Radium (Ra) is the 7th period element of the 2nd group and is a highly unstable and radioactive element. It was discovered in 1898 and first isolated in 1920 by the famous scientist Marie Curie. The name Radium is derived from the word ray, in Latin: radius. Later it was found that Ra emits beta-rays because it is radioactively decaying. These beta rays consist of electrons released from neutrons which each turn into a proton because of this process, changing the element and increasing the atomic number by 1.
Beta rays also can make other elements or substances such as zinc sulfide or phosphorus glow. Radium became world famous in the early 20th century because a paint was made with Radium that could glow in the dark, everybody wanted watches and other applications with it. Radium was even used as part of brand names some of which contained no Radium at all, there was Radium soap and wool “to keep babies warm”. Then gradually people started to realize that this glow was dangerous, possible lethal in the long run, because it was caused by radioactivity. Still, older glow in the dark products may contain it and be actually radioactive, these can still be found in secondhand shops today. Since then however safer glow-in-the-dark substances have been found, and it is these non-radioactive ones that one usually meets in our days.
The half-life of the element is over 16 centuries, so original Radium paint will continue to glow for a while…
Van Dillen composes the method of composition as much as he composes the music itself. There is a double layer of composition here, leading to a way of working adapted to each composition: a good process yields the best possible result at all times. It is a method, not a system.
As a logical consequence, a lot of attention is spent on the way of working, and the method of creation itself is an essential focus, next to the actual result. In the completion of a work a variety of professional skills are needed. A blend of skills comes into play: there are sound design and electronic skills along with knowing repertoire and music history, knowledge of styles globally (traditional, classical, jazz, world music and pop), and finally instrumental and musical theoretical knowledge are needed. Sometimes such processes build upon one another sequentially, as is the case in the music of the Alkali Earth Metal Elements: gradually a way of working was discovered which was then developed along with the compositions created.
In the case of the Alkali Earth Metals music series, this is all based on a Willem Pijper-inspired germ-cell technique.
In the recording, four sections are presented, along with a complete track containing Radium uninterrupted. This last is for reasons of streaming media reacting to tracks: some insert pauses which should not be there, others change volumes of individual tracks, deviating from the overall balance decided by the composers/producers. Whatever streaming service you listen to, the complete track should provide a reliable reference for the composer’s intentions.
The four sections can be viewed, and even treated, as parts, yet are not called that way. The overall form is that of an archipelago of musics, consisting of the same and similar elements yet in endless variations of balance, pitch, register and gesture. In between these islands of music is silence, not a cold digital silence, because there is a residue of noisy digital circuitry ongoing mostly beyond the horizon of perception, but a musical silence, part of the music itself and precisely timed. These General Pauses are an integral part of the Archipelago-Form of Radium.
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