SpaceShipOne for Symphonic Band is a musical tribute to one of the most positive and significant historical events of our times: the first privately funded human spaceflight, completed by SpaceShipOne on June 21 2004, through the genius of Burt Rutan and investment of Paul Allen. Like Charles Lindbergh’s historic flight of the Spirit of St. Louis in 1927, this event marked the launch of a new age: that of commercial space travel. Along with giving courage to anyone who has ever dreamed of going to space, this heroic feat also reaffirmed the immense achievement possible to the private individual. This piece follows, in stylized musical terms, the flight profile of the rocket-powered SpaceShipOne aircraft.
The work opens with a passacaglia on a theme first stated by the tuba, then by each instrument through nine variations, representing SpaceShipOne carried by the “White Knight” aircraft in a long ascending spiral to its separation altitude. SpaceShipOne is then released, and glides free for just an instant, before firing its rocket engines for sudden acceleration, represented by a fast, driving, and dense section. After the scheduled burn time, SpaceShipOne one has enough inertia to coast on up to its suborbital apogee, where it experiences the ethereal calm of freefall and a reflective view of our planet from above, portrayed in a section for bowed vibraphone, woodwind solos, and muted brass. As SpaceShipOne starts to falls back towards the earth, a fugue begins, with a theme passing gradually from the highest piccolo voice down successively through the ranges of the entire ensemble. Intensity builds as SpaceShipOne glides homeward, previous musical material returns, and a triumphant landing is made.
Duration: ca. 11 minutes