Piccolo 1,2; Flute 1,2; Oboe 1,2; English Horn; Bassoon 1,2; Contrabassoon; B-flat Clarinets 1–3; B-flat Bass Clarinet; Alto Saxophones 1,2; Tenor Saxophone; Baritone Saxophone; Harp; Electric Organ; Trumpets 1–3; 4 Horns in F; Trombones 1,2; Bass Trombone; Euphonium; Tuba; Double Bass; Timpani; Fixed Media (Tracks available from the composer); 4 Percussion.* *Suspended Cymbal, Medium Tam-tam, Large Tam-tam, Almglocken, Crotales, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Crash Cymbals
October 21, 2021, by the Michigan State University Symphony Band in East Lansing, MI. David Thornton, conductor.
A consortium of wind ensembles
If you were like me, you had plans for 2020 that didn’t work out. First, it started with scattered stories about a novel coronavirus, then it arrived in pockets, then there were illusions of two-week interruptions, and then it was an eternal presence. But that’s the nature of a pandemic: it’s unimaginable until it’s a reality.
For me, our new normal of Zoom meetings, constant deliveries, and strategized movements outside the house made my anxiety skyrocket and shut me down creatively. It seems strange since our romantic clichés about artists seemingly revolve around a tortured isolation that leads to creative inspiration. At first, I indulged in this fantasy myself. I thought about how composing could escape the oppressive daily numbers that exactly measured the incommensurable horror that surrounded us. I could write and, by doing so, evade this reality and rescue the joy it had obscured. But, instead, I lived unproductively with my husband and two cats in a tiny house and felt terribly alone.
Ultimately, my rescue and the start of this piece did come, though not from an expected source. One day in late March, I stumbled upon an opinion article by retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly entitled “I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share.” At the time, this type of article was already its own genre, but I read it anyway. For Kelly, his secluded observations of the Earth from space were a perfect analogy for our new collective condition. Like the Earth seen from space, our lives are borderless. Our vulnerabilities and interconnections had been laid bare by a virus, and it denied us our delusions of total autonomy. He articulated what I had been searching for: beauty in isolation—a beautiful potential not from escape but from squarely confronting the present.
The following months saw my creative revival. It also reawakened my childhood fascination with space exploration. It was fortuitous as well. I moved my eyes skyward as scientists from multiple countries were launching expeditions to study Mars. NASA launched Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover, the United Arab Emirates launched their Hope spacecraft explorer, and China launched its orbiter Tianwen-1 or “Questions to Heaven,” named after a classical Chinese poem. I became an avid fan of anything music and space-related from Stanley Kubrick’s use of Richard Strauss’s “Sunrise” theme in the opening montage of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” performed on the International Space Station, to recordings of interstellar space.
You will hear the sounds of the cosmos directly in this piece. It is a work meant to celebrate our collective accomplishments and our great if stressed-out ability to find beauty in our interconnected isolation.
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS/CONDUCTOR’S NOTE
This piece has six audio tracks that are played throughout. For this, you will need two high-frequency response stereo speakers positioned in the back of the ensemble far-left and far-right, and a two-channel playback device with stereo output for the track. Do NOT amplify the ensemble; the balance between the track and ensemble should be equal. Because I consider these tracks an instrument within the ensemble, they are part of the composite texture.