing the piece, the image of Galileo peering through his telescope at the moon had been in the back of my mind. Which makes sense, since nighttime is still the best time to observe the moon.
Nocturnes responds to the acoustical characteristics of the Rotunda at Pitt’s Frick Fine Arts Building by juxtaposing drone like references points with bursts of sound and incorporating silences that allow the room’s resonances to become part of the work. The structural preoccupation with spatial relationships is also a nod to Galileo’s contemporaries such as Giovanni Gabrieli. While composed with the unique acoustics of the Rotunda in mind, the sonic characteristics of the piece translate well to other reverberant spaces such as a older stone church or cathedral. Nocturnes was performed again quite successfully by Gioco Project at Pittsburgh’s Union Project in November of 2014.
Excerpts from Nocturnes
Nocturnes Movement I
Nocturnes Movement VIII
Nocturnes Movement X