• Britta Byström
  • Parallel Universes (2021)

  • Edition Wilhelm Hansen Copenhagen (World)

Co-commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and first performed by BBC Philharmonic conducted by John Storgårds on 10 August 2021 at the Royal Albert Hall, London as part of the BBC Proms 2021

  • 2(pic).2.2.2/
  • 12 min

Programme Note

”Parallel Universes” is a piece inspired by the Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark’s theories. In ”Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality” (2014), Tegmark presents his idea about parallel universes, in which we might encounter exact copies of ourselves… He describes four different levels of ”multiverses”:

Multiverse Level I: An infinite number of universes; II: An infinite number of multiverses; III: Every new occurrence creates a new universe; IV: For everything that could have occurred, millions of new universes are created, all with their own specific setup.

To me, this is science that comes close to art! I have tried to transfer Max Tegmark’s theories into music, using compositional and orchestral techniques to create a kind of ”multiverse music”. For example, you can find a lot of canons in the piece, and many musical motifs which up to a certain point are identical, but then start to develop in different directions… You can find different orchestral layers ”rotating” simultaneously, as if in their own solar systems, and behind one layer you find another, and behind that yet another, and so on to infinity. Here I have made use of the the infinity series, a compositional method invented by the Danish composer Per Nørgård. 

The form of the piece is also due to Tegmark’s model: ”Parallel Universes” consists of four different parts (played without breaks) which are called ”Multiverse Level I-IV”. And who knows – right now in a parallel universe, maybe an exact copy of me have just finished the composing of exactly the same piece…?

(Britta Byström)