In Memoriam Cassini
for Concert Band

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The Cassini Program was a joint effort between NASA, ESA, and ASI (the US, EU, and Italian space agencies); the mission goal was to gather as much data as possible about Saturn, as well as its rings and moons. The Cassini-Huygens probe was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on October 15, 1997, and arrived at Saturn seven years later in 2004. During the mission, Cassini gathered vast amounts of data about Saturn and its moons, particularly Titan, which was explored by the Huygens probe, and Enceladus, which has oceans of liquid water that could create conditions suitable for life.
The mission was scheduled to end in 2008, but two extensions, the Equinox Mission and the Solstice Mission, continued Cassini’s exploration until September of 2017. To prevent the possible contamination of Titan or Enceladus with microscopic organisms from Earth that might have been carried on the probe, the mission team decided to destroy Cassini by sending it into Saturn’s atmosphere. Before this final mission, however, Cassini embarked on its “Grand Finale”, a series of close orbits sending it between Saturn and its rings, maneuvers that were too risky to undertake earlier in the mission.
On September 15, 2017, in the final phase of the Grand Finale, Cassini entered Saturn’s atmosphere and was destroyed.
This work is loosely programmatic; my goal was to use the science as a basis to tell a story, and to try to capture the emotions that Cassini’s images have brought into our collective imagination. The beginning and ending are modeled after specific elements in the story of Cassini, but the middle sections are more of an artist’s rendition than an attempt at a detailed portrayal of the mission. Much more information on the Cassini Mission, including images, art, and sound recordings (including the radio emissions that were my inspiration for the section at measure 33) can be found at

2 Flutes
2 Oboes
2 Bassoons
3 Clarinets in Bb
Bass Clarinet
Soprano Saxophone
Alto Saxophone
Tenor Saxophone
Baritone Saxophone
3 Trumpets in Bb
4 Horns in F
2 Trombones
Bass Trombone
Percussion 1: Vibraphone, One Timpano, Bowed Cymbal, Tam-tam
Percussion 2: Crotales, One Timpano, Bowed Cymbal, Crash Cymbal
Percussion 3: Glockenspiel, One Timpano, Bowed Cymbal, Snare Drum
Percussion 4: One Timpano, Bowed Cymbal, Bass Drum