Mandolin on the Moon
Composed for mandolinist Joyce Balint as a musical component of today’s exhibit*, Mandolin on the Moon portrays the excitement leading up to the launch and journey of ourcountry’s first manned lunar landing.
The music co-features string techniques of bowing as well as plucking, with all four instruments sometimes plucking simultaneously. They also co-feature time, a main element of speed.
Musically, Mandolin on the Moon addresses speed (tempo) and is played at 100 beats perminute, quarter note = 100. With the tempo marking swiftly, it opens with steady rhythmic pulsing of eighth notes, reflecting the public’s mounting excitement surrounding the anticipation of Apollo 11’s launch.
About two minutes into the piece, the tempo slows down. Almost there! Realizing how very farwe are from Earth and wondering what we might see on the moon and how we’ll feel beingabout 239,000 miles away from our planet, we look in awe at this solar system. What would it feel like to play an instrument in microgravity?
In Greek and Roman mythology, Apollo is known as the god of music, sun, and more- a great union of music and outer space! Additionally, it’s fitting to think that this god, for whom Project Apollo was named, is represented by the lyre, an ancient string instrument similar to the mandolin, both having ancient origins, plucked/played without a bow and tuned in the treble(upper) range.
In the Spring of 2018, I visited Houston’s Johnson Space Center and observed the historic mission operations control room. In addition to seeing a Saturn V rocket, I loved seeing golden
robonauts in various versions of human torsos and full bodies, as well as a golden spider with all eight legs. Who (in the world) could know that almost exactly one year later I would write Mandolin on the Moon and have it premiered for the *Hudson River Museum’s First Lunar Landing exhibit- in the Planetarium?
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