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Questions to Heaven

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Jennifer Jolley (photo: Tina Gutierrez)

Jennifer Jolley

Subtitle: For symphonic wind ensemble and fixed media

General Info

Year: 2021
Duration: c. 10:05
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Publisher: Murphy Music Press
Cost: Score and Parts (print) - $225.00   |   Score Only (print) - $50.00


Full Score
C Piccolo I-II
Flute I-II
Oboe I-II
English Horn
Bassoon I-II
B-flat Soprano Clarinet I-II-III
B-flat Bass Clarinet
E-flat Alto Saxophone I-II
B-flat Tenor Saxophone
E-flat Baritone Saxophone
B-flat Trumpet I-II-III
Horn in F I-II-III-IV
Trombone I-II
Bass Trombone
String Bass
Electric Organ
Percussion I-II-III-IV, including:

  • Almglocken
  • Crash Cymbals
  • Crotales
  • Glockenspiel
  • Suspended Cymbal
  • Tam-Tam (medium and large)
  • Vibraphone



None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

If you were like me, you had plans for 2020 that didn’t work out. First, it started with scattered stories about a novel coronavirus, then it arrived in pockets, then there were illusions of two-week interruptions, and then it was an eternal presence. But that’s the nature of a pandemic: it’s unimaginable until it’s a reality.

For me, our new normal of Zoom meetings, constant deliveries, and strategized movements outside the house made my anxiety skyrocket and shut me down creatively. It seems strange since our romantic clichés about artists seemingly revolve around a tortured isolation that leads to creative inspiration. At first, I indulged in this fantasy myself. I thought about how composing could escape the oppressive daily numbers that exactly measured the incommensurable horror that surrounded us. I could write and, by doing so, evade this reality and rescue the joy it had obscured. But, instead, I lived unproductively with my husband and two cats in a tiny house and felt terribly alone.

Ultimately, my rescue and the start of this piece did come, though not from an expected source. One day in late March, I stumbled upon an opinion article by retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly entitled “I Spent a Year in Space, and I Have Tips on Isolation to Share.” At the time, this type of article was already its own genre, but I read it anyway. For Kelly, his secluded observations of Earth from space were a perfect analogy for our new collective condition. Like Earth seen from space, our lives are borderless. Our vulnerabilities and interconnections had been laid bare by a virus, and it denied us our delusions of total autonomy. He articulated what I had been searching for: beauty in isolation -- a beautiful potential not from escape but from squarely confronting the present.

The following months saw my creative revival. It also reawakened my childhood fascination with space exploration. It was fortuitous as well. I moved my eyes skyward as scientists from multiple countries were launching expeditions to study Mars. NASA launched Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover, the United Arab Emirates launched their Hope spacecraft explorer, and China launched its orbiter Tianwen-1 or “Questions to Heaven,” named after a classical Chinese poem. I became an avid fan of anything music and space-related from Stanley Kubrick’s use of Richard Strauss’s Sunrise theme in the opening montage of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey to Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity, performed on the International Space Station, to recordings of interstellar space.

You will hear the sounds of the cosmos directly in this piece. It is a work meant to celebrate our collective accomplishments and our great if stressed-out ability to find beauty in our interconnected isolation.

- Program Note by composer


State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


To submit a performance please join The Wind Repertory Project

  • University of Washington (Seattle) Symphonic Band (Shaun Day, conductor) - 30 May 2023
  • University of South Carolina (Columbia) Wind Ensemble (Kenneth Green, conductor) - 23 October 2022
  • University of Nebraska (Lincoln) Symphonic Band (Trevor Frost, conductor) - 5 May 2022
  • Florida State University (Tallahassee) Wind Ensemble (Patrick Dunnigan, conductor) - 12 April 2022
  • Michigan State University (East Lansing) Symphony Band (David Thornton, conductor) - 21 October 2021 *Premiere Performance*

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

All Wind Works