Far Beyond the Evening Sky
Symphony No.4 for string orchestra (2018)
duration: 22’
GRT • 205

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
I. Sputnik (1957)
II. Voyager (1977)
Pathfinder (1997)
Messenger (2004)

Human exploration is in our DNA. There’s not much left on the seven continents of our planet that is left undiscovered. So we go underwater and we go into space. As scientific capability has advanced, sending out space probes, telescopes and satellites is testimony to our innate desire to learn more about who we are and where we came from. Are we alone in the Universe?

This string Symphony,
Far Beyond the Evening Sky, is a meditation on human exploration of space. Set in four movements, it was commissioned by Melbourne Youth Orchestras for their four junior to senior string orchestras.

In 1957, the un-manned Soviet satellite, Sputnik, was launched into orbit – the first artificial satellite to do so. Within a cold-war environment, the atmosphere was tense. Earlier prototypes were too heavy, so it was made as light as possible with just a simple radio transmitter. It sent back signals for three weeks; and then when its batteries died it orbited for a couple of months before falling back into the atmosphere and disintegrating.

Voyager 1 and 2 were launched in 1977 and are still sending back information through the Deep Space Network. Intended to explore Jupiter and Saturn, both spacecrafts contain a so–called ‘golden record’ with sounds and images to portray life and culture on Earth from different eras. In 1998 Voyager 1 become the most distant human-made object in space. Upon launch, then US President Jimmy Carter famously said: “This is a present from a small, distant world, a token of our sounds, our science, our images, our music, our thoughts and our feelings. We are attempting to survive our time so we may live into yours.”

Pathfinder landed on Mars in 1997 aided by a parachute and airbag landing system. Together with its robotic rover, Sojourner, it returned extensive data on the geology and climate of Mars today as well as clues to its past. Under sustained financial pressure, Pathfinder was the result of NASA’s “faster, better, cheaper” approach to space exploration. The mission lasted around 3 months and was the first rover to operate beyond the Earth–Moon system.

In 2004, Messenger, was launched to study Mercury. By 2008 it had reached our Sun’s innermost planet and in 2011 it became the first spacecraft to entry Mercury’s orbit. The mission yielded data on Mercury’s magnetic field and discovered water ice at the planet’s north pole (which never sees sunlight) before crashing into the surface in 2015.