Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cosmic Depths with Hurricane Mama

AT 4:53 p.m. Sunday, NASA's Phoenix spacecraft landed on Mars, and two hours later pictures from the dusty red planet arrived at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to prove it.

But sound doesn't travel as fast as light, so it took a half-hour longer before we had an indication of extraterrestrial life stirring. That is when Hurricane Mama awakened and began to make miraculous music a few miles from JPL at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Terry Riley -- a Space Age Prospero dressed in black, wearing a black skull cap and in striped stocking feet, his long gray beard flowing -- walked to the organ consol. The hall was darkened. The wooden pipes were illuminated deep purple. No longer "French fries," a nickname Riley told the audience he felt inelegant, the pipes were newly dubbed "radiant columns of Orfeo." Hurricane Mama is his name for the Disney organ.

For the next two hours, Hurricane Mama howled and roared. Orfeo's columns traced the shapes of swirling galaxies and accompanied accelerating quanta as they collided releasing astonishing quantities of energy. They strung out strings of space-time and hymned drones of mystical oneness with the universe. All of that came

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