‘I want to go beyond quantum music’

Concert pianist and composer Andrija Pavlovic has worked in the Applied Physics building since the beginning of February. The Kavli artist composes quantum music.

Quantum nanoscience researcher Eliska Greplova hosts Kavli Artist-in-Residence and quantum composer Andrija Pavlovic. (Photo: Jos Wassink)

The highlight of his career and that of his piano partner Sonja Lončar, was probably their performance at Carnegie Hall, New York in 2014. A performance that was described as a mix of ‘classical elegance, jazzy freedom and the power of rock ‘n roll’. Shortly before that the Dranoff Miami Two Pianos competition had chosen the Serbian LP Duo as one of the best eight piano duos in the world. After 10 years of collaboration, they had reached the top of Olympus. And yet, something gnawed. “We had played everywhere and covered the entire classical repertoire. But the challenge was getting lost,” Pavlovic says eight years later in TU Delft.

They always looked beyond the classical repertoire. They also played John Cage and Karlheinz Stockhausen – a famous pioneer in electronic music. Their sound engineer Dragan Novkovic brought LP DUO into contact with his school friend Vlatko Vedral, now Professor of Quantum Physics at Oxford University. Concepts such as discrete energy states, quantum uncertainty and entanglement blew Pavlovic’s mind. “Quantum physics inspires me because I discover a deep philosophical meaning in it.”

I can hardly sleep for the excitement

Since then, in addition to their teaching jobs in Belgrade, Serbia, he and Sonja Lončar have worked on translating quantum concepts into sounds. This started with Bose-Einstein condensation in which a number of atoms enter a common ground state of energy. They processed measurement data from an experiment and scaled it to audible frequencies. Soon, a piano proved too limited for their ideas and they developed the Portable Hybrid Piano as an add-on that creates connections between the keyboard and electronic sound.

So this year’s Kavli Artist-in-Residence does not come unprepared. He has been working on the interpretation of quantum physics now for about 10 years. What does Pavlovic hope to add to it at TU Delft? “I want to go beyond quantum music. Here I can work with very talented scientists. I talk to them every day. I hear so many new things. And when I lie in bed at night I can hardly sleep for all the ideas. And then there is a whole quantum branch: bionano science. I see neural networks between cells as inspiration for my compositions. I really enjoy this challenging environment with people who are all super open to new ideas.”

  • Pavlovic arrived on 8 February 2022. The final performance of TU Delft quantum music by LP DUO will take place in X on 21 April 2022.
Science editor Jos Wassink

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