Space is the Place

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

This Friday, a 143,000-ton asteroid, half the size of a football field, will pass within just 17,200 miles of Earth. Scientists say there is absolutely no chance it will hit our planet, but that still got us thinking about the power and mystery of outer space.

Today, we asked you for the piece you'd like to hear while you contemplate the galaxy. You chose John Williams's score to "Star Wars," which we played at 12 noon. The performers are the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra (real name!), conducted by the composer himself.


Comments [38]

James Klosty from MILLBROOK, NY

I'm a little sick of those predictable snobs who knock John Williams, a master at his genre, because some of his themes are derivative. Do you object to Stravinsky's Pulcinella or The Fairy's Kiss because they are based on Pergolesi and Tchaikovsky? Williams composed film music symphonically rather than using the stock bag of effects that most film music consists of. Knock him for that if you must.

Feb. 13 2013 09:49 PM
A Luna from Bronx, NY

I always smile when I hear the Brahms Piano Concerto 2 opening horn. Yikes, is that where one of SW's theme came from?

Feb. 13 2013 04:29 PM
JT Fangio from New York

At last! The inevitable. Classical Music has been coopted by pop culture or, as Jean Shepherd so aptly put it, CREEPING MEATBALLISM.

Feb. 13 2013 01:44 PM
Roger Dodger from UWS

Agree with FluteLady - this whole smackdown today strikes me as pure pandering. Film music can be a serious artform - look at Shostakovich, Prokofiev or Copland who wrote substantial scores for film - but Williams is a rip-off artist. A very good one, who chooses his source material well. But there's nothing challenging or especially deep about it. WQXR can do better.

Feb. 13 2013 12:17 PM
FluteLady from Manhattan

In the 1990s I was living in London. During that period, a new classical radio station came into being, Classic FM. The idea was to have a classical radio station that would have greater popular appeal than the stuffy, upper-crust BBC. The only problem was that they swung a bit too far in the other direction. For instance, rather than taxing people's attention spans with an entire sonata or concerto grosso by Telemann or Handel, they would often play only one movement - even if it was the second movement and it ended on the dominant chord! By the same token, they too had a daily request program (I think it was even at noon!), and I, for one, became extremely frustrated at the number of people whose requests for "something from the new Harry Potter film" were honored (or should I say honoured). I guess I was among the few who didn't put film music into the same category as classical music, and I still don't. Film music certainly has its place, but this shouldn't be it.

Feb. 13 2013 12:10 PM
L.Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

And couldn't we please have the performers listed listed with the selections. I dislike voting for a recording I already own.

Feb. 13 2013 11:59 AM
Karen F

While the planets is a truly inspiring serenade to the heavens, on this snowy 13th day of February, let us be taken by Williams to a galaxy far, far away.

Feb. 13 2013 11:55 AM
John S Cark from Bergenfield, NJ.

As usual, there's nothing original about Williams's Star Wars score. He steals from a wide range of pieces, including The Planets and the Rite of Spring. By the way, Aniara is a space opera. It takes place on a space ship. My vote is for The Planets.

Feb. 13 2013 11:54 AM
Nick from Putnam Valley

I like John Williams...he seems like a nice man. But, come on. Star Wars is not a great work...very good...very showy...very VERY...Hollywood. I'll listen to it on the crosstrainer at the gym.
Holst's "Planets" is more nuanced, more complex, richer...deeper...existential.

Feb. 13 2013 11:51 AM
L. Lubin from Fort Lee, NJ

If though Mozart didn't name the Jupiter, it was named for the deity, not the planet. Holst's suite is based on the astrological planets, not the astronomical bodies. So Star Wars is the only authentically 'space-y' composition. And since we've been celebrating John Williams' birthday for days....well, there ya go.

Since this asteroid is going to be around for a long time, maybe I should place a request for some thing from Karl-Birger Blomdahls "Aniara." It's subtitled 'a space opera.'

Feb. 13 2013 11:49 AM
Dorothea from New Rochelle

As much as I like John Williams' compositions, my choice can only be The Planets.

Feb. 13 2013 11:48 AM
Andrew B. from Lower Merion, PA

The name of the Jupiter Symphony is not from Mozart, but from some pandering editor that made a piano arrangement of the symphony (sort of like how Haydn's symphonies got their names--the denigrating publicists). I guarantee you Mozart was not thinking about stars or planets when he was composing this symphony. If we're just talking about a piece that has been used in association with sci-fi, the major omission here is Also Sprach (as others have noted).

Yes, I'll be looking forward to hearing the Planets (seems to be the consensus among the comments), but this is one of the worst "showdowns" yet. Let's hear Holst.

Like J.Cynthia Weber says below, expand our listening and your programming!

Feb. 13 2013 11:40 AM
Frank from New York

Definitely Star Wars! Nothing says space like a good intergalactic battle!

Feb. 13 2013 11:24 AM
anne from Manhattan

You NEVER get to hear the whole Planets suite, just the odd heavenly body. I love the bits, now can we please hear the whole thing? Sorry, Elliott, Star Wars doesn't begin to approach it, for me.

Feb. 13 2013 11:18 AM
perry from Brooklyn

I voted for Mozart because, well, how could I not vote for Mozart? But I do love "The Planets," so I'll be content to listen to it!

