N.A.S.A. experienced a brief period of deep consternation in December 2004 when scientists discovered a half-mile-wide asteroid on what was then thought to be a collision course with Earth. They named the asteroid “Apophis” after the mythological enemy of the Egyptian sun-god Ra. While N.A.S.A. has since reneged on their prediction that Apophis would collide with our planet within the next 30 years, the possibility of total annihilation still looms over our heads in some way.
I do not often use doom and gloom as inspiration for my music, but when I heard Stephen Hawking recount this harrowing tale on an episode of his Discovery channel miniseries “Into the Universe,” I could not help but conjure a musical reaction in my mind’s ear. The resulting piece is this eight-minute tour-de-force for orchestra in a moto perpetuo style, as the asteroid comes barreling toward its celestial target with immeasurable force.
In an act of artistic denial of this hopeless scenario, I dared to search for hidden joy. I believe I have found some. Perhaps there is a silver lining to knowing that everyone on the planet will suffer the same fate at the same time, together as one human race. If we all received the grim news that there will be no tomorrow for anyone, would there be any time for slander, for injustice, for war?
I would never wish such a dreadful nightmare to come true, and I am happy that N.A.S.A. withdrew their eschatological prediction. However, in a moment of dark imagination, I chose to musically illustrate a global killer hurdling toward Earth, while humanity sings rising melodies in defiance of the force of nature that will never break its spirit. Perhaps we do not need this story to be true to learn from it.
American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.
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