Promethei Terra

for Chamber Orchestra (2013)

Premiered on October 2, 2013 in Bates Recital Hall in Austin, Texas by the University of Texas New Music Ensemble.

Promethei Terra is a large, heavily cratered, geographical region in the southern part of Mars. It was named for its noticeable albedo features, which are large areas on a planet marked by a contrast in brightness. While the Greek figure Prometheus is best remembered for the theft of fire, his name has become synonymous with human striving, often at the risk of unintended consequence. Promethei Terra, for chamber orchestra, attempts to musically capture the ‘brightness’ of the Martian region, as well the endless struggle for knowledge.

Reull Vallis is a river-like structure located in the Promethei Terra highlands. Recently, many scientists have come to believe that at some point in the Martian past, water flowed through the Reull Vallis valley. Lineated floor deposits located in the cliffs of the valley are believed to contain glaciers of water ice. These frozen deposits are all that remain of a possible water-rich Martian past. The Promethei Terra highlands stand adjacent to a massive circular impact basin roughly 2,300 kilometers in diameter and 7000 meters deep. Known as Hellas Planitia, it is the largest visible impact crater known to our solar system.

My work for chamber orchestra navigates through each of these Martian landmarks, beginning with the ‘brightness’ of a frozen Martian river. As the river comes alive, Reull Vallis caries the listener deeper through the valleys of Mars, and towards the density and vastness of the Hellas Planitia crater basin. After a calmer, more intimate section of the work, the river reappears. The work culminates in a final climatic reprise of the Hellas Planitia music; however, this is interrupted by a Coda. The beginning frozen river is drastically sped up to depict not only the brightness of Promethei Terra, but also the Greek figure Prometheus himself and his struggle for human knowledge.