Hi. My name is Shannon. I’m the lead artistic producer of our upcoming concert, Starry Night.
This is my cosmic address:
Shannon Graham¹ 86 Vaughan Rd Toronto, ON Canada Earth Solar System Milky Way Galaxy Local Group Virgo Supercluster Observable Universe²
In other words, I’m nobody! (Who are you? Are you a nobody too?)*
Like a megalomanic (or megalomaniacal if you prefer more syllables) child growing up and adjusting to reality, (with varying degrees of success depending on the adult in question) through science, humanity has grown to see itself as a small, non-central part in a gigantic whole. But when I deeply contemplate this on an individual level, many feelings arise. Usually I feel insignificant and worthless. Sometimes I feel relieved. On a few rare occasions, the clouds part and I feel peaceful.
I decided to tell this story by using two musical forms we know and love.
Firstly, the concerto (a solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra…or in my case a solo violin accompanied by some trumpets, trombones, and a bass) has long been used to transmit the feeling of the individual against the masses. This is probably something most of us can relate to within this discussion of a subjective person’s place in an unfathomable and objective universe. The word “concerto” seems to have originated from the conjunction of the two Latin words: conserere (to tie, to join, to weave) and certamen (competition, fight).** And how perfect: whether it’s a bad day or a good day, whether it’s me against the world or one with everything, the concerto knows that those feelings are two sides of the same coin.³
Art by Alex Ruiz
The second musical form is the masterfully simple ABA… Our main character, a lone violin, looks up at the night sky and begins to contemplate her existence within the cosmos. (A!) Confronted by the full force and stifling grandeur of the universe (some trumpets, trombones, and a bass, oh my) , she plummets into existential crisis and despair. (B!) After that transformative suffering,ª she arrives at a positive reconciliation of her special place as a beautiful part of something bigger than herself. (A!)
Looking up at the night sky must have filled Vincent van Gogh with feelings. His painting “Starry Night” has in turn filled all of it’s viewers with feelings of their own. Maybe some of them were feeling the same thing that motivated me to write this piece. Lucky for us we have science to make us aware of our physical reality and art to make us aware of how that makes us feel.
¹ As much as I can try to believe otherwise: there is no center of the universe, just a relative starting point
² The maximum distance from which particles could have travelled to the observer in the age of the universe. Represents the boundary between the observable and the unobservable regions of the universe
* Thank you Emily Dickinson!
** Thanks Wikipedia!
³ Human consciousness, sentience, awareness etc
ª Apparently my new nickname for jazz improvisation over dissonant chords