Feb. 13 2013 11:10 AM
Julia de Bary from Verona, NJ

Jupiter is play very often on WQXR ...and I not a rebel as you are Elliot:)... I will go for Holst's The Planets
Thank you

Feb. 13 2013 11:07 AM
Kathleen Kehoe from riverdale, New York

I vote for "Holst" the planets as the winner for today's High noon showdown.Kathleen

Feb. 13 2013 10:58 AM
Kitty from Kingston, NY

Holst "the Planets" See where John Williams got his inspiration.

Feb. 13 2013 10:33 AM
Naomi from The Bronx

Another vote for Gustav Holst, The Planets.

Feb. 13 2013 10:32 AM
JL Peters from New York City

Sorry, Elliott, but I have to vote for the Planets. It's among my favorites. I would not, however, be disappointed by any of the options.

Feb. 13 2013 10:32 AM

The Planets is a creatively crafted piece of music. One of my favorites that isn't played often in it's entirety. It will be a treat to hear today.

Feb. 13 2013 10:19 AM
Susan from Manhattan

Casting a vote for "the Aquarium" from "carnival of the Animals". That's the s

Feb. 13 2013 10:14 AM
Carol Luparella from Elmwood Park, NJ

We really don't need to hear any more movie music, and the "Jupiter" Symphony is played way too often here, so I think it's about time we finally get to hear "The Planets" in its entirety.

Feb. 13 2013 10:11 AM

I'm probably not supposed to electioneer, but I'm a rebel. Vote for Star Wars!

Feb. 13 2013 10:07 AM
Shari fulper from Oldwick, NJ

I would love to hear John Williams Star Wars! I have used it teaching my pre-ballet class often. People always are happy to hear it at my other place of business also.

Feb. 13 2013 10:07 AM
Ilene Wikler from New York

I agree with Judith Broy that "Also Sprach Zarathustra" would be the best choice. For those of us who remember 2001:A Space Odyssey was the first of its kind in sciene fiction movies and it led to a whole new generation of stories and special effects, including Star Wars.

Feb. 13 2013 09:49 AM
Nancy Passow from Englewood, NJ

Although I love Star Wars, I love Gustav Holst and the Planets even more.

Feb. 13 2013 09:37 AM
Judith Broy from Massachusetts

While these three are inspiring, I usually think of "Also sprach Zarathustra" as the perfect "space" piece, reminiscent of the excitement of watching "2001: A Space Odyssey"...perfect!! Thanks for giving me choices though : )

Feb. 13 2013 09:36 AM
Terri Rollins from Downtown

When I was 12 my big brother (who was 17) took me to see Star Wars at the Ziegfield in Time Square. Afterward, we got burgers from Burger King and ate them sitting on the wall in Bryant Park! I fell in love with Star Wars and was given the soundtrack for Christmas. I knew it by heart. My choice is obvious.

Feb. 13 2013 09:02 AM
Roberto from East Brunswick

I recently watched the film Melancholia, and I felt that the use of Richard Wagner's prelude to Tristan und Isolde worked very well. There is a kind of helplesness in how we are at the mercy of the heavens. This asteroid is a reminder of that.

Feb. 13 2013 08:42 AM
Chris from New York City

I choose Holst today because WQXR often plays Jupiter Bringer of Jollity but I can't recall ever hearing any other planet being played. Plus if you play all Holst's Planets, it might satisfy peoples Star Wars craving as it is remarkably similar to Mars Bringer of War. Though I love Jupiter, i do miss the other planets. Holst Holst Holst!!!

Feb. 13 2013 08:35 AM
Louis Gerbino from Easton,CT

The Planets,in its entirety,has become relatively rare on WQXR.However,there is a wealth of music with astronomic themes worthy of the concert hall &, by extension,WQXR's airwaves.Maybe you could devote a day to it sometime,with a major piece every hour.Star Trek alone could supply a day's worth.How about it;now that we are non-commercial,we should fly higher once in a while.

Feb. 13 2013 07:52 AM
Annie from Franklin Lakes, NJ

Star Wars music is fun, but you could have put John Williams' E.T. music on the list, too.

Feb. 13 2013 07:44 AM
Sheldon from Woodmere

It's a shame you won't play all 3 in succession. That would be such a treat. I flipped a 3-sided mental coin and it landed on Holst. AAARGH!!! I hate having to make choices between 3 pieces I enjoy so much.

Feb. 13 2013 06:42 AM
J Cynthia Weber from Manhattan

Not the Planets! And, please not again “the Trees” or “The Seasons”. I am ear-worn out with reflex fillers that WQXR selects, and selects repeatedly. There are thousands of other short pieces. Expand our listening and your programming!!

Feb. 13 2013 06:40 AM
Tim from Washington, DC

An astronomy lesson in music, Holst's The Planets set a course for space movie music that is still shows the way, and sends me into orbit when I hear it. Let's blast off with The Planets today.

Feb. 13 2013 06:23 AM
Bernie from UWS

Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra always seemed spacey to me, even if it wasn't intended to be. Terry Riley's Sun Rings is a more contemporary example of a piece directly influenced by the solar system. We'd never get to hear that on WQXR however.

Feb. 13 2013 06:13 AM
Rowland C. Rodgers from Center Valley, PA

I have always enjoyed the Star Wars suite. It takes me back to a wonderful time in my life.

Feb. 13 2013 05:56 AM

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