Don Garbutt | Cosmology

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by Don Garbutt

A harmonically dense, rich and bizarre fusion of science and sound, elucidating concepts of theoretical physics by singing cyborgs: A new genre: Cosmology Rock, or Hard Sci-Hi-Fi.
Genre: Electronic: Experimental
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Black Hole Computer
5:10 $0.99
2. Braneworlds
4:24 $0.99
3. Holographic Graviton
3:54 $0.99
4. Evolution
5:21 $0.99
5. The Cosmological Constant
5:32 $0.99
6. Vapours
2:12 $0.99
7. The Expanding Universe
14:47 $0.99
8. M-Theory
3:01 $0.99
9. Quark Confinement
4:46 $0.99
10. The Theory of Everything
4:27 $0.99
11. Superconductance
1:51 $0.99
12. Circuit Critters
5:49 $0.99
13. March of the Gnomes
3:36 $0.99
14. Symmetry
4:41 $0.99
15. Cosmic Unity
5:55 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
1. Black Hole Computer (2006)
Based on an article by Seth Lloyd and Jack Ng, Scientific American, Nov., 2004
2. Braneworlds (2006)
Based on a book by Lisa Randall, called Warped Passages.
3. Holographic Graviton (2006)
Based on an article by Juan Maldacena, Scientific American, Nov., 2005
4. Evolution (2005)
With a lurking “Martin Denny” feel, this song is a brief description of the Inflationary component of the Big Bang theory. Guest speaker is theoretical astrophysicist Lev Kofman, providing the spoken words with more confidence than I can muster.
5. The Cosmological Constant (2004)
This is an ode to Einstein, with the expanding universe sonically portrayed by the diverging bass and guitar lines. This rocker also reflects the wannabee guitar player in us keyboardists, with the guitar solos simulated on the Logic EXS-24 sampler. This song is dedicated to the great Allan Holsdworth, and has a twist of Bernstein in the chord shots that set up the bridges and choruses.
6. Vapours (1993) in 3-D Sound
This piece was a study of the newly minted Korg Trinity. As I roamed through its internal patches, I would record a little improv with each sound that I liked. Each musical recording was subsequently processed with HRTF modeling software made by Crystal River Engineering. This software mimics the way two ears can determine 3 dimensions in sound. We do this by automatic mental analysis of Inter-aural Time Differences, Inter-aural Intensity Differences, and subtle changes brought on by pinnae and torso reflections. This software was initially developed for military applications, to image sounds for cockpit headphones, and runs on an old Mac 8100 mother-ship that I keep alive, supplemented by Digidesign 882 state-of-the-art circa 1992 I/O.
Headphones are recommended to eliminate cross-talk brought on by room reflections.
7. The Expanding Universe (1990, 2003)
This is an edit of an old piece with a less-old middle section interwoven together. Most of the sounds of the ambient section were generated by the Technos Acxel in a chaotic self-generating mode. This Canadian-made electronic instrument from 1986 was a full-blown mini-computer running 640 mips. I worked as a product specialist for its maker, the PiTechnos Corporation, from Quebec City. The Acxel had 256 designer digital oscillators, and could replicate a sound through AI-aided resynthesis. This machine could be coaxed into spewing random blobs of sound on a good day, by driving its time variables at silly high values. The only explanation that I ever got from the designer when asked about this fractal creation weirdness was, “It is not recommended that you run your envelopes at that speed.” Bernard Parmegiani saw it and said, “Aleatory!”
The machine’s resynthesis ability is showcased in the real-time time-stretched bird-calls near the end of the work. The middle section of the work is entitled “The Strong Force”. The Strong Force is represented by the taut “swing” groove in the rhythmic precision. For techno-dweebs, this piece used the “Groove Control” sampler approach, where loops of electronic music are sliced up into 16th-notes, and rearticulated by playing a chromatic scale on the keyboard, triggering each successive 16th-note slice. This allows the player to play slower or faster, with swing options as well. Near the end I performed a musical trick of having the tempo grind to a halt, a not-so-routine manouever.
A full-length version of The Expanding Universe, weighing in at 30 minutes, is also available. This is a combination of Technos Acxel chaotic self-generated sound clouds and processed environment sounds, recorded on many technologies including 24-track analog, mixed to DAT and edited on Sound Designer II.
8. M-Theory (1993)
