Composer’s “Particle Partitas” Turn Particle Physics Into Music

A physicist and a composer say particle physics and music make good bedfellows.(Photo: hashmil (Flickr))
A physicist and a composer say particle physics and music make good bedfellows.(Photo: hashmil (Flickr))

Since at least the time of the Ancient Greeks, music and mathematics have been viewed as close siblings, sister disciplines made up of the same DNA expressed as sound in one and as numbers in the other.

Now, a world-renowned physicist at Oxford University and Hamburg University is collaborating with a composer to create a musical work inspired by particle physics, according to a story on the Institute of Physics’ physicsworld.com Web site.

Physicist Brian Foster’s work in particle physics is the impetus behind composer Edward Cowie’s Particle Partitas, a musical work that Cowie says reflects in sound some aspects of particle physics theory.

“The music is shaped by the activity of particle physics, by which I mean if you take the Democritus question, if you divide something half by half by quarter by quarter, and you get smaller and smaller and smaller until you arrive at something which is apparently indivisible, the tiniest thing, you call that an atom. It’s very easy, actually, to think of a musical structure which can do that same thing. … there’s a literal as well as theoretical relationship between particle physics and the way I compose,” Cowie told physicsworld.com.

Foster says Particle Partitas will be premiered in Britain, with performances in Hamburg to follow, and hopes to bring the piece to the U.S.

Read more and hear Foster, Cowie and violinist Jack Liebeck rehearse the score of Particle Partitas: Particle physics inspires classical composer (physicsworld.com)

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