For Fear the Glass May Shatter is a historically rooted chamber opera centered on Wolfgang Pauli, a key figure in atomic physics from 1920-58 and the anonymous dreamer in Jung’s “Psychology and Alchemy.” In the late 1940s, Pauli and Jung sought a common language for the Unus Mundus, the deep layers from which emerge matter and psyche. While his path has been described as “Mephistopheles to Buddha”, Pauli’s communication’s with Jung near the end of his life show him taking steps towards being a Taoist prophet, and calling for a unification of the lab, the university and the cathedral. In his wake, a small research communitty is seeking the unification of mind and matter through the balance of forces: expansive (chaos) and contractive (coupling), which together produce wave and particle-like phenomena in a fluid-like brain model.
VORTEX presents scenes from David DeMaris’ new work exploring Pauli’s story with music and projections created by mathematical simulations. The collision of music, neurophysics, and an “electron chorus” manifest the narrative through exploration of motivations, scientific criticism, competition, collaboration, and the concern for reputation that is part of the lives of scientists. The narrative is interwoven with the myth of Faust and the theme of transmutation as seen in alchemy, atomic physics, and the shifting adoption of archetypal roles by characters. The libretto and accompanying visuals move fluidly between levels of reality: waking realism, realistic dreams, abstract dreams, literary fantasy and active imagination, to the level of chaotic fields with emerging patterns and particle and wave formation.
Two contrasting musical styles are deployed, corresponding to the intuitive and mathematical styles of Jung and Pauli as well as waking and dreaming. The intuitive music re-imagines early 20th century music with late romantic harmony constrained by the unfolding history of quantum mechanics. The dream-world music is synthesized from coupled map field equations, a formalism serving to model neural populations and more recently used as a model of emergent quantum mechanics.
The production touches themes including: fragile relationships between scientists, the balance of cooperation and competition; importance of music as an inspiration and framework for understanding physics; the impact of war on thought patterns and relationships; abstraction and introversion in the face of political horrors; the struggle of women in science and culture. The circle around Pauli includes the Copenhagen principles Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg, and beloved teacher and ultimately tragic figure Paul Ehrenfest, brilliant experimentalist Lise Meitner, Carl Jung and his successor Marie-Luise von Franz, and Pauli’s wife Franca Bertram-Pauli.