On the Operations of the Sun

On the Operations of the Sun explores the interrelations between science, music and architecture with reference to medieval thought and the development of Western polyphony. The title comes from De Operationibus Solis, a tract by thirteenth-century philosopher, Robert Grosseteste. The structure of the piece (see image) derives from the South Rose Window of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A computer animation of the window’s tracery was programmed in order to determine the ‘progression’ of the voices through the performance, from the ‘centre’ to the ‘circumference’. The use of a computer model during the process of composition resembles architectural practice: the animation makes a spatial proposition – a ‘blueprint’ for each singer to ‘inhabit’ and make real. For Grosseteste, light was the first form of things. Here, the tracery of a rose window gives structure to the sound of twelve voices.

copyright © N.G. Brown, 2011