20 Watts

Keep it Classical: Symphony Explores Space by mklaing
April 9, 2009, 12:06 pm
Filed under: Keep It Classical | Tags: , ,

Gustav Holst (1874-1934) wrote his symphonic suite The Planets in 1915, depicting each known planet of the solar system, except for earth, in seven different movements. In 1930, with the discovery of Pluto, many people suggested that Holst should add on another movement for the new planet. Holst, however, refused, explaining that he felt that The Planets was already receiving too much attention in comparison to some of his other works which he felt were more worthy of praise. Or, perhaps, he foresaw the eventual revocation of Pluto’s planetary status in 2006, which would once again make the piece complete.

Either way, the work is extremely powerful, and is a favorite of symphony concertgoers. The character of each movement matches the traits of the Roman gods that the planets are named after, giving a wide range of contrasting moods–from the aggressive music of Mars, the Bringer of War, to the quiet and serene music of Neptune, the Mystic. At concerts this past Friday and Saturday, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra added to the appeal of this piece by featuring footage from the solar system which was displayed on an enormous screen behind the orchestra.

With the start of each movement, the camera returned briefly to a shot of Earth, then moved through space, eventually reaching the planet represented in the music. This multimedia event added a fascinating new dimension to the concert experience. The large audience cheered during the outer-space footage, proving that this type of creative thinking is needed to keep people interested in classical music.

Listen to my favorite movement, Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity, above.

-Meredith Laing, Managing Editor


The “revocation” of Pluto’s planet status is not a fact. It was done by only four percent of the IAU, most of whom are not planetary scientists, and was immediately rejected by hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto. The demotion is unlikely to stand, as it makes little sense, was adopted in a highly flawed process, and is being fought by both scientists and lay people.

Remember, Holst didn’t include Earth in “The Planets” either! And there is a Pluto movement written by Colin Matthews in 2000 that segues from the end of Holst’s Neptune, an addition very much worth hearing.

Comment by Laurel Kornfeld

The Pluto movement kinda blows.


Comment by Liam

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