“The Planets” in Sight and Sound

Posted On January 1, 2000

March 1st and 2nd were the dates of two outstanding performances of Holst's "The Planets" by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra, conducted by guest conductor David Lockington, at the Orange County Performing Arts Center.

The Orange County Astronomers were invited by the PSO to set up telescopes and show some of the patrons the real planets. Liam Kennedy (OCA Webmaster and Trustee) did the reconnoitering about a month ago and predicted where Jupiter and Saturn would be in the early evening in March. There are a number of tall buildings and other large objects which could have made viewing impossible. Thankfully their position was perfect.

From the Plaza level, under the arch, the planets were positioned for an excellent view from under Richard Lippold's stunning "Fire-Bird" sculpture.

On each of the two evenings, four members of the OCA set up their telescopes and hundreds of patrons filed by for a peek at Saturn's rings and Jupiter's moons. For many, this was a first experience of looking at the planets through a telescope.

Others had traveled to distant parts and seen Saturn from places like Antartica. Some were surprised that they could look for free. OC Astronomers makes an impression yet again. When the Plaza cleared for the start of the concert, the hosts, dressed in their familiar maroon jackets, slipped out in ones and twos for a peek.

Unfortunately, on the second evening, the clouds started to gather before many concert-goers had arrived. This time, though, the hosts had advance notice that the telescopes were up, and flocked out at around 6:15pm. Alas, they were pretty much the only ones to see anything. Even so, there was much interest in the telescopes themselves and in OCA.
Thanks go to Russell Sipe, Liam Kennedy, Maury Bennett, Richard McNeil (and wife), Richard Saunders, Paul Kreitz (and wife), Bob Fritz and Dick Greenwald for the donation of their time and telescopes.

The PSO provided a thankyou of two tickets to a future concert for each person who brought a telescope. That was a complete and welcome surprise.

For more information on Holst and "The Planets", see http://www.classiccd.co.uk/reference/works/h/holst-planets.html

The OC Astronomers are not the only ones to seek a connection between music and the heavens. Throughout the ages, philosophers, architects and mathematicians have looked for music in the Universe.

"Pythagoras taught that each of the seven planets produced by its orbit a particular note according to its distance from the still centre which was the Earth. The distance in each case was like the subdivisions of the string referred to above. This is what was called Musica Mundana, which is usually translated as Music of the Spheres. The sound produced is so exquisite and rarified that our ordinary ears are unable to hear it. It is the Cosmic Music which, according to Philo of Alexandria, Moses had heard when he received the Tablets on Mount Sinai, and which St Augustine believed men hear on the point of death, revealing to them the highest reality of the Cosmos. (Carlo Bertelli, Piero della Francesca, p. 60.) This music is present everywhere and governs all temporal cycles, such as the seasons, biological cycles, and all the rhythms of nature. Together with its underlying mathematical laws of proportion it is the sound of the harmony of the created being of the universe, the harmony of what Plato called the "one visible living being, containing within itself all living beings of the same natural order"."

For more, see http://www.aboutscotland.co.uk/harmony/prop.html

A letter of thanks from the PSO to the OCA is here