This video captures a performance of Ge Wang’s Twilight by the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk). The piece is inspired by the science-fiction short story Twilight, by John W. Campbell.
The Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk) is an ensemble that explores the use of computer technology in a traditional musical context. Their goal is to combine the sonic and compositional possibilities of the computer with the immediacy and energy of a live ensemble performance.
Twilight – Ge Wang
According to the composer, the piece “ruminates not of the dawn, ascension, nor triumph of the human race, but of one possible demise set seven million years in the future. This end is not one of annihilation through war, nor decimation from famine or disease, but a golden decrescendo of defeat brought on by the gradual, peaceful, but unstoppable usurping of technology and machines — and the loss of man’s curiosity and sense of wonder.”
From the original text:
“Twilight – the sun has set. The desert out beyond, in its mystic, changing colors. The great, metal city rising straight-walled to the human city above, broken by spires and towers and great trees with scented blossoms. The silvery-rose glow in the paradise of gardens above.”
i. The Dead City
“And all the great city-structure throbbing and humming to the steady gentle beat of perfect, deathless machines built more than three million years before – and never touched since that time by human hands. And they go on. The dead city. The men that have lived, and hoped, and built – and died to leave behind them those little men who can only wonder and look and long for a forgotten kind of companionship. They wander through the vast cities their ancestors built, knowing less of them than the machines themselves.”
ii. A Song of Longing
“And the songs. Those tell the story best, I think. Little, hopeless, wondering men amid vast unknowing, blind machines that started three million years before – and just never knew how to stop. They are dead – and can’t die and be still.” This is the first installment in the Twilight series for various and mixed media. The cycle explores the psychology, longing, beauty and sadness of a twilight of humanity ending not in a bang, but an irreversible powerdown, basked in the golden, lingering, dying glow of man’s dusk.