Well Lit Shadow

Well Lit Shadow is a suite for solo electric guitar inspired by the images of particle collisions. The music was composed as a set of nine pieces with short improvisations leading from one to the next. Some of the pieces are very literal, they are an attempt to depict the chaos and beauty of these collisions and the images produced by our measurements of them. Other pieces are meditations on the deeper meaning of these experiments, the incredible machines we have created to do them, and the secret knowledge we have built them to pursue. 

Improvisation takes a literal meaning in this piece, representing the unpredictability of the particles themselves and the uncertainty of what will be discovered. 

This work has nine individual sections:

I.    Star Drops - This begins by entering a storage ring, particles are flying in all directions, slowly at first and then more intense. The second section represents the circular nature of suspended animation. Like the night sky, I see this as a dark place with momentary bursts of energy and light that are beautiful and brief.

II.    Color Detection - A very literal piece, I imagine this as the story of a stream of particles entering an experiment, colliding and creating flashes of energy. It begins fast and aggressive and following the series of collisions, colors trail off into the distance as the collision begins to fade. Then the energy begins to build back up as a new group of particles begins the same harrowing journey.

III.   Well Lit Shadow - The title track, the piece is a musical poem dedicated to the philosophical implications of this science. So much complexity addressed at answering such elegantly simple questions. Knowledge is lonely and fighting to gain it is consuming. The repeating figures are a metaphor for discoveries getting continually modified until we have an answer or perhaps just the shadow of an answer. 

IV.   Trace of You - I imagined this piece to represent the time between collisions, when there is nothing flowing through the machine. The ghosts of these collisions and particles must still inhabit the machines and I wondered, if you could walk through the ring at the size of a particle, how tranquil would it be? Would you see small gentle bursts of light?

V.  Cable Cars - Another collision, this piece begins violently with a depiction of multiple collisions, and then goes through a chaotic period after the events. It ends with a question mark, a brief calm before the next burst of energy.

VI.   What We Found - This piece is the most literal musical picture of the path of a particle, escalating in speed and intensity right up until the moment of collision. After the impact, the descending chromatic fallout from the event leads into wandering notes that are the last traces of the collision. Its gentle ending signifies the peaceful harmony when all the residuals of the impact have faded.

VII.  Balsamic Layer - A tribute to the idea that questions chase answers and answers chase questions, this piece lets one melody follow the other and slowly build in complexity, just as our knowledge becomes more complex as time goes on. 

VIII.   Telegram From a Quasar - In this piece, which continues the theme from Balsamic Layer, I wanted to acknowledge how the the study of the smallest objects we know affects the study of the largest objects in the universe. The pulsating and vibrating nature of stars and black holes is reflected in the meter and acceleration of the melodies. Every beam of energy from the cosmos is laced with secrets.

IX.    Ever Unseeable - This final closing chorale is a meditation on our future discoveries. Will we unlock these mysteries of the unseeable subatomic world? Or will some universal architecture be forever out of reach? Perhaps all that matters is that we continue to search for the deeper picture in everything. 

Examples of Particle Collision Images

For more information on the scientific work that inspired this music, visit CERN.

If you are interested in purchasing sheet music for Well Lit Shadow or other compositions for guitar, please reach out through the contact page!

Jake Hertzog plays Artinger guitars, Fender amplifiers, Aalberg Audio and Pigtronix effects on this recording. Cover design by Erica Duncan

Special Thanks to: My family, Chris Rosenberg, and all those who devote their lives to understanding our universe.