The Bug #3: Music of the Spheres

Podcast – The Bug #3 – “Music of the Spheres”

Although there is little proof, I would theorize that at least several other ancient civilizations notably those with  sophisticated astral calendars such as the Aztecs, would also have had music that was synchronized to the sun the moon and the stars.

During Medeival times in the concept of music in the spheres came back to European art and was associated also with alchemy, magic and mysticism. A leading figure in this revival was Franchino Gaffurio, choirmaster of the Cathedral of Milan who wrote a major treatise in 1492.

During the romantic era in Europe there was once again a resurgence of interest in ideas of fundamental proportions and also the very romantic European idea that our lives were on the one hand influenced and on the other hand independent of the movement of the planets. These enlightenment ideas along with a clearer scientific understanding all those planets were not revolving around us, and that indeed we were one small speck an entire universe, became fodder for poets and artists. 

The piece which really changes everything in terms of music and outter space is The Planets but Gustav Holst. I want to talk about this in detail because the planets uses a style orchestration which continues to this day to permeate every Hollywood movie about outer space. The stereo typical soundtrack for space exploration movies and adventures beyond our galaxy is unquestionably derived from Hulst’s master work. What is it about his particular style of orchestration that makes it so compelling to imitate? Why would this of all styles come to be the one which far beyond Europe and now really the world over, connotative space, vast distances, darkness, infinite space, and the future? This music is anything but futuristic. And when it was written it was also anything but futuristic. I would describe it rather as bombastic, brassy, bold, robust, one dimensional, driving, and forward moving. Holst drew upon the Greek and Roman ideas of each planet being associated with a God. 

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