for Wind Orchestra
c. 19 minutes
In his book, Creation Revisited: The Origin of Space, Time and the Universe, Peter Atkins reduces the apparent complexity of all things to a beginning of absolute simplicity. He argues that given just basic ingredients, time, and a suitable climate, all things are possible:
'It is undeniable that [molecules] can emerge into existence if the appropriate atoms are available, for little molecules are just a few atoms stuck together, and atoms stick together. If there are atoms there will in due course be molecules; and if there are molecules on warm, wet platforms, there will in due course be elephants.'
Atkins remarks that energy is at its highest quality when it is at its most simple state and that the nature of the universe is for energy to lose quality through a continuous decline into chaos. This musical work for wind orchestra explores these same ideas through three 'orientations'. In each, the piece resets to a state of simplicity before expanding, evolving, and, inevitably, degrading into chaos. The work also responds to Total Strife Forever, an album of electronic music by East India Youth which I found impossible to separate from Atkins' writings:
'The quality of energy is like a slowly unwinding spring. The quality spontaneously declines and the spring of the universe unwinds. The quality spontaneously degrades, and the spontaneity of the degradation drives the interdependent processes webbed around and within us, as through the interlocked gear wheels of a sophisticated machine. Such is the complexity of the interlocking that here and there chaos may temporarily recede, as when cathedrals are built and symphonies are performed. But these are temporary and local deceits, for deeper in the world the spring inescapably unwinds. Everything is driven by decay. Everything is driven by motiveless, purposeless decay...
There is no need to look for a purpose behind it all: energy has just gone on spreading, and the spreading has happened to generate elephants and enthralling opinions...
The only faith we need is the belief that everything can be understood and, ultimately, that there is nothing to explain.'