Molecules running into each other at a high rate speed - called Brownian Motion by Albert Einstein - was what composer Robert Henderson thought of when he reviewed the busy main theme of his latest orchestral piece. And because of his own views on music and science in the 20th century, Henderson named the violin-intensive piece "Einstein's Violin."
Commissioned by the Utah Arts Festival, "Einstein's Violin" will premiere Thursday, July 9, at 9 p.m. on the Triad Center's Amphitheater stage. Henderson, who was associate conductor of the Utah Symphony from 1980-97, is the eighth composer to receive the Utah Arts Festival commission. Local composer Henry Wolking, who also directs the UAF commission, called his piece "music that moves the masses."Henderson takes comments on the accessibility of "Einstein's Violin" as a compliment, citing trends in music - and science - toward simplification.
"We spent the first half of the century developing the technology that culminated in the atomic bomb, and the rest of the century trying to get rid of the darn thing," said Henderson. "I saw a parallel in 20th century orchestral music where we had what was called the `emancipation of dissonance,' in which music flowed further and further away from its tonality, and alienated the audience."
Henderson's own voice is a mix between 20th century techniques and traditional harmonies. "I'm presenting 20th century music in a way that's logical to the audience, " he said. A child prodigy, Henderson began composing orchestral works in his early teens. At 15, he was the youngest recipient of the prestigious Musician Foundation Composer's Award for his work "Orchestral Variations." Since then, his work has been performed around the globe and received numerous awards.