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The Heavens Above Us

I. International Space Station
II. Star Trails

III. Total Lunar Eclipse
IV. Milky Way Galaxy

Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra; Christopher Cinquini, conductor

3222 2221 timpani, 3 perc, strings (87654 or larger)


Theodore Presser Company
Info coming soon…

Coming in summer 2022

Commissioned by the Reading Symphony Orchestra on a grant by Tom & Dianne Work made in honor of Christopher Cinquini, conductor of the Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra.


When Reading Symphony Youth Orchestra’s conductor Christopher Cinquini and I talked about possible topics for a new piece, he mentioned his passion for astrophotography. While this isn’t a term I had heard before, it made perfect sense: Christopher takes pictures of space. Intrigued, I asked Christopher to share some of his photos with me. In The Heavens Above Us, I selected four images from his collection and fashioned short movements for each.

I. International Space Station
Traveling at over 17,500 miles per hour, the International Space Station circles the earth every 90 minutes. This gives photographers numerous opportunities to take photos of the station’s transit in front of both the sun and moon. For his photo, Christopher stacked multiple images of the ISS as it crossed in front of the sun from his vantage point. Similarly, I musically represent the steady motion of the ISS as it smoothly glides through the icy atmosphere and gracefully soars above us.

II. Star Trails
A “star trail” is the name for the compilation of photos taken over several hours, or of a camera using a long exposure setting, to capture what appears to be the motion of the stars circling in the night sky (actually, it is our planet that is rotating and causing this effect, not the stars). Using the North Star as the focal point, Christopher snapped 341 photos over two hours to create this beautiful effect. I begin this movement with a single pitch to represent the North Star, then musically represent the stars as they dance in ever-widening circles.

III. Total Lunar Eclipse
In ancient times, people were frightened by solar and lunar eclipses. What great evil was at work that could hide a planetary body, darken the daylight, or turn the moon blood red? I drew inspiration from Christopher’s photo of a total lunar eclipse that occurred in January 2019. In this composite photo, he stacked images together to show the gradual progression of the moon as it seemingly disappears (while the earth passes between it and the sun), turns red at the height of the eclipse when the moon is completely in the earth’s shadow, and then gradually re-appears. My movement follows suit.

IV. Milky Way Galaxy
Of all the images Christopher shared with me, the most awe inspiring of all is his photo of the Milky Way Galaxy. Our Solar System is situated about two-thirds away from the center of the Galaxy, and we reside between two large spiral arms, each of which contains stars, gas, and dust. Christopher captured the majesty of one of these spiral arms as it stretches across the heavens. Musically, the movement starts small and intimate, much like our limited view of the night sky from our windows, then expands to represent the full grandeur of the galaxy above us. As the piece concludes, we hear stars shimmering in the heavens.