Astronomies of the Mind (2009)
Played by the USC Thornton Symphony, conducted by Donald Crockett. (Feb. 2010)

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Much as the universe contains billions of stars, the human brain contains billions of neurons. Thus, we can think of the vast collection of ideas embedded in a single brain as a universe of its own, with constellations that are proper to it. This piece reflects not only the unpredictable and individual nature of our experience and the universe but also the obsessive patterns that affect both minds and planets.

The world (or the mind) according to this piece starts with small elements (Molecules? Neurons?) bonding together to gradually form larger structures. This is soon marked by ominous fanfares signaling that the motor of history, involving change and degeneration, is already in operation. Soon, the external threat of an incandescent star, at times distant and at times dangerously close, (a looming cluster played by the entire orchestra, which recurs throughout) is expressed for the first time. Yet, life continues obliviously, developing into an array of alternatively warring and playful civilizations (or moods). This is epitomized musically by the military or circus march, which happily plays on, like the now legendary band on the deck of the sinking Titanic. As expected, the end of the world comes from the star with a rather quick and quiet death.

The end of history is mourned by a schmaltzy, end-of-the-affair love song, itself also annihilated by the star. Flesh-eating birds (depicted with sinister calls from the oboes and clarinets) consume our charred remains and, finally, the world ices over. Yet, the motor of time returns and a monumental post-historical battle for meaning takes place. This struggle is suddenly brushed off, like a mere fly, dissolving into ultimate limbo, which the world was to start with.