Instrumentation: wind ensemble
Year of Completion: 2011
Comets are time capsules that hold clues about the formation and evolution of the solar system. So begins the NASA overview of the Deep Impact mission to send a probe to explore the interior of a comet - the first mission of its kind and the inspiration behind this work. Launched in January 2005, the probe encountered its target six months later and successfully detonated its payload to document the comet's composition. The mission again made headlines in November 2010 when the probe flew by comet Hartley 2 and transmitted images of the oddly-shaped comet back to Earth, the closest encounter of its kind in NASA's history.
Opening with ethereal, hushed tones that give the impression of the vast emptiness of space, the work is a musical depiction of the close approach of comet Hartley 2 as it passes by the small spacecraft. The melody first heard in the woodwinds after this section is the main melodic idea in the piece and is repeated throughout by different sections of the ensemble. After the opening texture and melodic idea, the third important musical motive is a series of pulsing notes that ebb and flow throughout the work. The climax of the work represents the flyby of the comet and is the loudest and most dramatic of all sections in the work. As the comet fades into the distance, the melodic material is recalled again in the piccolo, and the spacecraft is once again alone in the blackness of space.