This piece was composed with Cycling ‘74’s software called M. It allows a jam feeling to the musical creation, pumping randomness and powerful Imtelligence Amplification into the realtime MIDI creation. This is also in 3-D sound, where most instruments have been imaged individually into 3-D using the Crystal River Engineering software.Note the marimba-esque sound and the special movement of the piano parts. The vocalizations were processed with GRM Tools resonance, tricky stuff in the tuning department. The 5/4 time signature is supposed to imply that M-Theory is a composite of 5 different theories that are lumped together, these being different but working versions of String Theory. M is not clearly defined, but could mean “mystery” or “manifold” or “membrane” or “mickey mouse”. Nobody seems to know.
9. Quark Confinement (2003)
The saxophone sound is performed with the Yamaha VL-70 physical modeling MIDI synth module, assisted by a breath controller for interaction with the synthesis process. This instrument excels in sax and woodwind modeling, and can be used in card form on the Motif line of instruments. The 2 and 3 note phrases are intended to represent 2 and 3 quark combinations, with the stretching of the chord direction away from the bass notes at the end of each verse section representing the increasing strength of the strong force as objects move away from each other. This inability to escape is mirrored in the big ARP-2600 hook following the key ALREADY established by the bass for the previous four bars. You think that you are going somewhere, but you are already there. This is a prog rock number, with a transitional bar of 7/16 that seemed to insist on itself setting up the middle section, and is dedicated to John MacGlaughlin.
10. The Theory of Everything (2002)
This is an instrumental version of a track on the following album, which features Leif Baker on voice. This was the first version of the piece.
11. Superconductance (2001)
This piece shows that 7/8 and 4/4 can coexist happily! The bass and guitars try to stay in 7/8 as long as possible, while the drums relentlessly hold down the 4/4 at all costs. The individual guitar notes were derived from the “split-demix by note number” function of Logic, using the 7 notes of the bass line as the source.
12. Circuit Critters (1992) in 3-D Sound
Many sounds in this groove are imaged in 3-D. Starting with a humorous reference to Buddy Rich, it has been said that he fired his bass player right in the middle of a show, because Buddy’s bass drum was not properly nailed down, which was the job of the bass player. This reinforces the concept that drums should not move, but in this piece I decided to have my drummer constantly circle the listener, with various patterns of counterclockwise movement, to exercise the freedom that is now available courtesy of 3-D Sound. Drummers should not have to be nailed to the floor. The pattern takes eight quarter-note positions, completing a circle in 2 bars. The high-hat “kissssss-ackkk” at the end of every two bars has an upward sweep of vertical imaging, The “seagull sax” is Doppler-shifted, an option within the HRTF modeling software. This excellent sax work is performed by Richard Underhill, with additional piano by Jono Grant. 3-D sound allows individual instruments to be heard with distinction in dense sonic circumstances.
13. March of the Gnomes (2003)
This is a return to the fun that I had with Celtic music, mostly back in late seventies and early eighties. I played the “modified” tin whistle and mandolin live, with the rest composed in Logic. Spiffy time modification allowed me to play at a stately 80bpm, for better accuracy, and speed the audio up to 120, the target tempo. The Uillean pipe sound is the Yamaha VL-70, with multi-band, LFO square-wave modulated filtering used to create the tremolo effect. All guitars are played on the keyboard with the Logic sampler. This piece was part of an student exchange program with Ireland, although I used the Scottish dominant seventh in my scale, accomplished by sticking a piece of tape over the top hole on the tin whistle, an old bagpipe trick for fine-tuning individual notes on the chanter. There is a sonic reference to Jethro Tull, implied by the Hammond break towards the end of the tune. This is dedicated to my friends The Barra MacNeills.
14. Symmetry (1999)
A gentle mood in 5/4 time, this instrumental features the VL-70 for the English horn, and the Logic sampler for most of the rest of the instruments, including bass and guitar. The talking synth in the chorus is a ES2 recreation of a PPG patch that allowed a different waveform to be assigned to each key of the keyboard, radical stuff in 1980. This sound first hit my ears by way of a Tangerine Dream riff, which featured keyboard-wave assignment, and triggered off my international search for that sound, the beginning of my 4-year stay in Europe in the early eighties.
15. Cosmic Unity (1980) bonus vintage track
This piece was made on the first night of use of a bunch of new gear that I had just added to my studio:
ARP Quadra mother-ship synth, capable of controlling external VC gear while generating 4 separate sounds!
Korg KR-55 Drum Module, which I immediately ring-modulated with the sequencer-synced ARP 2600, of which I had three. Oberheim white module and a Tascam 80-8 analog tape recorder with Model 5 mixer.

