Hawking’s Time

2023 . . . sound sculpture . . . 5 minutes

Stephen Hawking, the great theoretical physicist and cosmologist, is famous for solving in 1974 the mind-boggling mathematics of black holes and what became known as their Hawking Radiation. He also wrote a fascinating book, A Brief History of Time. Now, after Hawking’s death, his last collaborator, Thomas Hertog, has published On the Origins of Time explaining Hawking’s theory of how Time itself began at the Hot Big Bang birth of the universe. The idea, in grossly simplified geometry, is that Space and Time were united as one primordial sphere that dramatically split apart at the Big Bang’s initial hyperinflation into expanding Space and progressing Time. Before that moment, there was no time, no before.

The musical challenge: how to express utter timelessness before the explosion; and how to build a sound space that sits still then explodes. You’ll hear an initial sound space of just one pitch, G, which at first quivers in color but without perceivable rhythm. While standing still, the sound space expands by octaves and eventually explodes with a fuller spectrum of chromatic pitch color. The history of Time compressed into a brief five minutes!

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