Symphony No.3 ‘Supernova’
for large orchestra (2017),, timp+4, pno/cel, harp, strings
duration: 25’
GRT • 194


score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
I: 13 billion years of light
II: clocks of light tick down to iron time

The title of this symphony and its two movements are taken from the poem
Supernova by Ross Baglin, which in turn reflects the birth of elements and the age of the known universe, and by extension the limits of our knowledge and existence.

A supernova is an astronomical event that occurs during the last stages of a massive star’s life, where its degeneration culminates in titanic explosion and destruction. The best current estimate of the age of the observable universe is around 13 billion years. As a massive star begins to die, it fuses lighter elements into heavier, releasing energy in the process. This continues until the star begins to fuse iron atoms. At this point it collapses upon itself, becoming heavier and hotter until it explodes in a supernova.

This symphony is dedicated to my father Geoffrey Greenbaum. It was written for the University of Melbourne Orchestra for premiere performance at Hamer Hall on 24 September 2017, conducted by Richard Davis.

Corpuscles of light,
In the infinite heartbeat
Dark sinews tense and release
And distance, farther than scoped skies,
Vibrating string of no beginning,
Knows that there is no emptiness,
Beyond the fields of 13 billion years of light.

The flash bites into the glass ellipsis,
Magnetic-painted nebulae rise
And form stained glass immensities,
And there a supernova spikes
Its violet metals into vaulted skies. 
If even stars may shatter, split and glitter
Sow the earth with rifted silver, or with tracts of gold,
And clocks of light tick down to iron time,
And fold, then buckle into lightless holes,
The stars like white priests wheel in circles through
The black mass of the universe.

Ross Baglin, 2016