The Light-Beam Rider

For Piccolo, three flutes, bass flute
3 fls,pic, bfl
Crestwood Music Education Center/ Dominique Soucy
December, 13th 2015
Crestwood Music Education Center, NY
Dominique Soucy, Pamela Sklar, and flute choir
Ocean Sound
Catalog Number or
  • Program Notes

    Albert Einstein’s theory of light, which revolutionized our understanding of time and space, is based on his astonishing recognition that light always travels at a constant speed, regardless of how fast you're moving when you measure it. Einstein's explorations into the fundamental properties of light also laid the groundwork for his most impressive achievement, the General Theory of Relativity. His first great thought experiment came when he was about 16. He had run away from his school in Germany, which he hated because it emphasized rote learning rather than visual imagination, and enrolled in a Swiss village school based on the educational philosophy of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, who believed in encouraging students to visualize concepts. While there, Einstein tried to picture what it would be like to travel so fast that you caught up with a light beam. If he rode alongside it, he later wrote, “I should observe such a beam of light as an electromagnetic field at rest.” In other words, the wave would seem stationary. Einstein saw the universe as a puzzle, and he delighted in trying to solve its mysteries. All he needed to contemplate the cosmos was his most valuable scientific tool—his imagination.

    The Light-Beam Rider, if played super fast, would only cause the players to become totally out of synch with one anothjer and play wrong notes! Forget about a beam of light, its particles and wave frequencies! However, when I first read about Einstein wanting to ride along a beam of light, I became inspired by the old-fashioned merry-go-round, and how much fun it could be to play this music while sitting on the wooden horses and riding around in (slow) circles on the carousel! At least we wouldn't crash and burn (musically)!

    *sections of the first paragraph: and other sources.

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