Piano Constellation: Cygnus X-1 (Version 3)

for piano solo

Camden Reeves

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for piano solo

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Composer Camden Reeves
Year of Composition 2019
Duration ca.4'
Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-cr2pccx1


Cygnus is a constellation visible in the northern summer and autumn. It is one of the 48 constellations listed by Ptolemy in the second century AD. Cygnus X-1 is a large mass observable in this constellation. ‘Observable’ is the operative word here, as it is a black hole. As such, it cannot be observed directly. Its presence was confirmed by measuring its gravitational influence on the companion star, HDE 226868, by Louise Webster, Paul Murdin and Charles Thomas Bolton in 1971. This was the first scientific confirmation of the existence of a black hole.

As the title suggests, this piano constellation comprises a series of short fragments. It makes an imaginary journey around the constellation Cygnus, across a series of fragments, each representing one of the stars in the constellation: γ Cyg, Deneb, δ Cyg, ι Cyg, κ Cyg, η Cyg, Alberio, ε Cyg and ζ Cyg. Version 1 of this work is set out on A1
paper as a collage, across which pianists are free to navigate their own routes. This, version 3, is a route that I have chosen. (Version 2 is now withdrawn.)

As the pianist moves around the constellation, some of the fragments are repeated (one several times). Others appear only once. A chord is held silently (in the piano’s middle pedal) across all the fragments. This chord represents the black hole Cygnus X-1. Just as the presence of the black hole could only be observed by detecting its influence on its companion star, the resonance of its musical counterpart builds up only gradually, in sympathetic resonance with strings activated by the other fragments.