Some notes about the science:

1. Black Hole Computer
This music is based on the science of Seth Lloyd, a quantum computing guru from MIY, who has developed a couple of theories about how a black hole could be used as a computing device. This most recent approach is derived from the basic principles of electron orbit exchange codifying computation, allowing all evolving physical systems to be thought of as computing environments (the universe computes).
Now consider black holes, physical systems with unusual properties. Quantum uncertainty allows “entangled virtual particle pairs” to form (and subsequently annihilate) in a vacuum, and when these particles are formed near the event horizon of a black hole, one of the particles is trapped by the gravity of the black hole, while its quantum-correlated partner escapes (Hawking Radiation). The entanglement aspect of these particles will be exploited by a process called quantum teleportation, proven by recent experiments transferring the polarization of photons (and most recently atoms of hydrogen!) by this “spooky action at a distance”, as Einstein called it.
By throwing matter into a black hole, designer matter can interact with the individual virtual particles which have fallen in as described above. This interaction (computing) conveys information to the escaping particles by the quantum teleportation feature.
This completes the computing system, and better details and a full explanation can be found in Scientific American, Nov. 2004.
2. Braneworlds
This piece is based on developments in higher dimensional string theory, specifically RS1 and RS2 models of Lisa Randall and Raman Sundrum, from Harvard. These are braneworld models: branes are multi-dimensional objects existing in a higher dimensional space, and possible brane interactions are called braneworlds. These branes come in various varieties, and are called m-branes, the letter “m” (why they didn’t use n escapes me!) denoting the number of dimensions. We live in a 3-brane. Particles and forces are locked in, or “sequestered” on branes. The open-type strings of string theory that represent matter and forces are terminated on branes called D-branes, the “D” part of the name referring to deRichlet, the discover of this type of branes. Only gravity and the elusive Kaluza-Klein particles are allowed to leave a brane, traveling in a higher (the fifth) dimension.
String theory operates in higher dimensions, and the missing (six) dimensions have typically been thought of as being quite small, finite and wrapped around themselves in forms known as Calabi-Yau spaces. With RS1 and RS2 theories, the missing extra dimensions may actually be much larger, and possibly infinite and warped, with physical consequences that can be observed at the upcoming LHC in CERN, Switzerland, due to come on line in 2007. Different theories of superstrings and quantum gravity are connected through branes.
Listen for warped guitars, elusive KK particles, and gravity’s sonic freedom.
For further information and a mind-boggling ride, read Warped Passages by Lisa Randall.
3. Holographic Graviton
This piece is an interpretation of a string theory concept by Juan Maldacena, from Princeton. It revolves around the idea that in a holographic sense, our 3-dimensional world is a “projection” of a gravity-less two-dimensional realm, provided that the 2-dimensional world has certain geometric characteristics, referred to as an anti-deSitter space, or a closed, negatively-curved flatland.
This holographic correspondence connects quantum chromodynamics (quarks and gluons) with string theory, with the graviton emerging from a particular type of gluon chain that can exist in this theory.
This piece was distilled from an article in Scientific American, November, 2005.
4. The Cosmological Constant
Once considered the biggest blunder of his life by Albert Einstein, the cosmological constant was a number (lambda), which Einstein invented to fudge his equations in order to properly reproduce characteristics of an expanding universe, because everybody at the time knew that the universe was static and unchanging! After Hubble and the Big Bang, the cosmological constant was deemed unnecessary and tossed in the dust bin, but recently it has resurfaced (this rocks wildly!) as a possibly explanation for the increase in the universe’s expansion rate. Something is driving the universe to accelerate, and currently this is called the “dark energy”, not to be confused with dark matter, which is another issue. There are two prime candidates for dark energy, those being the Cosmological Constant, and quintessence! The term "dark energy" comes from Michael Turner.
This piece is a bit of mystery science that can be blamed on me only, but it pays tribute to some luminaries that paved the way for our current state of cosmology, including M.C. Escher, the artist who visually captured Reimann curvature (Circle Limit pieces), Lobachevsky, Einstein and guitarist Allan Holdsworth, who inspired the electronic guitar performance. The trajectories of the bass and guitar parts in the verse are moving away from each other, hinting at an expanding cosmos.
5. Evolution
Evolution refers to the evolution of the universe, with special focus on inflation as a current modification of Big Bang theory. The voice in this work is that of theoretical astrophysicist Lev Kofman, formerly from Russia and now with the University of Toronto. He is a cosmologist specializing in the inflationary era, a very short period of existence in the history of the early universe, where it expanded at a ridiculously rapid rate and then slowed down to the normal expansion rate seen today. These ideas are developed by treating the universe as the only experiment of its type available for study. Current cosmological models are supported by WMAP and COBE satellite data reflecting cosmological anisotropy or non-homogeniety (tiny differences in microwave background radiation left over from the Big Bang in different parts of the sky).
This work was based on a one-hour interview that I did with Prof. Kofman, for CIUT-FM in Toronto. I extracted some poignant bits from this interview and injected them into the music, and now he is in discussions with several major labels about his rapping career!

