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I was being pushed back into the chair. The bass notes were so deep and came so fast it was like someone pounding on my chest. Visions of atoms, galaxies and pure data exploded on the stage as words and symbols, pulses across banks of HD screens.
When the sound and the fury ended I, like everyone else in the audience of Ryoji Ikeda's newest composition, Superposition, felt like we were coming back to our bodies having been exuded into another sensorium for an hour. Then, after a few more moments of silence, the concert hall exploded again — in applause.
Below is a clip, filmed at another performance:
Ryoji Ikeda :: superposition [updated 22 MAR 2013]
I had the privilege of attending Superposition, by highly regarded "sound artist" Ikeda, last week. I was part of a live discussion with Ikeda and two other physicists the next morning, as part of a University Music Society program at University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, on the quantum mechanical ideas behind the piece. Our conversation, however, ended up covering a remarkable range of territories that left me wondering how far art can go in helping us understand science.
"I wasn't trying to explain quantum physics to anyone. I'm a composer," Ikeda said in response to a question by moderator Fred Adams, (a UM professor and a leading star formation theorist). Ikeda emphasized this point a number of times. While Superposition was inspired by ideas in quantum physics, it wasn't meant as an artistic tutorial in the subject.
But while inspiration may be where Ikeda began, for both myself and for University of California at Santa Cruz physicist Anthony Aguirre, the effect was far greater. Aguirre is a theorist who is one of the co-founders of the remarkable Foundations Questions Institute. For him, Ikeda's explorations in image and sound opened up new perspectives on the science he'd spent his life studying. It was the difference, Aguirre said, between learning about something in a formal way and directly experiencing it.
Source: NPR (blog) and ryoji ikeda studio Channel (YouTube)