An Optimistic Rock Symphony

Ideas for a progressive rock album based on The Beginning of Infinity

The Beginning of Infinity had a mind-wide (and mind-widening) impact on me.

As I’m constantly writing new music, and looking for new ways of writing music, I wonder: could I write an album based on the book, with one piece per chapter?

I think so! As a test, I’ll take the first few chapters, summarize their main points, then describe a way to represent them in music.

(By the way, the Swedish pianist and composer Ernst Erlanson - a good friend of mine - also did something like this.)

Introduction

  • Progress is real: Grow in speed, volume, complexity, and joyfulness throughout.

  • Progress has a necessary beginning: Start with a unique event - heard only once.

  • Progress need never end: On several occasions, appear to end, but resume again.

1. The Reach of Explanations

Good explanations can apply to situations far beyond where they were created. Einstein’s theory of general relativity was discovered on Earth, but applies to the entire universe.

Start with a memorable melody, then repeat it again and again while changing everything around it. The rhythm, tempo, genre, harmony, etc. Show that the melody works in many situations.

2. Closer to Reality

We observe nothing directly. In fact, we often get a better picture of reality when our observations are less direct - when things like telescopes, theories, and computer programs lie between our eyes and distant galaxies.

  • Start with melody to represent a physical phenomenon.

  • Then a new melody to represent observation/interpretation.

  • Then an imperfect copy of first melody, to represent the errors of interpretation.

  • Repeat this group of three, each time keeping the first melody the same, but lengthening the second, and making the third a more faithful copy of the first.

This represents how adding layers of interpretation can improve our understanding of what is out there. With each repetition, it’s as if we’re using larger, better telescopes and seeing the stars ever more clearly.

3. The Spark

“Like an explosive awaiting a spark, unimaginably numerous environments in the universe are waiting out there, for aeons on end, doing nothing at all… Almost any of them would, if the right knowledge ever reached it, instantly and irrevocably burst into a radically different type of physical activity: intense knowledge-creation… transforming that environment from what is typical today into what could become typical in the future. If we want to, we could be that spark.”

Divide the piece (or sections within it) in two. The first half is simple, subdued, and mostly unchanging. Maybe ethereal, like Neptune, from Holst’s The Planets. The second half starts with the sudden arrival of small-but-clear theme. Then it rapidly explodes in power and complexity.


I’ll stop there for now. The book has almost twenty chapters, and most of them could be an album of their own!

By the way, here’s a piece I wrote that was inspired by related ideas: