June 23, 2017
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m51a — The Whirlpool Galaxy
Year: 2013     Timing: 6:17
for Multi-Percussion (1 Player) and Stereo Electronic Track
M51a -- the Whirlpool Galaxy was born from a single seed of a question in my mind: “If outer space could be heard as music, what would it sound like?” From my earliest childhood years, I have been utterly fascinated with outer space, even aspiring to become an astronaut for the entirety of about four months. Imagine my surprise and excitement as a musician, then, when I discovered in my research that certain black holes actually “sing,” emitting frequencies that can be translated into musical pitches! For example, the black hole in the Perseus Cluster “sings” a B-flat note that is fifty-seven octaves below middle C. From there, a storm of inspiration took over as I attempted to construct the music of space.

The other cosmic phenomena from which I drew inspiration—and the piece’s title—is the Messier 51a “Whirlpool Galaxy.” It is a galaxy notable for its pristine aesthetic beauty and the fact that it is shaped according to the “Golden Spiral,” which is a manifestation of the Fibonacci series of numbers. The percussion instruments on-stage are arranged in the shape of one of the arms of the Whirlpool Galaxy.

I knew I had to assemble a unique palette of sounds for the piece, ones that sounded unfamiliar and unearthly (literally!). There are well over a hundred different sounds featured in this piece, from a wide variety of exotic percussion instruments to a sizable battery of digital sounds that I modified and sequenced myself. Thus, M51a -- the Whirlpool Galaxy is a marriage of two genres (electroacoustic music and multi-percussion solos) and an adrenaline-pumping duet between the percussionist and the electronic track.

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Multi-Percussion Score/Part
Please contact me at thomasbyee@gmail.com for Electronic Track
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