for solo trumpet, piano, and percussion
Duration: 10' (three movements)
Cassini was commissioned by Dr. Stanley Curtis for his recording project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing. The album was released on the Tonsehen Record Label in 2022 All the pieces on this CD are inspired by space, its exploration, and our human understanding of it.
While searching for material to use in this project, I came across multiple recordings from NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) database as well as information on the 20 year “Cassini Mission,” explained below from the NASA website:
Cassini revealed in great detail the true wonders of Saturn, a giant world ruled by raging storms and delicate harmonies of gravity. Cassini carried a passenger to the Saturn system, the European Huygens probe—the first human-made object to land on a world in the distant outer solar system. After 20 years in space — 13 of those years exploring Saturn — Cassini exhausted its fuel supply. And so, to protect moons of Saturn that could have conditions suitable for life, Cassini was sent on a daring final mission that would seal its fate. After a series of nearly two dozen nail-biting dives between the planet and its icy rings, Cassini plunged into Saturn’s atmosphere on Sept. 15, 2017, returning science data to the very end.
Cassini is written in three movements, each representing a stage of the spacecraft’s final elliptical orbit of Saturn.
Movement I: Final pass
The first movement begins in the icy, cold void of space. As Cassini floats along, capturing its final views of the gas giant, there are moments of peace, nobility, and beauty. Yet the mood is overall somber and uneasy, for the journey will ultimately end in death.
Movement II: Into the black...
As Cassini moves to the outer reaches of the elliptical orbit (the apoapse), the vast loneliness of space is represented with musical colors, extended techniques and the blurring of time. The steady pulse of the vibraphone represents the faint view of the sun, inspired by NASA’s recording of “sun sonification.” The consistent, pulsating drone fades away, representing the increasing isolation from the sun. As Cassini takes a turn back towards Saturn, it begins to gain speed...
Movement III: Plunge
The opening of the final movement of Cassini represents the sound of radio emissions from Saturn, collected by NASA on the Cassini mission. The steady pulse and quickly ascending and descending “lines” can be heard in the trumpet, with low “thumps” in the piano, while quick, sweeping glissandi sound from the glockenspiel. After experiencing the excitement, intensity, and eeriness of the planet, its rings, and the surrounding moons, the journey ends with the crushing pressure of Saturn’s atmosphere as Cassini plunges towards the surface.
Performance of Mvt. III- Mikkel Amsinck
from the Royal Danish Academy
Info on the Commissioning Party
Stanley Curtis has developed a multi-faceted career as a trumpeter, composer and early music specialist. After studying at the University of Alabama, the Cleveland Institute of Music and in the Netherlands on a Fulbright Scholarship, he received his Doctorate of Music from Indiana University in 2005. He was assistant principal trumpet in the Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia (in Spain) and principal trumpet with the Evansville Philharmonic. He has taught at George Mason University and served as Historic Trumpet Division chair of the National Trumpet Competition. Having recently retired from a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy Band, Colorado State University appointed him as trumpet instructor starting in the fall of 2018. Curtis is a long-time blogger on the Trumpet Journey website (www.trumpetjourney.com).