Professor Martyn Harry’s new composition, Einsteins Tafelmusik, will receive its premiere this evening at the Oxford Museum of the History of Science. It forms part of a performance by the ensemble Sirinu, details and tickets for which can be found here. The piece is is scored for four performers wearing Einstein wigs who play the following instruments: theorbo, piccolo, celesta, crotales, tam-tams, gongs, bass flute, bowed ukeleles, pitch pipes and tuning forks! About his piece, Martyn says:
Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity still exerts a powerful pull both on our collective imaginations and indeed on current developments in astrophysics, as shown by the recent public announcement of the sighting of gravitational waves in merging black holes. Einstein’s Blackboard at the Museum of the History of Science is a remnant of the second of three lectures he gave in Oxford in 1931, a lecture he delivered on the topic of cosmology in German. (This is also the language in which I have set the blackboard’s mathematical formula to music). The vertical plane of the blackboard in the museum’s basement room presents an exciting contrast to the horizontal plane of the large table on the other side of the room, upon which the players perform their coda for diverse musical measuring devices. The drastic contrast between these two musical “dimensions” in my composition can be understood as a metaphor for the apparently incompatible descriptions of reality that Einstein unveiled in 1905 – general relativity (focusing on the very large) and quantum mechanics (focusing on the very small). This ambivalent relationship is suggested by the word ‘Tafel’ in the work’s title, which translates both as ‘blackboard’ and ‘table’, for even though the Tafelmusik is completely unexpected, it is nevertheless closely related to the material heard at the beginning.