Songs from Extrasolar Spaces: Music Inspired by TESS
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
8:00-8:30pm: Public Lecture
George Ricker, TESS Principal Investigator; Sara Seager, TESS Deputy Director of Science; and Natalia Guerrero, TESS TOI Manager
8:30-9:00pm: Program of music by Lorelei Ensemble
Featuring world premieres of new works by John Harbison and Elena Ruehr
Space has long fascinated poets, physicists, astronomers, and sci-fi writers. Musicians too have often found beauty and meaning in the skies above. On July 30, at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, a group of composers and musicians will render visions from space in a concert titled Songs from Extrasolar Spaces. Featuring Boston’s Lorelei Ensemble—a Boston-based women’s choir—the concert will include premieres by MIT composers John Harbison and Elena Ruehr, along with compositions by Meredith Monk and Molly Herron. All the music is inspired by discoveries in astronomy.
Songs from Extrasolar Spaces is part of an MIT conference on TESS—the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. Launched in April 2018, TESS is an MIT-led NASA mission that scans the skies for evidence of exoplanets: bodies ranging from dwarf planets to giant planets that orbit stars other than our sun. During its two-year mission, TESS and its four highly-sensitive cameras survey 85% of the sky, monitoring more than 200,000 stars for the temporary dips in brightness that might signal a transit—the passage of a planetary body across that star.
“There is a feeling you get when you look at these images from TESS,” says Ruehr, an award-winning MIT faculty member and former Guggenheim Fellow. “A sense of vastness, of infinity. This is the sensation I tried to capture and transpose into vocal music.”
Supported by the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology’s Fay Chandler Creativity Grant, MIT Music and Theater Arts, and by aerospace and technology giant Northrop Grumman, which also built the TESS satellite, the July 30 concert is the brainchild of Natalia Guerrero. The conference and concert coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing–another milestone in the quest to chart the universe and Earth’s place in it.