Event Horizon (15:00)

(Available as a clarinet concerto AND for chamber orchestra without soloist AND as a quintet)


I wrote Event Horizon after reading William J. Kaufmann's Black Holes and Warped Spacetime, an armchair excursion through some of the most mysterious and magnificent phenomena in the universe. The title of my piece is taken from the term that astronomers use to describe the perimeter of a black hole - the point of no return.

The work was originally a single-movement concert overture, written for Jason Love and the New Horizons Chamber Ensemble. I expanded the forces from quintet to chamber orchestra with clarinet soloist and added two new movements, Prelude and Night, in the summer of 2002 after Tom McKinley invited me to write a work for Richard Stoltzman.

Event Horizon (the third movement, written in May 1999) opens with a crescendoing piano cluster - my depiction of the violent death of a great star and its transformation into a black hole. Following this Implosion, the piano and strings evoke a dance of electrons, as they swirl in the whirlpool of energy that was once a sun. That Electron Dance leads into the Vortex where this stellar cauldron spins itself into oblivion. The Vortex is characterized by staccato chords in the piano accompanying a very brief counterpoint in the clarinet and strings. After a parting glissando and two brief bars of staccato chords, the clarinet and first violin begin a Descent into the heart of the black hole. Everything is crushed into a piano cluster and finally a lone B . This is the Singularity, a place/moment in space-time where mass and gravity are both infinite and the very fabric of the universe is punched out of existence as we know it, or perhaps punched through into another universe.

I chose a black hole of the latter kind, and following the music's descent into the maelstrom we cross an Einstein-Rosen Bridge and travel Through the Wormhole (a variant of the Electron Dance) to The Other Side. Here, in this unknown region of the universe, or even a new universe altogether, we are quickly led to a passacaglia entitled This Realm of Earth and Air, a relentless series of variations on and above a driving modal bass line. The work concludes with an ascending chromatic line and a final trio of staccato accents.

© Karen Amrhein. All Rights Reserved.