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Deep Field I

for bass-baritone and live electronics

Year:  2013

Year:  2013

Composer:   Michael Norris


In 1995, the Hubble Space Telescope opened its lens on a nondescript patch of sky — about one ten-millionth of the total sky area — and over ten days recorded light from ever more distant objects. The resulting image, the Hubble Deep Field (HDF), included some of the most distant objects ever imaged, over 12 billion light years away. This, and subsequent deep fields, evoke a kind of cosmic melancholy at the unalterability and unknowability of the wheeling field of matter, space and time around us.

Deep Field I is the first in a proposed series of works for solo instrument/voice and electronics drawing sonic ideas from the HDF. There are three astronomical texts used: MUL.APIN, a Babylonian star catalogue from 1000BC, a paragraph taken from the preface of Copernicus’ seminal work De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), and the opening paragraph of 16th-century French poet Pierre de Croix’s poem Des astres tournoyants la danse coustumière (The stars whirling in their customary dance). Each text in its own way conveys the human condition of insignificance in the face of cosmic infinitude. The live electronics, drawn entirely from the elongated syllables of MUL.APIN, create an orbital ‘cosmos’ circling around the eight-channel speaker array.

Commissioned note

Commissioned by Nicholas Isherwood

Performance history

22 Aug 2013: Performed by Nicholas Isherwood at the Adam Concert Room at the New Zealand School of Music, in Wellington

07 Sep 2013: Performed by Nicholas Isherwood at the Moryork Gallery in Highland Park, in Los Angeles, CA

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