Galileo (2001) Print
Catalogue - Percussion

Nature is a book one can read, but the language is mathematics.
Galileo Galilei

The day Galileo Galilei discovered the law of the pendulum, I’m sure he thought he was reading the book of nature, and when I play my pendulums I sometimes have a similar feeling. I can not control their movement and can only try to follow their rhythm, their natural rhythm. The law of the pendulum is only one among thousands of laws that control the world we live in, not counting those yet undiscovered, but it is a natural law that can be seen and heard rather easily, and often people who attend performances of Galileo also feel that they are not only hearing music, but also reading a bit from the book of nature.
Tom Johnson

Galileo is a composition/instrument that swings on five pendulums. The slowest of these hangs from a line about 260 cm long, suspended from a height of about four meters. The other four pendulums must be carefully measured, following the formula discovered by Galileo Galilei some 500 years ago, so as to make their cycles in 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, and 4/5 the time necessary for the longest. A sequence of short compositions allow us to hear all the different combinations of tempos. The piece has evolved slowly from three pendulums to five, from 10 minute to over 40, in a variety of situations.


The precise measurements, and the precise metronome markings that result, may vary, depending particuarly on the performance space, the maximum height, and the height at which the performer wants the pendulums to swing. But the proportions must be quite exact, in order for the different rhythms to be in proportion. 

Pendulums from low to high        I     II     III    IV    V
Rhythmic ratios as whole numbers  12    15     16     18    24
Rhythmic ratios as fractions      1     5/4    4/3    3/2   2
Length of strings as fractions    1     16/25  9/16   4/9   1/4
Suggested exact length in cm      288   184.3  162    128   72
Approximate metronome speeds      20    25     26.7   30    40

Galileo concert in Bilbao (Spain) 2002
Universidad de Bilbao (Spain), October 2002

Galileo History

-Centre culturel, Amiens, January 2000 (with three bells)
-Inventionen Festival, Berlin, June 2000 (now with five bells, duration 25 minutes)
-Fondation Danai, Jarnac (France), July 2000
-Les Bains, Bruxelles, October 2000
-KAP, Torgau (Germany), October 2000 (now with five metal rings)
-Centre d’art d’Orléans, January 2001 
-Brakkegrond, Amsterdam, April 2001 (now with five metal bars)
-Alte Feuerwache, Köln, May 2001
-Université de Bordeaux, November 2001
-Verein Experimentelle Musik, December 2001
-Toihaus, Salzburg, June 2002 (now with the five metal bars suspended on the portable aluminum frame designed by Eric Castagnès)
-Universidad de Bilbao (Spain), October 2002, (Performances now are about 35 minutes long, with increased control and additional compositional subtleties.)
-Ecole de beaux arts, LeMans, October 2002
-Universität Zürich, November 2002
-Merken Concert Hall, NYC, February 2003
-Kutztown, Pennsylvania, March 2003
-Musée d’Art Modern et Contemporain de Strasbourg, June 2003
-Museo Vostel, Malpartida (Spain), September 2003 (now with additional four-pendulum movements, expanding the piece to about 40 minutes)
-Maschinenhaus, Essen, Germany, October 2003
-Winsen-Luhe (Hamburg), February 2004
-Stichting Logos, Ghent, March 2004
-Universität Dortmund, April 2004
-Cité scientifique, Université de Lille, May 2004
-Atlantische Tage, Kaiserslautern, November 2004
-Kunstpalast Düsseldorf, November 2004
-Universität für Musik, Vienna, March 2005
-Conservatoire national supérieur de Lyon, April 2005
-Festival de Música Contemporánea de Alicante (Spain), September 2005 (now with a final movement using all five pendulums and a total duration of about 45 minutes
-Kunstencentrum Belgie Hasselt (Belgium), October 2005
-Institut Français Bremen, November 2005
-EHES, Bures-sur-Yvette, June 2006
-Project Arts Center, Dublin, November 2006
-Associazione Culturale Borgovico 33, Como, November 2006
-Cumulus Foundation, Dijon, July 2007
-Universität Ulm, October 2007
-Loos Foundation Den Haag, December 2007
-Lek Art Festival, Culemborg, Holland, September 2008
-KONTRASTE-seltsame Musik, Krems, Austria, October 2009
Museo Vostel, Malpartida (Spain), September 2003
Galileo setup Museo Vostell (Malpartida)Galileo setup Museo Vostell (Malpartida)Galileo setup Museo Vostell (Malpartida)Galileo setup Museo Vostell (Malpartida)Galileo setup Museo Vostell (Malpartida)