Don Garbutt is an award-winning music composer, producer and sound designer. He has worked in many capacities as musician and collaborator, from traditional Celtic music to theme park sound design, music for television and film, and diverse gigs such as piano tutor for Dennis Quaid (Great Balls of Fire), studio design for Henry Butler (New Orlens Piano Professor) and MIDI guru for Procol Harum. He has been a consultant for Oscar Peterson, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Barenaked Ladies, Tragically Hip, IRCAM, PiTechnos Corporation, QED Media and is a founding member and Head of Electronic Music at the Harris Institute for the Arts, Toronto. Check out the site at

All music composed, arranged, performed and produced by Don Garbutt.
Special guest on Circuit Critters: Richard Underhill, sax, Jono Grant, keys, Lev Kofman, astrophysicist and gentleman. Special thanks to Leif Baker for inspiration and scientific advice.



to write a review


Space Music meets Science meets Folk meets Hit single meets ...
Not a professional review, just some impressions:
Wow, right after listening to Don's music on the TDFZ radio show for the first time a few days ago I had to get the whole album. What really caught me was the hit single 'Evolution'. But there is much more: 'The Expanding Universe' - real space music which evolves into a fine tune with some ecclesiastical theme, then reminding a little bit of Yes.
March of the Gnomes': Pure Electronic Folk - is there such a genre?
The other tracks: Some vocoder style tracks, some fine Schmoellian piano works and of course rock guitar sound here and there. Methinks there were some funky tunes, too, a little bit of Herbie Hancock and De-Phazz style but yet original.
Don: please more! Will there be an Extended Version of Evolution????

Fred Stockhausen

Mind-boggling fusion of science and electronic music!
This is a mind-blowing 75 minutes of musing about physics concepts, with each track having its own unique identity and science theme. Topics include string theory, inflationary cosmology, hidden dimensions and other current theoretical astrophysical ideas. The science is sound, and the sound is scientific! The sonic pallette has vivid contrasting tones, with great depth and imaging. Some tracks are created using a type of virtual 3-D sound, requiring headphones to enjoy fully. These sounds are dizzying and delightful in their movement through space. Several tracks feature vocals which are created with a new technological approach that allows words to be played on a keyboard, distinctly different from existing vocoder or sampler technology. This adds a clarity and flexibility to the treatment of the human voice,
Mr. Garbutt has rolled together diverse inspirations such as Luigi Nono, Martin Denny, Stephen Hawking, Allan Holdsworth and Gentle Giant into something new, while creating a wholly unique genre: Science Music!
Highly recommended.