Commission: Roanoke Symphony, David Wiley, conductor
Premiere: Roanoke Symphony Orchestra, Roanoke, VA, March 17, 1997
Duration: 13 minutes
Instrumentation: 3(3rd picc.) 2 EH 3(3rd Bcl)2; 433 (3rd Btbn) 1; 2 timp., 4 perc., 2 hp., strings
Soprano solo, optional Women's chorus (div.) I (SSA) II (SSA)
(Pluto can be performed without chorus. There are cues in orchestral parts to be played when there is no soloist and women's chorus.)
Pluto was not discovered until 1930 after Gustav Holst had completed his work, The Planets. In 1996 I was commissioned by the Roanoke Symphony and conductor David Wiley to write Pluto, as a sequel to The Planets. Then in 2006 the status of Pluto changed again! It was determined that it is not a planet after all, and is now called a dwarf planet.
The astrological Pluto is about power, intense needs, destruction – re-creation by violent means if necessary. Like the astrological sign, Pluto, Roman god of the underworld, was aggressive, passionate, violent, intense, favoring war and extremes, inexorable but just. When I was composing Pluto, images filled my mind of an intense being, inexorable, violent, intense, powerful and destructive, but anguished.
Sometimes Pluto’s orbit around the sun causes it to come closer to the sun than Neptune. A middle section in the music changes mood completely suggesting the time in Pluto’s orbit when it comes close to the restoring warmth of the sun, to the song of the sun spirit, to the astrological Pluto’s need for re-creation. Then as the orbit continues, the darkness and despair gradually close in again and the earlier music returns.