I. Harmonices Mundi (1618) - Harmony of the World
In the five books of his Harmonices Mundi, Johannes Kepler attempted to prove that geometric solids, music, and the orbits of the planets are all governed by the same mathematical ratios. Through his observations, Kepler found that the planets’ orbits are not circular as was previously believed, but are in fact elliptical. Measuring the ratio between the arcs of each planet’s perihelion (when it is closest to the sun) and aphelion (when it is furthest), he found that, within a margin of error, each planet orbited at a musical interval: Mercury, a minor tenth; Venus, a unison; Earth, a semitone; Mars, a fifth; Jupiter, a major third; and Saturn, a minor third. Attributing scales to each planet, Kepler perceived a solar system that continuously sang celestial, polyphonic music. In this movement, I take Kepler’s scales, and the duration of each orbit to create an interpretation of this “music of the spheres.” Mercury is played by the guitar synthesizer and violins; Venus by the oboe; Earth by the viola and cello; Mars by the trumpet, trombone, and piano; and Jupiter and Saturn by the bass clarinet, double bass, marimba, and timpani. The setting is baroque in flavor, and gradually morphs into a more exact, electronic realization of our polyphonic solar system (greatly sped up of course).
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