Star-studded science

Nolan Gasser, PhD 2001, composed
Nolan Gasser

It’s not every scientific project that gets its own concert at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C. But on  Nov. 2, the high-flying Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope will be toasted with a 40-minute symphony, Cosmic Reflection.

With major participation from SLAC and the main campus, led by astrophysicist PETER MICHELSON, Fermi was launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral last year to observe the gamma rays emitted by stars and other heavenly bodies. It’s a different way of seeing the universe, and the results have created excitement among astronomers and astrophysicists.

When Fermi scientists gather in Washington for their 2009 symposium, they’ll take time out to enjoy the concert, written by composer NOLAN GASSER (Ph.D. in Musicology, ’01) to honor the success of the satellite and the wonders of the skies.

“I had to come up with concrete musical depictions of concepts like inflation, separation of the forces, annihilation of matter by anti-matter, proton formation, and so on,” Gasser said. The Boston University Symphony Orchestra will perform Cosmic Reflection while synchronized video images appear on a screen and British actor/playwright Carey Harrison narrates. Acclaimed actress Alfre Woodard will be the master of ceremonies.

Acclaimed actress Alfre Woodard will be the master of ceremonies
Alfre Woodard

The concert “tells the story of the universe, as we now know it, based on scientific research and discovery,” said Pierre Schwob, an amateur cosmologist and CEO of Classical Archives in Palo Alto, who co-sponsored the musical production.

Tickets are available through the Kennedy Center box office for $20. Some free tickets – airfare not included – are available for Stanford students, faculty, staff and alumni; call NANCY CHRISTIANSEN at 650-724-7667.

– Daniel Stober