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How Do We Listen to the Music of the Spheres?

Philip Glass + Greg Laughlin

Sunday, February 21, 2010
6:00 PM–7:30 PM

The astronomer, who has developed software to map planetary systems as audible waveforms, meets with the renowned composer of Kepler and Galileo Galilei to interpret the sound of the musica universalis.

Considered one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century, Philip Glass‘s work includes music for opera, dance, theater, chamber ensemble, orchestra, and film. In the early 1960s, Glass spent two years of intensive study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and while there, earned money by transcribing Ravi Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation. This period culminated in Music in Twelve Parts, and the landmark opera, Einstein on the Beach for which he collaborated with Robert Wilson. His scores have received Academy Award nominations (Kundun, The Hours, Notes on a Scandal) and a Golden Globe (The Truman Show). Glass has received an Oscar nomination for his Notes score. Symphony No. 7 and Symphony No. 8-Glass’ latest symphonies-along with Waiting for the Barbarians, an opera based on the book by J.M. Coetzee, premiered in 2005. In April 2007, the English National Opera, in conjunction with the Metropolitan Opera, remounted Glass’ Satyagraha, which appeared in New York in April 2008. Glass’ recent opera, based on the life and work of Johannes Kepler and commissioned by Linz 2009, Cultural Capital of Europe, and Landestheater Linz, premiered in September 2009 in Linz, Austria and in November 2009 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
Greg Laughlin is Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He has participated in the discovery and characterization of numerous extrasolar planets, and he is currently involved with efforts to extend the planetary census to include potentially habitable, Earth-like planets orbiting the Sun’s closest stellar neighbors. Laughlin also directs several projects which allow for public participation in the search for extrasolar planets (see and He is also an expert on the evolution of the Universe into the extremely distant future, and (in collaboration with Fred Adams of the University of Michigan) has written a popular-level book on this topic.