August 01, 2016

A World Premiere Unites Science, Nature and Religion

On August 5 and 6, The Cosmic Garden in Bloom, composed by Michael Gandolfi and commissioned by the Grant Park Music Festival, premiered at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park.

The Cosmic Garden in Bloom—comprised of two movements, Octagonia and The Comet Bridge—is inspired by The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, a thirty-acre private garden in the Borders area of Scotland. The garden, created by architect Charles Jencks, is a fusion of terrestrial nature and the fundamental concepts of modern physics. Jencks and his wife, Maggie Keswick, began designing the garden in 1988. Over the years, the two became more inquisitive about the scientific facets of gardening, such as which species were most suitable to grow in a wet, temperate climate, yet they continued exploring the more unusual aspects, such as how to create new waveforms and linear twists in the landscape that were reminiscent of the basic elements of nature.

This joining of modern physics and nature elicited a strong musical response in Gandolfi, who first discovered the Garden of Cosmic Speculation in 2004. The first movement, Octagonia, is constructed around the library’s eight major themes: Arts and Architecture; Economics and Politics; Feminism and Spirituality; Language and Mind; Nature and Evolution; Religion and the first eight books of the Bible; Science and Cosmology; and Philosophy and Power. The Comet Bridge, a steel footbridge located near the garden’s entrance, inspired in Gandolfi a sense of impending doom, which is reflected in the piece’s second movement.

Gandolfi was previously commissioned by the Festival in 2012 to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Grant Park Chorus. His piece, Only Converge: An Exaltation of Place, premiered at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion on June 15, 2012. It consisted of two movements that opened with a choral narrative of headline events of 1962, the Chorus’ founding year, and closed with an epigram celebrating Millennium Park.