Erika Eckert, viola and Paul Rudy melodica, percussion and toys
In September, 2010, I arrived starry-eyed at the American Academy in Rome for a year that promised wide open potential. Among the first things I learned was that my studio sits on the site of Galileo’s telescope demonstration to the Lyncean Society of April 14, 1611. I began contemplating the stars in a different way: through a lens of others’ contemplation. On Christmas Eve, 1968, the first images of Earth came to us from space through the Apollo 8 crew. A few years later, Galileo the space probe, was designed to continue to gather and send data even as it’s eyes and ears disintegrated during its plunge into Jupiter’s atmosphere: information comes at a cost. Further out yet, Voyager’s image of Earth shows our home as a small blue dot from 3.7 billion miles away, and for the first time we can actually see our own smallness. Galileo, the man, invited a new scientific gaze outward, while Apollo 8 and Voyager invite us to take a look at how we see ourselves. Telescopes are wormholes outward and ideas, the rabbit hole inward. Galileo, among other things, discovered the moons of Jupiter, hence the title of this work. One of his moons, Io, is a beautiful handmaiden, is the lover of Zeus, is a white cow, or companion to Prometheus, who was chained, as She is chained around Jupiter, just where Galileo left her 400 years ago for us to re-gaze upon. In contemplating Galileo’s political and religious challenges, we began to focus compositional energies around the problem of dogma. Dogma, no matter how it is expressed, enforced or perpetuated (whether in religion or science), easily becomes stuck energy, and is a force that tends to limit human potential. Perhaps Leto II in Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune says it most concisely when he reflects that “knowing is a barrier to learning.” Learning outward begs a balancing inward and an openness to changing notions of how our universe works and why we are here.
At Rome Around Jovian Moons was created during a week-long intensive collaboration with Erika Eckert at the American Academy in Rome. It uses sound samples from the Cassini, Voyager and Galileo Space Probes courtesy of NASA and the University of Iowa; recordings of my brother Jon’s Ham radio contacts from around the globe; sounds from Rome and the Academy, and in specific, those recorded on New Years Eve 2011 as Rome exploded in fireworks. At Rome Around Jovian Moons was commissioned by the American Academy in Rome for the 400th Anniversary Celebration of Galileo’s Telescope Demonstration, April 14, 2011 with generous supported by the University of Colorado at Boulder.