The Influence of The Planets

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

A montage of images of the Saturnian system prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft during its Saturn encounter in November 1980. A montage of images of the Saturnian system prepared from an assemblage of images taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft during its Saturn encounter in November 1980. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/NASA)

Astrology posits that the positions of the planets influence our personalities and destinies. This so intrigued English composer Gustav Holst that a century ago he wrote a symphonic suite, The Planets, full of dramatic, colorful music with titles like "Mars, the Bringer of War," and "Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity." Whether or not astrology is right about the influence of the planets, there's no question about the influence of The Planets. It has inspired—and been emulated and imitated by—many a film score composer (and even a beer).

David Garland presents highlights from Holst's piece, plus film music by John Williams, Hans Zimmer, Bill Conti, and others, that shows its influence.

Comments [4]

John from Portland, OR

Maybe I missed it, but did you mention Michael Giacchino's soundtrack to the 2009 Star Trek movie? "Nero Sighted" sounds like it's referencing "Mars the Bringer of War".

Mar. 21 2015 10:05 PM
Paul Pettigrew from Perth, Western Australia

A truly delightful programme! I missed last week's due to your change to – I assume? – Daylight Saving!!
It's now Sunday morning here (9:55am).

Mar. 21 2015 09:56 PM
Bob A from LI, NY

Really enjoying this evening's show. It is not easy for me to work my schedule around listening to Movies on the Radio, but made a point of it tonight, and I am glad I did.

Mar. 21 2015 09:41 PM
Les from Miami, Florida

Yes, Holst insisted that it was astrology and not mythology that was behind his writing of "The Planets" (1914-1916). He made two complete recordings: the first an acoustical one in 1923 and the second with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1926 that also appeared on a 33 1/3 rpm vinyl disc. According to Imogen Holst, he hated incomplete performances of "The Planets". I think whether the readers or I believe in astrology is a moot point: the important point being that Holst did. Talking about the work influencing other composers, I point out the most obvious one in the seventh and last section, "Neptune, the Mystic" in which two wordless, female choruses divided into first and second trebles and altos, is heard about half way through the section until the end when the orchestra stops playing and the choruses are heard repeating the last bar intil the "fade into the distance". This effect Holst always carefully rehearsed, to the extent of asking the members to turn their backs and walk further offstage (while following a sub-conductor's beat) until their sound was truly inaudible. Throughout the section, the two harps, celesta and strings are working overtime with arpeggios that evoke that certainly do evoke the mystic.This effect wasn't possible in the 1926 recording, to say nothing of the acoustical one; and so on the recording the section ends abruptly without the fadeout. I mention this because very similar effects can be heard in "Star Trek" and other "other worldly" films and teleplays.

Mar. 21 2015 09:26 AM

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