Shattering Suns | Nova | Shockwave | The Heart of the Sun | Pale Blue Dot | Viriditas | Stephen Taylor

etacar picture
Violent outburst in Eta Carinae;
Image from the Hubble Space Telescope.
Shattering Suns
for winds and percussion

  1. Nova
  2. Shockwave: Into the Maelstrom
  3. The Heart of the Sun
  4. Pale Blue Dot
  5. Viriditas

Stephen Andrew Taylor, 1997 (revised 1998)

paleblue picture

Shattering Suns was originally inspired by images (like the one above) of celestial catastrophe. As I was composing the piece the astronomer and writer Carl Sagan passed away. I wanted to make the piece a memorial to him somehow, and I was struck by one of his ideas: that life as we know it cannot exist unless stars, which possess the vital elements for life, die. The idea of intertwined death and life forms the dramatic plan of the piece, from the opening explosion of Nova to the outburst of life in Viriditas.

The synthesizer plays an important role in the piece, with a deep sound derived from the Sun's vibrations. The Sun actually vibrates in space like a giant gong. Alexander Kosovichev, a Stanford scientist, graciously made sound files for me from his research into sonic waves produced by the Sun. This deep, throbbing sound makes the Sun come alive for me, and helped inspire the third movement, The Heart of the Sun. And finally, I was inspired by the artwork of my wife, Hua Nian, whose watercolors and pastels Messages from Nature grace these pages.

Shattering Suns is dedicated to the Illinois State University Wind Ensemble, Stephen K. Steele, director.

Samples for the synthesizer patch "ethereal" (used in movements 1 and 4):

lowC.aiff (3.8 MB) lowC.mp3 (360 K)

middleC.aiff (4.3 MB) middleC.mp3 (404 K)

highC.aiff (4.8 MB) highC.mp3 (452 K)

Last updated 10/10/01. Copyright © 1997-2001 by Stephen Taylor, [email protected].