Gustav Holst: The Planets Suite

[Pix: Portrait of Holst] Music derived from astrology is surprisingly rare. The ancient Greek philosophers, whatever their intellectual attitudes towards astrology may have been, were certainly not ignorant of astrological teachings and ideas. It was they, after all, who put forward the idea of the "Music of the Spheres", the idea that these vast objects, twirling around and whirling through space, must have hummed a tone as they went along their courses, much as a ball spun on a string will whistle. They knew of seven planets: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Not surprisingly, Western music evolved with seven-tone scales. Music and astrology come together again in this suite devoted to the seven planets, though the Sun and Moon have been displaced by Uranus and Neptune. Gustav Holst (1874--1934) was well-acquainted with astrology and mythology, as well as the Greek idea of the Music of the Spheres, and he drew heavily on this knowledge in his composition of the Planets Suite. It was first performed in the autumn of 1918.

In the separate pages on the planets in this section, the music that Holst composed for each planet plays in the background, except for Saturn (click at bottom of page to play it), and Pluto which hadn't been discovered when Holst wrote this music.

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