Gerald Cohen: Voyagers, for clarinet and string quartet.
Voyagers, for clarinet and string quartet, is a tribute to the two Voyager spacecraft on the 40th anniversary of their launch, and of the music of the Golden Record, sent to accompany them on their journey out of the solar system. The piece was composed for my dear friends, the Cassatt Quartet and clarinetist Vasko Dukovski; it has been a delight to take this musical and astronomical journey with these superb performers.
Voyagers focuses on several of the pieces that were part of the Golden Record, weaving them together in a composition that celebrates humanity’s quest to explore the universe, and the power of music to express the rich emotional and cultural world of human beings. The creators of the Golden Record chose an idiosyncratic selection of pieces from around the world, and I have in turn chosen several of these pieces— a late Beethoven quartet (Cavatina), an Indian Raga (Bhairavi), and a Renaissance dance (Galliard).
Writing this piece was in itself a wonderful journey, especially doing research to learn more about the Voyagers’ remarkable mission, and about the selection of the music, sounds and images of the Golden Record. The piece is not meant to have any literal description of the Voyagers’ travels and discoveries, but rather to use the selections from the Golden Record to evoke our human feelings about music, about space, and about exploration. I am fascinated by the idea of the Golden Record being sent to accompany the spacecraft, knowing that it would almost definitely never be found by any extraterrestrial civilization, but that it was, nonetheless, a significant message of who we were at this moment in time, and how we might express what it means to be human.
The composition was given its premiere in November 2017 at the Hayden Planetarium of the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, with astrovisualizations designed by Carter Emmart, director of Astrovisualization at the Planetarium, and with Timothy Ferris, the producer of the Golden Record, sharing his perspective on the Voyager mission. We are especially excited about the prospect of collaboration with other planetariums, seeing it as a linking of music, science and visual art. The piece is, nevertheless, also meant to be performed as chamber music, independent of any visual elements; the premiere of the piece in this manner was at the Seal Bay Festival in Maine in July 2018.