To Go to the Moon (2019)
*Commissioned by Winter Park High School in honor of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing
Text by the composer:
Earth: This vast expanse which holds all humankind.
Earth: In silence as we gather, unified
With upward gaze and bated breath, we wait
To launch our ingenuity and faith.
From this, our home, celestial dreams were born,
Our spirits meant to shine as we explore.
Look past ourselves; look past the Earth to more:
We chose to go to the Moon!
A shuttle of immense power,
Engines screaming, ignited fire,
Rumbling, shaking, rocket quaking -
A rattling, kicking, furious machine
Ripping into the sky!
Shuddering, quaking. pounding, shaking,
Ripping into the sky!
Past atmosphere is darkened space,
A cosmic path to navigate;
A vast expanse of vanished pressure,
This flight of lightness, floating venture.
The module glides, our hope its wings;
A journey away from our pale blue dot
As blue as all who hold their breath.
Ascending orbit, with only thirty seconds of
Fuel left, running out of time,
We land on the moon; a solitude
Which redefines all humankind!
Magnificent sight! Magnificent desolation!
For one small step, we chose to go;
One giant leap for mankind.
We chose to go to the Moon.
The title of this piece is inspired by JFK's "We choose to go to the Moon" speech, and the text is crafted from interviews with the Apollo astronauts, words from other astronauts about what takeoff is like, and the actual story of the moon landing itself. It's an incredible story of faith and hard work - they truly had only 30 seconds of fuel left before landing, and almost had to abort the mission! - and its inspiring nature helps remind us to stay hopeful as we confront all of our "final frontiers," whether they are terraforming Mars or using human ingenuity to fix our deep-seated problems here on Earth.
As a lifelong fan of Star Trek, I couldn't resist making a nod to the opening moments of the Star Trek: The Next Generation theme song. I've tweaked the original synth melody slightly, making it my own and giving it first to the violas and then letting it weave through the rest of the piece. The energy and story arc of the entire work depicts the fateful day of the landing itself, from hushed expectation as the entire world waits with "bated breath" for the shuttle to launch, to the serenity but "magnificent desolation" of the solitude of the astronauts, so far from the rest of humankind. While the space race and the political tensions surrounding it were extremely complex, I believe the message of the achievement itself is one we can hold with us today as we tackle our modern problems. Lets keep our heads up.
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." - John F. Kennedy