Sarah Palermo | Composer | Songwriter | Music Theorist


SSA a cappella
Text: Elliot McGucken
Duration: 4:30
After taking a course on the universe and the origins of life during my first semester at Westminster, I found myself very drawn to science, astrophysics, and the nature of the universe. This piece, cccxxxviii, was the result of a simple google search for "poetry about physics,” which led me to The After Dark Field Book by Elliot McGucken. A diary of sorts, this collection of sonnets is written by the fictional Drake Raft, a student at Princeton University. I was first attracted to many of the lines which reference Nassau Hall, the familiar old building by the main gate to the university. Each of the over five hundred poems deals with common themes of love, loss, confusion, and anger while containing countless references to all the subjects any Ivy league student studies, from classic literature, mathematical principles, ancient Greek and modern philosophers, and, of course, physics. The main reference hidden inside cccxxxviii is to the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the amount of entropy in a closed system can only increase. Implied in the poem is also the concept of heat death, one of the theoretical fates of the universe.
While it helped me knowing some of the scientific thinking behind the poem, my hope is that you will be drawn towards the emotional implications of the piece rather than get caught up in the laws of thermodynamics. The poem may be about heat death, but my setting of cccxxxviii is the story of those moments in your life, when everything changes and suddenly the world is a different place. Startled and confused, you adapt to your new surroundings, and in doing so, you lose who you are.
On that great day the clock starts unwinding,
You've become, the rest is unbecoming,
The rest is spent searching, never finding,
The day you first heard the soft spring humming.
What a humming! A boundless symphony,
Running parallel with reason, you were God,
Language acquired meaning, you felt to be,
Youth's dream, as all illusions, was a fraud.
For the next the morning, the world was all strange,
You couldn't like what you saw in your soul,
You realized the pain of the downward change,
Direction's but falling in a black hole.
It's fate, to be erased by entropy,
The second law life's spent trying to flee.

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