JASON ECKHARDT Echoes’ White Veil Would you do me a favor? Tonight after this concert, take a moment to look up at the night sky. Maybe with binoculars, or even a telescope. A canopy of thousands of tiny points of light gleam, the stars unfurled above us in the heavens. The fact that we can see them at all is both a wonder of physics and a happy accident of our time and place in the universe. With their fancy space telescopes, astronomers can peer across seemingly incomprehensible distances. Discovered in 2016 and confirmed in late 2020, GN-z11 holds the record for the most distant galaxy ever observed, its light reaching us from 13.4 billion light-years away. But to look so far away is also to look into the distant past. Of course, you or I could never see GN-z11, hard as we might look for it, scouring the skies with even the most powerful ground-based telescopes. Yet if somehow we were to spy its grungy, dim image—there! just above the handle of the Big Dipper, can you make it out?—we would be seeing it as it was 13.4 billion years ago. We may imagine light travels tremendously fast, even instantaneously, but light is no match for the incomprehensible scale of our universe. Indeed, when the light currently reaching our eyes first left the newborn stars and glowing dust-clouds of GN-z11, scarcely 500 million years had elapsed since the Big Bang: the very dawn of the universe. Advanced civilizations might have evolved, developed rich and unique cultures, explored and colonized their galaxy, and then passed into oblivion. More than once. And terrifyingly, the cosmos is becoming more inaccessible with every passing moment. The universe is expanding at an accelerating pace; the current, actual distance of GN-z11 is estimated at some 32 million light-years. Eventually, the universe will expand at such a rate that the space between us and distant galaxies increases faster than light can traverse it; at this point, they will slip behind the cosmological horizon and be lost forever. What we see now are but ghosts, echoes of the hopeful past stumbling into an uncertain future.
ROBERT SCHUMANN Kreisleriana In the words of Friedrich Nietzche, “There is always some madness in love -” but for Robert Schumann, there was love in madness. The German composer likely had what we now know as bipolar disorder, a manic-depressive illness often accompanied by unusual intelligence and creativity. The love in his life was Clara Wieck, the daughter of his piano teacher with whom he lived for over ten years. The young couple became engaged in 1837 but Clara’s father objected, forcing them to delay their marriage and even petition the courts. It was during this tumultuous time that Schumann wrote Kreisleriana Op. 16 for solo piano – inspired by the writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann.