Episode 2

The joy of creation — Katherine Balch on New Geometry


“I think it comes down to a profound and overflowing love that makes artists make art, and I want to be in touch with that love as much as possible.”

— Katherine Balch

Drawing influences from sources as diverse as Virginia Woolf, fractal geometry, and the theater, discovery is the catalyst for composer Katherine Balch's creativity, and her music is a deeply personal expression of the wonderment she feels in experiencing the new.

Thomasina Coverly, a precocious 13-year-old character in Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, breezes through her geometry exercises, but she is disappointed by the limitations of traditional geometry to map an equation for an apple leaf, so she invents a new geometric system to map the intricacies of nature. Katherine Balch’s New Geometry is inspired by the awe and drive for discovery that Thomasina feels when she sees the apple leaf, and the music explodes that image onto a rich canvas of sound.

In this episode, Balch shares how her deep love of Arcadia and science become a piece of music, and we also hear from physicist Matthew Deady about the natural phenomena that come to vivid life in New Geometry. Actors Hannah Mitchell and Lee Osorio contribute readings of segments from Arcadia.

Subscribe to Imagination Radio wherever you find your podcasts, or listen to the complete episode above. To hear a complete recording of New Geometry, performed by Contemporaneous, check out our bonus episode.

Episode 2 Guests


Katherine Balch, composer


Matthew Deady, physicist and Professor at Bard College


Hannah Mitchell, actor


Lee Osorio, actor


Music in this episode

  • Katherine Balch: New Geometry (2015, rev. 2017) — Contemporaneous

  • Katherine Balch: from Responding to the Waves (2017): I. Chrysalis — Michiko Theurer, violin

  • Keith Jarrett: from The Köln Concert (1975): Part IIb

  • Brad Mehldau: Anything Goes (2004)

  • György Ligeti: Étude 14: Coloana infinita (1994) — Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano

  • Katherine Balch: Thread Unfurled (2016) — Zach Sheets, flute & Wei-Han Wu, piano

  • Katherine Balch: from Phrases (2017): III. and IV. — Departure Duo

  • Franz Schubert: 36 Originaltänze, D 365, Op. 9, "Erste Walzer": No. 2 in A-flat, "Trauerwalzer" or "Sehnsuchtswalzer" — Paolo Bordoni, piano

  • Thomas Adès: from Asyla (1997): III. Ecstasio — City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Simon Rattle, conductor

  • Katherine Balch: Leaf Catalogue (2015) — Yale Philharmonia & Heejung Park, conductor

  • Katherine Balch: With Each Breathing (2015) — FLUX Quartet

  • Per Nørgård: from Voyage Into the Golden Screen (1968): II. — Copenhagen Philharmonic & Giordano Bellincampi, conductor

  • Katherine Balch: off hesperus (2017) — Christophe Desjardins, viola

  • Johann Sebastian Bach: from Partita for Violin No. 2 (1720): Ciaccona, with Just Intonation — Josh Modney, violin