The Last Signal
for solo piano and chamber orchestra (2005) (contr.), perc, pno, strings
duration: 11’
GRT • 113

audio sample

score available from
Australian Music Centre

program note
“After more than 30 years, it appears the venerable Pioneer 10 spacecraft has sent its last signal to Earth. Pioneer's last, very weak signal was received on 23 January 2003. Launched on 2 March 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Famed as the most remote object ever made by man through most of its mission, Pioneer 10 is now over 8 billion miles away.

The power source on Pioneer 10 finally degraded to the point where the signal to Earth dropped below the threshold for detection in its latest contact attempt on 7 February, 2003. Pioneer 10 will continue to coast silently as a ghost ship through deep space into interstellar space, heading generally for the red star Aldebaran, which is about 68 light years away and it will take Pioneer over 2 million years to reach it.” (NASA)

This piece was written specifically for Mark Isaacs and the AYO’s New Music Now ensemble for premiere in 2006 within the Aurora Festival in Western Sydney. The solo piano functions in a ‘concertante’ style and involves improvisation together with fully notated sections. My musical response to the idea of Pioneer 10 is a mixture of nostalgia – the silencing of communication – but also wonderment at human exploration in space and in general.

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