From the music department to you: the “Dark Adaptation”

By Rodrigo Campos-Sánchez
April 28, 2021

Headshot photo of Dr.Stephen J. Grieco                Photo from Grieco’s personal website

The “Dark Adaptation” is a contemporary piece of music influenced by astronomy and space—composed by Dr.Stephen J. Grieco, assistant professor of visual and performing arts.

Grieco was on the amateur side of astronomy before working on the “Dark Adaptation.” Yet, he has had his hands in astronomy since childhood. “I’ve read a lot of articles. Yet there were a lot of things I still needed to dig deeper in,” Grieco said.

The “Dark Adaptation” was named the Dark Adaptation because when light is turned off, eyes adapt to darkness. The color scheme is black and red because when outside and studying astronomy, red light tends not to affect the dark vision as much as other colors.

Grieco was inspired by “The Planets,” composed by Gustav Holst,  a piece of music that was written between 1914 and 1916. “It has been an influential piece to a lot of composers, including John Williams, Hans Zimmer and many more,” Grieco said. “The difference between Holst’s piece and mine is that his is only about  planets and mine isn’t. I wanted to do something similar, yet different.”

Cover photo of the “Dark Adaptation”                Photo from Grieco’s personal website

Grieco felt that he had to do something more contemporary. “I did not just involve the planets. There are so many new things happening in space, such as space exploration and many other things other than just planets. That is why this piece is unique. There is no other piece like it,” Grieco said. 

Grieco said he used many elements in his piece. “I used event horizon which focuses on dark holes, nebula which is called the mystic mountain, pulsars which focus on a single star and neutrinos which are hard to find and not a lot is known about them,” Grieco said.

“I worked with Dr.Richard J. Thompson, the dean of natural sciences and allied health,” Grieco said. Thompson made sure Grieco stayed close to the scientific side of his piece. Grieco also worked to collaborate on music and art. He made sure to catch the elements he wanted to then use in his artwork for his piece. 

“I think that it was essential to collaborate with music and art. I say this because many art programs are being cut and diminished, especially now through the COVID-19 pandemic. I just thought it’s important to show this collaboration and creativity in a form that people can enjoy,” Grieco said. 

“I think that Dr.Grieco’s music composition for strings was beautiful. I especially enjoyed the movement called ‘Occultation.’ Thompson’s explanation of what an occultation is in astronomy was great. I hope that more students will take advantage of the common hour programs,” Anne Schwelm, director of the holy spirit library, said. 

Each string in the “Dark Adaptation” encapsulated a specific object. “They were all hand-picked with the reason of what I wanted to focus on, such as some things in the northern sphere and some in the southern hemisphere. I wanted to create a more composing element for everyone to enjoy and not just the people who live in Northern America,” Grieco said.

“I enjoyed the online zoom concert. It was different, both in format and music. The event enabled me to connect with music in a way I had not previously encountered, namely its relationship to planetary movements and celestial occurrences. I appreciated that the presentation focused on the amalgamation of the sciences and the arts, something that is not typically encountered,” David DelPo, senior accounting major, said. “I look forward to future events and believe this concert was great for Cabrini and advancing its growing music program.”

“I am not an expert in music composition. I attended the concert because I appreciate the work of Dr. Grieco so much. He is a deeply committed, fastidious faculty member and I respect his work so much. I wanted to show my support for his latest composition project. As it turned out, it was brilliant, creative and visually stunning,” Dr.Crystal L. Anderson, assistant professor of education, said.

Due to connection problems during the online Zoom concert, Grieco generously gave links for the “Dark Adaptation” to be heard from Amazon, Apple Music, Spotify or YouTube.

Grieco can also be reached at his personal website.


Rodrigo Campos-Sánchez

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