Music of the spheres

It was Pythagoras who first proposed that the Sun, Moon and planets all emit a unique resonance based on their orbital revolution, a theory that became known as the “Harmony of the Spheres”. In his Republic, Plato also alluded to the connection between music and astronomy: “As the eyes, said I, seem formed for studying astronomy, so do the ears seem formed for harmonious motions: and these seem to be twin sciences to one another, as also the Pythagoreans say”.

Fascinated and inspired by this idea of ‘spherical music’ (or musica universalis), British violinist Daniel Hope set out to record Spheres, which was released last February by Deutsche Grammophon. As Hope puts it: “My aim was to make an album touching on this sublime theme, while also discovering what composers nowadays might write when thinking in this context.” The final result is remarkable not only for its original concept, but also for its incorporation and imaginative combination of many diverse, yet equally intriguing, compositions.

For the purposes of this special recording, old and new composers were drawn together and some of the works appearing on the album were given their world premiere or special new arrangements. Spheres features music from a wide range of styles and composers including J.S. Bach, Gabriel Fauré, Ludovico Einaudi, Phillip Glass, Michael Nyman, and Max Richter (who also collaborated with Hope on his interpretation of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons).

Beautiful, mysterious and captivating, the music of Spheres can be seen as an ideal companion to the visual artistry of abstract filmmakers like Jordan Belson (1926-2011), who had also made a film named Music of the Spheres in 1977 (you can watch a clip here).

Images from Music of the Spheres artwork, 1977, (c) Estate of Jordan Belson

For those who find classical music passé or contemporary composers too difficult, listening to Spheres is certainly bound to make them reconsider.

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Filed under Album reviews, Film & Music

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