Cold Atom

for viola and piano

Oliver Iredale Searle

🔍 Preview Score
Logged-in user discounts applied
Log in to get discounts (now or at checkout)
Ask us about multi-copy choral discounts


for viola and piano

Ask about this work
Composer Oliver Iredale Searle
Year of Composition 2020
Duration ca.9'
Instrumentation Viola, Piano
Categories (all composers) , , , , ,
Catalogue ID ce-os1ca1


In 2004, whilst looking through one of Glasgow’s free newspapers, I came across a small article that described how two scientists at Glasgow University had discovered and recreated the temperature at which atoms stop moving.

This was the world’s first super cold atom, which at 0.0000000001 degrees Kelvin, was the closest anybody had ever actually got to absolute zero. This scientific discovery and human intervention to create something so cold, coincides with a peiod of increasingly intense, man-made global warming, which is now nearing the point that it appears it may not be stopped by human intervention.

Musically (and on a less serious note), this point at which “all motion stops” also reminded me of one of my favourite heavy-metal bands of the day – Machine Head. There is a particular moment in one of their songs; the singer shouts the word ‘SLOW’, which the instrumentalists use as a cue to play the current riff at half the speed. In a live concert, the singer would do this many times, so that eventually, the riff was painfully slow, to the point of being almost unrecognisable.

I subsequently began to write the work with this in mind, experimenting with the number of ways in which the instruments/humans) can give the illusion of stopping, slowing down, or moving in and out of musical stasis, as if hopeful of slowing and permanently halting the nearing calamity.

“the point at which all motion stops…”