Physicist Brings Science, Art to Life with Multimedia Performance

Brian Greene combines a fictional story with science and music to create “Icarus at the Edge of Time.”


"Icarus at the Edge of Time" performed at the City Bank Auditorium.

The Greek myth about Icarus, a young man imprisoned in a tower with his father, ends when he ignores his father's warning and flies too close to the sun, melting his wax wings and plummeting into the ocean to his death.

That ending never sat well with Brian Greene.

“If you want to do anything original, if you want to do anything ultimately great, you've got to go against what happened before,” the internationally renowned physicist told an audience of thousands of teenagers Wednesday (Feb. 4) at Texas Tech University.

Greene reworked the ancient myth, producing “Icarus at the Edge of Time,” a multimedia performance that tells the story of a young man who lives on a spaceship. One day, determined to do something bigger than the confines of the ship, he flies a small craft to the edge of a black hole. He makes history – then finds himself a part of history when he discovers the gravity surrounding the black hole caused time to slow down. What seems like an hour to him was 10,000 years.


On Wednesday, about 3,500 area middle and high school students came to the City Bank Auditorium for two performances, which included a full orchestra directed by music professor Keith Dye performing a score from Oscar-nominated composer Philip Glass. Greene narrated as a film followed the story of young Icarus.

It leaves a much different message than the original phymyth, acknowledging that discovering something new about the universe can give an explorer new and uncomfortable perspectives, even causing grief over the loss of what was, while reminding viewers that pushing the boundaries of what is known is necessary to discovery.

Texas Tech President M. Duane Nellis and Provost Lawrence Schovanec welcomed the students to the first performance of the unique collaboration, which the College of Education, College of Visual and Performing Arts and Whitacre College of Engineering co-sponsored.

“My wish for today is that, like the modern-day Icarus of Dr. Greene's story, you will be inspired to take daring journeys in your life,” Schovanec said.

Greene, a physics professor at Columbia University, wrote “Icarus” with a multimedia performance in mind. His book publisher suggested turning the narration into a book. The idea, he said, is to make science understandable and interesting. Many people write it off as too hard, but with “Icarus” it is combined with music and art and suddenly becomes more approachable.


“The most exciting thing is when you see the music affect the story, the story affect the film, the film affect the music,” Greene said.

He is working on a sequel to “Icarus,” which will premier in New York City in December. He'll answer the big question the viewer is left with at the end of the first book – what happens to Icarus? – but declined to give away the ending. The two stories will then be performed as two acts in the same play.

He thinks of these stories not as science fiction, but as science in fiction.

“This is how the world actually works,” Greene said.

For more information on “Icarus,” watch the trailer, read a review or go to Brian Greene's website.

About Brian Greene

Brian Greene is a world-famous theoretical physicist who teaches at Columbia University. He is the co-founder of the World Science Festival in New York City and has written numerous nationally best-selling books, including “The Fabric of the Cosmos” and “The Elegant Universe.” He has been interviewed on “The Colbert Report” and the “Late Show With David Letterman” and discussed his book “The Hidden Reality” during a cameo on “The Big Bang Theory.” He earned his undergraduate degree from Harvard and his doctorate from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

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J.T. & Margaret Talkington
College of Visual & Performing Arts


The J.T. & Margaret Talkington College of Visual & Performing Arts at Texas Tech offers a diverse array of programs and courses in art, music, theatre and dance.

The college seeks to prepare students who will be leaders in the profession by employing the highest standards in performance, teaching, research, and artistic and creative vision.

The college includes the:


Whitacre College of Engineering

The Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering has educated engineers to meet the technological needs of Texas, the nation and the world since 1925.

Approximately 4,300 undergraduate and 725 graduate students pursue bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees offered through eight academic departments: civil and environmental, chemical, computer science, electrical and computer, engineering technology, industrial, mechanical and petroleum.


College of Education

The College of Education at Texas Tech University offers a full range of programs, including 9 doctoral degrees, 10 master's degrees, two bachelor's degrees and numerous specializations which can lead to careers in public or private education as teachers, professors, administrators, counselors and diagnosticians.

Programs in the college are housed in three departments.

The Department of Curriculum & Instruction offers advanced degrees that prepare leaders, researchers, and professors with the knowledge, skills, and practical application experience needed to analyze, construct, and evaluate curricula in ways that create optimal learning conditions for all learners. Language and literacy, bilingual education and STEM education are just a few of the specializations offered by C&I.

The Department of Educational Psychology & Leadership consists of a diverse group of academic programs that equip students with a comprehensive knowledge of learning, motivation, development, and educational foundations. The disciplines of counseling and school psychology are housed within the EP&L department as are programs to prepare future college administrators, primary and secondary school and district leaders, as well as practical and academic educational psychologists.

The Department of Teacher Education focuses solely on teacher preparation, ensuring that teacher candidates are ready for the classroom on day one. The Teacher Education Department is home to TechTeach, an innovative teacher preparation program that puts teacher candidates into public school classrooms for a full year and requires that students pass teacher certification tests prior to entering the classroom. Various paths to teaching careers, including fast-track distance programs statewide and alternative certification options, are also housed in this department.