Wilson, Mark E
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Beyond is a three-movement orchestral work approximately 20 minutes in length. The inspiration for the piece comes from letters or correspondence I have chosen about space exploration. There are two unifying musical materials: one is a general upward contour, presented frequently as a rising stepwise passage; the other is a melody presented only in full at the climax of movement two. Movement one is titled “Unlimited.” The inspiration for this movement comes from a letter written by German scientist Ernst Stuhlinger. In this letter, Stuhlinger wrote about the famous “Earthrise” image, “It opened our eyes to the fact that our Earth is a beautiful and most precious island in an unlimited void . . . bordered by the bleak nothingness of space.” Musically, “Unlimited” contains two reflections on this sentiment: an atmosphere of optimism, reflective of the excitement of exploring the “unlimited void;” and an element of uneasiness or tension, representing the “bleak nothingness” that surrounds our planet and the danger of space travel. Movement two, titled “The Deepest of the Deep,” is inspired by a letter from speechwriter Bill Safire to President Nixon’s Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman. The letter contained a speech that President Nixon was to give to the nation in the event that the Apollo 11 mission ended in disaster. Although it was fortunately never necessary for President Nixon to deliver this address, I find it interesting to consider the alternative scenario. “The Deepest of the Deep” contains musical material from the first and third movements, but with a darker mood. Movement three, titled “Denis Cox’s Rocket Ship,” is inspired by a 1957 postcard sent from Australian schoolboy Denis Cox to “a top scientist” in the Royal Australian Air Force. Included on the postcard is a drawing of what little Denis envisions for the next RAAF rocket ship, including amusing annotations such as “4 Rolls Royce jet engines” and “Australian Markings.” The postcard is quite humorous considering the young sender and the high-ranking recipient. Accordingly, “Denis Cox’s Rocket Ship” is fast-paced, playful, and whimsical in character.