Voskhod 2

About

Voskhod 2 is a cinematic electro-acoustic orchestral piece based upon the 1965 USSR spacemission, Voskhod 2.
The 15-minute piece is presented with a PDF graphic score accompaniment. Voskhod 2 is to be listened to as acousmatic music, rather than being performed live.

To show a timeline of events within this electro-acoustic orchestral piece, I am providing an optional graphic score for the listener.

I am taking my own approach to the hand-drawn graphic score for Voskhod 2, aiming to include markings of the gestures, phrase shapes, textures and velocities of the electro-acoustic and orchestral sounds in the piece, which are written above a timeline. The markings convey the shape of the music, as opposed to dictating exact pitches.

The electro-acoustic sounds in Voskhod 2 combine MIDI input synthesised sounds with recorded and manipulated sounds. The synthesised sounds give a more romanticised and ambient impression of the space capsule, as opposed to specific mechanical sounds. These consist of whirring, crescendos, humming, whistling, harmonic and textural sounds.

The inspiration for the ambient sci-fi sounds used in Voskhod 2 comes from the soundtrack and ambient interactive sounds in the 2017 adventure horror video game, Prey.

The protagonist in Prey is on board on a 1960’s-stylised space station orbiting Earth. I took inspiration from playing the game and paying attention to the ambient humming, mechanical machinery, digital and sci-fi sound effects.

The narrative is a central component of Voskhod 2, and demonstrated through thematic and

cinematic writing. The timeline of events of the USSR space mission are represented in the piece by outlined themes.
The piece begins with two orchestral themes, representing the build-up to the rocket launch and the ascent to orbit. The exclusion of electro-acoustic sounds at the beginning of the piece was done so that it conveys more familiar ‘Earthly’ sounds, as the Voskhod spacecraft had not left the Earth’s atmosphere at this point.

When the capsule is in orbit, the electro-acoustic sounds are introduced with a suspended wind section which builds into a layered brass and wind section combined with ambient synthesised sounds. This theme dies away to reveal a more traditional soundscape of recorded electro- acoustic sounds combined with thinner synthesised sounds. The recorded sounds convey the ambience of the Voskhod capsule, using the sounds of a mechanical keyboard, an amplifier, switches, computer humming and fans, audio jack sounds and a Sekonda4 watch.

Following the orbiting section, Leonov’s spacewalk begins with the sound of escaping compressed air and an opening metal hatch. This represents Leonov exiting the capsule into space, with the synthesised sounds shifting in timbre to become more sustained with low droning. The muffled speech of Sergei Pozdnyakov, general director at Zvezda Spacesuit Co. is used in this segment to represent the radio communication through Leonov’s earpiece in his spacesuit.

After Leonov’s space walk, the orbiting theme is re-introduced with the sound of the opening hatch, returning to the mechanical recorded sounds used previously, combined with different synthesised sounds.

Tremolo violins build into the next section, which is a rhythmically-driven orchestral theme. It begins with an ostinato of string section arpeggios and choir harmonics, texturally build to a jaunty section led by a piano, tubular bells, percussion, and punchy low brass. This is overtaken by two snare drums playing a swung rhythm that ‘grounds’ the orchestra whilst the strings carry the theme. The string section arpeggio ostinato returns at the end of the orchestral segment, and blends into the final theme – the descent of the capsule and its crash.

Synthesised sounds are introduced as the orchestral bit ends, with blaring alarms, sirens, whirring and ambient textures making a grand crescendo. This conveys the capsule descending through the Earth’s atmosphere and crashing in the Ural Mountains, Western Russia.

To depict the aftermath of the crash and convey the sounds of nature, the sounds used consist of rain on a window and the ground, tweeting birds, an electric organ being switched off (creating a dissonant ‘howling’ sound) and a gentle airy harmony. Voskhod 2 comes to a close with this ending theme fading away.

Notes:
For a more detailed insight to the full events of the Voskhod 2 mission, I highly suggest reading the 2014 BBC article ‘The First Spacewalk’.

Acknowledgements

I would like to give gratitude to the following individuals who have given much care and support

towards this composition project, without whom I would not have been able to complete this work.

Mr. Harry Eustace for his excellent and profound support and advice on instrumentation and harmonic amendments.

Prof. Andrew Lewis for his much-needed responsiveness to queries, his support, and important advice on developing the acousmatic properties and graphic scoring used in this composition.

Prof. Guto Puw for his great advice on conveying narrative, his support and responsiveness, and assistance on instrumentation within the orchestra.

Ms. Phoebe Swallow for her cherished support, strong encouragement and advice concerning the structure of this project.

Bibliography

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Human Spaceflights, ’International Flight No.12 Voskhod 2’, Human Spaceflights, August 12 2020, <http://www.spacefacts.de/mission/english/voskhod-2.htm&gt;, last accessed 10 January 2021.

Leonov, Alexi, ‘The Nightmare of Voskhod 2’, Air & Space Magazine, January 2005, <https:// http://www.airspacemag.com/space/the-nightmare-of-voskhod-2-8655378/>, last accessed 10 January 2021.

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Prey – 8 Minutes of Gameplay. YouTube video. Posted by ‘Bethesda Softworks’, 2 December 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81Ofcp8Pp_U&feature=emb_title&gt;, last accessed 10 January 2021.

Rincon, Paul, and Michael Lachmann, ad lib., ‘The First Spacewalk’, BBC, 13 October 2014, <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/special/2014/newsspec_9035/index.html&gt;, last accessed 10 January 2021.

Rocket Launch Countdown Compilation (By Country) | Go To Space. YouTube video. Posted by ‘Go To Space’, 13 July 2017. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CaIgsevL-2Y&gt;, last accessed 10 January 2021.

Shillito, Paul, ‘How the First Spacewalk Nearly Ended in Disaster – Alexei Leonov Voskhod 2’, Curious Droid, 20 September 2017, <https://curious-droid.com/313/first-spacewalk-nearly- ended-disaster-alexei-leonov-voskhod-2/>, last accessed 10 January 2021.

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