Viola Detonation: Plutonium 239

weapons-grade solo for unaccompanied viola

Camden Reeves

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weapons-grade solo for unaccompanied viola

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Composer Camden Reeves
Year of Composition 2020
Duration 5' 30"



Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-cr2vd1


The creative process can be an odd sort of journey at times…a series of chain reactions that can seemingly take you anywhere. With this music, I was initially inspired by the announcement in mid 2020 that indications of possible life had been detected in the clouds of Venus. As we’re talking about clouds of sulphuric acid, if life does exist there then these would be some mighty strange creatures. And if they made music then that would be some mighty strange music. But I didn’t create any music about that…From there, I started thinking about other recent space missions, including the spectacular photos of Pluto that came back from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft in 2015. I didn’t create any music about that either… But from there I started thinking about that planet’s namesake – Plutonium – and what a piece for an exploding viola might sound like.

Plutonium was first isolated in 1940 by bombarding Uranium 238 with deuterons. Plutonium 239 is the primary fissile isotope of this element used in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. This isotope has a half-life of 24,110 years. Its extreme radioactivity is deadly. It was the radioactive property of the element that fascinated me creatively and ignited the idea that produced this music. Indeed, the kinship between nuclear chain reactions and the chain reactions of the creative process is itself interesting to me. I love the idea that, due to some inherent instability, one element will eventually turn into another one, wreaking havoc in the process. That’s what composition feels like to me. In this music the viola undergoes a chain-reaction of sorts. It begins with a slightly irregular melody – beautiful yet deadly – that decays and emits other things…initiating a chain reaction of destruction that becomes impossible to control as things continue.

The score is dedicated to my dear friend, the amazing Vlad Bogdanas. In his hands the viola can transform into any number of elements you like.