Issue #69

Last Update October 31, 2010

Arts Perpetual Motion by Sten Grynir February 10, 2009  In celebration of the International Year of Astronomy, Dava Sobel, author of Galileo's Daughter, Sarah Pillow, soprano, Ronn McFarlane, lute and theorbo, and Mary Anne Ballard, viola da gamba, presented a multimedia offering, "Perpetual Motion: Revolutions in 17th Century Science and Music". Dava Sobel acted as Storyteller, introducing  breathtaking images of space and reciting poetry or the era. Songs and instrumentals of the 17th Century were provided by Ms. Pillow, Mr. McFarlane and Ms. Ballard. The effect of the performance was to impart an almost mystical sense of learning to the audience; information entered the brain through eyes and ears in formats not usually encountered in the classroom.

The images, controlled by Ms. Sobel in support of her narrative, appeared on a screen at the center of the audience's view, while the musicians and Ms. Sobel stayed at the left and right wings so as not to compete with the stills and videos. Image contributors included The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Hubble Heritage Project, the European Space Agency's Mars Express, the Space Telescope Science Institute's Office of Public Outreach, and NASA, with images from its space probes Galileo, Voyager, Clementine, Messenger and Cassini. Natural beauty and awe at the vastness of space made these pictures an emotional experience.

The music, composed in the 16th and 17th centuries, included pieces by Cavalli, Frescobaldi, and Monteverdi, and the lesser known composers da Milano, Negri, Vincenzo Galilei, Caccini and Lucrezia Orsina Vizzana, the only woman composer in the group. Both secular songs and religious hymns and psalms were among the offerings. Sarah Pillow, Mary Anne Ballard, and Ronn McFarlane performed collectively as "Galileo's Daughters".

The soprano, Sarah Pillow, had a strong yet mellifluous voice that blended well with her viola da gamba partner, Mary Anne Ballard, and with Ronn McFarlane's agile lute playing. Dava Sobel’s narration of the simultaneous revolutions in science (Galileo's telescope, amongst other advances) and music gave an exciting view of a time of intellectual ferment and religious and political upheaval.

This unusual multimedia production can be seen in June, September and October in Pasadena California, Milwaukee Wisconsin, and Victoria and Salt Spring Island British Columbia. See the Galileo's Daughters website for details.


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