Music recommendo! - The Planets, by Gustav Holst

Have you always wanted to get a little classical music in your collection, but just something a little more substantial than frilly, flopsy Mozart (not that there's anything wrong with that)? Today's musical recommendo may have the cure for your classically curious blues: Gustav Holst's The Planets.

Gustav! How's it hangin, baby? You're looking a little intense there. Let you music take care of that instead. Give us a little smile, my man.
The Planets has one "song" written for each of the seven planets known to exist at the time. Each has a distinct character, borrowing from mythology to assign personality to each planet. Each planet has a job. Neat!

Mars, the Bringer of War
Venus, the Bringer of Peace
Mercury, the Winged Messenger
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
Uranus, the Magician
Neptune, the Mystic

Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934) was an English composer whose influences include Vagner, of Ride of the Valkyries fame, and Ravel, of Bolero fame. This makes complete sense once you get through The Planets for the first time.

Vagner's ridiculously large opera The Rings of the Nibelung is so long it has to be broken up into several days of opera-ing. Lots of apocalyptic imagery and screaming choirs - good! Fifteen hours of turgid epic drama - possibly bad. The Planets has that, but in a less forbidding size. Just drop the needle on Mars, Bringer of War. Perfect soundtrack for your standard issue category three tornado or D&D gaming session. Mars is a thundering planetary death knell in 5/4 time. Because of this, it's a pretty useful and popular piece of music. So, you've probably heard it before: It's found its way into lots of commercials and movies. It's the heavy metal of orchestral music. Skip to one minute in this video for the start of the music. Or, just jump to 8:26 to hear the end of the world.

Another Holst influence, Ravel's Bolero starts quiet and gets louder as it repeats its main theme, sounding mysterious and exotic the whole way. The Planets has this too. Look up Uranus, the Magician, or Neptune, the Mystic. The dissonant (notes that intentionally don't match) chords sung by the choir in Neptune still give me the creeping heebie jeebies every time. Skip to 5:07 in this video to make all of your hairs stand up.

Unlike your tea-and-cakes kind of chamber music, The Planets offers those with orchestral curiosity something to sink their teeth into, without needing a doctorate in history. It's a good gateway drug into classical music, if you don't want your CD shelf (if you still use those) to look like you inherited your collection from your grandma... even though mine totally does.

Here comes Jupiter, Bringer of "Jollity". Good old Jupiter, with his abundtive jollity. So jovious and whimsitive! Sometimes it's hard to tell if history actually used to use words like "jollity" or if it's just making shit up to screw with our grammar. Let's play it safe. Just go around ramming different suffixes onto words that don't have matching plugs, and tell anyone who complains to "look it up, you troglodyte. I'm listening to classical music!" Get your music-holes ready to have jollity crammed into them. Jolly up, you!

So there's The Planets. It's got some happy stuff, some light warfare, some spooky crap going on, and various other emotions, like going really fast (Mercury, the Winged Messenger). You could do worse.
Homewrecker, or just your sexy muse?

Be careful, though, just like suddenly going to the gym on a regular basis, starting a little classical music habit may have your husband, wife, or wifeband suspecting you're cheating with a college professor... or Arthur Fiedler.


Jack_Dayton_72 said...

The opening to Mars is just incredible - always been one of my favorites.

el cornichon said...

One of my favorite music pieces! (and going really fast is my favorite emotion) Your thoughts on words had me looking up 'jollity', as in the Bonzo Dog Band's song 'Jollity Farm', penned in 1929 by one Leslie Sarony. Looking further, Mirriam-Webster has its first known use in the 14th century. I like learning stuff.

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