Mat Campbell Music

Composer. Arranger. Conductor. Percussionist. Educator.

A Brief History of Time


A Brief History of Time is a percussion ensemble work based on the same instrumentation as Edgard Varèse’s Ionization. The work is inspired by Steven Hawking’s book of the same title. Instead of explaining how the universe works, the piece is a journey about the history of the universe. 

A Brief History of Time starts off with a bang - quite literally. Astrophysicist Michio Kaku says the following about the “Big Bang”: 

First of all, the Big Bang wasn't very big. Second of all, there was no bang. Third, Big Bang Theory doesn't tell you what banged, when it banged, how it banged. It just said it did bang. So the Big Bang theory in some sense is a total misnomer.

(source: BrainyQuote.com)

I like the idea of a created universe and thought it would be quite the attention-getter in concerts, so I decided to do it anyway. The piece unravels the 13.7 billion year history in about five minutes. I chose to highlight specific points in history to be represented musically. Then, I separated the piece into the following seven sections:

High Energy Reactions: Matter does not yet exist, thus the music is stagnant and still. 

First Nuclei Form: The smallest atomic particles form within minutes after the beginning of the universe.

First Atoms Form: After 380,000 years, the first Hydrogen atoms form. 

Light: Due to fusion of Hydrogen atoms to Helium atoms, the first light shines through the plasma-rich universe. 

First Stars and Galaxies Form: 400 million years after the Big Bang, the first stars shine more light in the universe, and the universe starts to turn into the one we know today. 

Expansion: The music starts to accelerate to signify the universe’s size increasing. 

Pale Blue Dot: The entire piece comes to a much more personal level as I depict the formation of the solar system and eventually our Planet Earth. This section contains the “Earth Theme” that I originally composed when I first thought of this piece. I wanted it to be so humble and human. After looking at the formation of the universe as we know it, I thought it might help us realize that we are a part of something bigger. Pale Blue Dot is a photograph taken by Voyager I on February 14, 1990. 

A Brief History of Time was composed for Dr. Joe Moore III and the Rio Bravo Percussion Ensemble for their performance at the Rio Grande Science and Arts Festival on Nov. 7, 2015.

Instrumentation: The same as Edgard Varèse's Ionization