Vision of Discovery
Image: NASA, SwRI
Vision of Discovery is a symphonic overture for large orchestra, inspired by NASA’s Lucy mission and its trail-blazing robotic exploration of the Trojan asteroids. The piece is part of my contribution to the #NASALucySoundscape, a project which invites composers "to express a feeling or tell a story of inspiration and discovery" using a three-note motif that the Lucy Team adopted as a "musical mission patch".
Generated using Finale and Garritan Personal Orchestra 5. If you don't hear the entrance of the basses at 1 minute in, please boost your bass, or use better headphones or speakers.
This recording is shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC 4.0). You may share the recording with others and/or use it in derivative works as long as you explicitly credit me and do not use the recording for commercial purposes. In addition, you may not alter the metadata in the audio file identifying the title, composer, artist, or licensing information. The license pertains only to the audio recording and not to the underlying musical work or public performances. This recording, the underlying musical work, and score are © 2022 Thomas S. Statler. If you are interested in performing this work, please contact me.
Vision of Discovery is structured as an overture-like set of episodes. The very quiet beginning symbolizes the realm of the not-yet-discovered: not empty, but rich and enigmatic. The Lucy Motif hovers in this realm ambiguously, then opens into a broad theme representing the curiosity and intellect that make humans strive to explore and understand. This transitions to a gentler episode symbolizing the many people whose lives intersect on the mission team, having many voices yet expressing a common goal. Following this is a complex, animated section representing the technology and the machinery of exploration, which has to fit together better than clockwork. Then an abrupt pause, countdown, and launch! An enormous lift and an incredible acceleration; then separation; systems come to life; solar panels deploy; and the machine that people built to go where they cannot plunges into the void. Years pass in the loneliness of the long dark cruise. But as the destination comes into sight, humanity, machinery, and vision come together to achieve the culminating moment of affirmation and discovery – which passes in an instant, leaving the realm of the not-yet-discovered again before us, richer than it was, with our understanding enlarged and our vision extended into the unknown.
Timpani and Percussion (6 players)
Composerish Stuff and Other Details
I'd like to be able to improve the audio quality of the Finale+GPO5 rendition. Getting the sampled instruments to sound like real instruments at all dynamic levels has been extremely challenging. Suggestions from experienced Finale and GPO5 users for how to make it better are welcome.
I went for a deliberately cinematic feel with this piece, because I wanted it to connect with people emotionally and this is an idiom that many people will understand, even if they're not drawn to symphonic music for its own sake. I listened to a hefty sampling of movie soundtracks at the outset, to get my head going in the right direction. (Thanks and RIP, Elmer Bernstein!) The piece is through-composed, except for the "rocket launch" episode, which is a guided improvisation. That is, it's a guided improvisation in the score; for the digital rendition I had to write out every note as if it were improvised (since I'm not a good improvisor at the keyboard), which was a bit of a pain in the neck. That's reason #867 why human orchestras are better than digitally simulated ones.
If you like your music more challenging, have a listen to The Prince of Venosa Expands to Fill the Observable Universe before you conclude I'm too conventional. Oddly, both pieces start with ppp whole-tone clusters in the woodwinds. I wrote them more than 30 years apart and they have very little in common after the opening bars. I guess I just think that whole-tone clusters are peaceful and mysterious.