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Quantum Field
for solo piano

Full Orchestra
String Orchestra
Wind Ensemble
Solo Instrumental

Quantum Field was written for the 2023 Fermilab Artist-in-Residence program and commissioned by Marianne Parker (lead commissioner), Jeannette Fang, William Hueholt, Annie Jeng, Eunmi Ko, Leonidas Lagrimas, Jani Parsons, Holly Roadfeldt, Clara Yang, Amy Wurtz, and Grace Xia Zhao.

Inspired by the ever-present Feynman diagrams around the Fermilab campus and discussions with physicists about the nature of matter, this work imagines the piano as a conduit to explore quantum field theory. This theory states that all around us there are quantum fields of all types, and all of the fundamental particles are manifestations of vibrations within these fields. The fields are able to interact with each other when particles transfer their energy into vibrations in other fields, like when a photon is emitted from an energetic electron or a neutron decays into other particles. Even in the most empty vacuum of space, vibrations in these fields cause particles to pop into and out of what we think of as existence.

The various harmonies throughout this piece represent different quantum fields, where varying amounts of energy is translated into different densities of pitches and rhythms. Musical events occur as we shift our perspective from one field to another, and when vibrations in these fields become energetic enough to manifest as particles. Some of these particles go on to interact with other fields while others disappear as soon as they've appeared. There is an overwhelming continuity across the fourteen minutes of this composition, the texture very slowly growing from stasis into dramatic walls of sound, along with a great deal of variety and unpredictability. While most particles are heard from frequently over the course of this piece, a new particle emerges only as the final field is observed, a reflection of how higher and higher energy particle accelerators pave the way to discover yet-unobservable facets of our universe.

Images from detectors at Fermilab inspired the musical shapes within this piece. From the old bubble chamber films to modern digital detectors, when particles interact, they create vivid arcs that split away from each other and streak across the image, revealing the nature of the matter in the detector. Many of the musical particles behave in this piece by creating a shower of interactions, creating surges of energy and density in the music.

Duration: ca. 15'

View a sample of the score here.

Listen to an audio sample from the middle of the piece (midi realization, not from the pages of music pictured above):

This piece is under exclusivity to the commissioners until February 20, 2025.

Copyright © by Roger Zare Music, ASCAP. All Rights Reserved.