There’s Music Beyond The Standard Model

In a rather splendid development, there’s been an arrangement made between the Aspen Center for Physics and the Aspen Music Festival and School, which (you might recall from a post of mine a long time ago) are in close proximity to one another. The result of the arrangement is that -as happened on Wednesday- the President of the ACP went down the corridor clapping his hands outside our offices to remind us that there was a concert down the hall. We all filed into the auditorium and were treated to a recital of a number of pieces of music from three extremely talented young players.

The first one up was 24 year old Alejandro Vela, who played extracts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (op. 75):

Alejandro Vela

I especially like the fact that nobody cleaned off the board, leaving some snatches of physics from the Phenomenology workshop’s discussions to be seen (hence the meaningless title of this post). Nice backdrop. For what it’s worth, I’ve left a larger version (click on above image) for you to look more closely at the equations at your leisure.

He also played Chopin’s Etude No. 12 in C minor (op. 25). Next up was the 14 year old Peng Peng, who, after playing Chopin’s Ballade No. 4 in F minor (op 52), played from Rachmaninoff’s Moments Musicaux (op. 16). He was followed by Katherine Peterson (I don’t recall her age, but yeah, she was young too), who played Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1 (LW G16/2).

peng pengkatherine peterson

Everybody played marvellously. This is a really great idea that is set to be a standard part of the ACP’s Summer program.

I had only two small gripes with Wednesday’s concert. The first is that I’m pretty sure that one note on the piano’s middle range is not sounding correctly. I’m not sure it is the pitch, so much as a damper not clearing from the string properly. Some of the Chopin had a few minor wobbly moments as a result, since there are lots of long held notes for you to meditate upon. The second is that I would not have ended with Liszt. This is just me being, uh, me, I’ll be the first to note, but everybody loves Liszt when they are teenagers -the energy-the virtuosity-the sheer bravado of it all. For a while, Liszt is the greatest thing…. but then you sort of grow up and realize that a lot of the work is fun, but largely without much depth. I would not end a concert of varied piano works with a piece by Liszt. I’d rather end with Chopin, leaving the audience with something meatier to chew on, instead of light candy. I think I would have started the concert with Katherine playing that piece, and also asked her to play Chopin afterwards. Then they would have all done some Chopin, which lends some extra symmetry to the whole affair.

It was overall a very, very good concert though.


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6 Responses to There’s Music Beyond The Standard Model

  1. Thomas S. says:

    “largely without much depth”

    Yikes! That was a pretty harsh accusation against Mr. Liszt. I’ll be the first to point that this is largely a fault not of the composer but of the performers, who disproportionately represent the virtuoso tripe at which Liszt was uniquely talented – of which the Mephisto are particularly egregious examples. These pianists do a diservice to the composer and his more sober, serious work, such as the Funerailles or the three very beautiful suites of Annees de Pelerinage (with which Brendel performed wonders).

    Anyways, it’s wonderful to see a grand piano in front of a physics blackboard again. Hope you all enjoy yourselves in Aspen.

  2. Clifford says:

    Fair point. There is some lovely Liszt work that gets neglected in favour of the extremely showy stuff.


  3. Plato says:

    Well some of us do think the analogies help us to see the universe in different ways?

    I am somewhat biased in my views. If Wayne Hu can do it with sand particles on a Chladni plate cosmologically drawn to WMAP. Then, why not music?

    IN appearance, all those playing the piano, the songs, then behind it all, “the math.”

    How appropriate? 🙂

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  5. I enjoyed that evening very much…

  6. Clifford says:

    So did I! Thanks a lot. Perhaps I will see you play again soon.