Thursday, July 02, 2009

A new Creation oratorio -- Part two

Knots of matter, with masses many times greater than the sun, are squeezed by gravity. When the temperature at the cores of the protostars reaches 10 million degrees, nuclear fusion begins, matter is transformed into energy, and the first stars are born. The music blazes out again, not in a single fortissimo chord, but in thrust after thrust of forte brilliance.

These massive first-generation stars burn fast and furiously, living for but a few million years before blowing themselves apart in colossal supernova explosions, seeding the universe with heavy elements. Galaxies form, and millions of stars, dust and gas coalesce to form massive black holes at their centers. The music representing the universe at this tender age of a billion years is wild and lively, booming timpani, soaring violins.

Now things slow down, become less violent. Star birth and star death continues, but at a more stately pace, moderato. A tender theme is heard in the background, in the flutes, perhaps, as carbon and oxygen, created in violence, unite with hydrogen to make the first organic molecules.

Over billions of years, these grow in complexity, eventually becoming alive. The organic theme is taken up by woodwinds, until, as the music draws to its climax, life and intelligence come to the fore. The music becomes more melodic, thrusting notes give way to a lively dance, and...

And? Well, the best available evidence suggests that the universe will expand forever, using up all available energy, until eventually, hundreds of billions of years from now, light, life and intelligence are extinguished. The music winds slowly down into inaudibility. I suppose the lights in the concert hall should be extinguished too, so that the new "The Creation" ends with a long coda of utter silence and darkness.