It could be the ultimate union of science and music: a new “space symphony” illustrated with the latest stunning images from NASA.
The premiere of “Cosmic Cycles,” which American composer Henry Dehlinger called “an almost complete work of art,” took place last week in Washington.
“It’s not just music, it’s not just pictures,” he told AFP before the first concert. “It’s a more immersive experience.”
Similar efforts were made more than a century ago by the English composer Gustav Holst with his famous work The Planets. But at that time, in astronomy, there was still a lot to discover.
Since then, humans have walked on the moon, sent their rovers to Mars, and launched incredibly powerful telescopes into space.
The images were selected by the US space agency and organized into seven short films, which served as inspiration for Henry Dillinger.
“I had to push myself to remember that this wasn’t science fiction,” he said, “it was real science.”
Piotr Gajewski, musical director and conductor of Maryland’s National Orchestra, explained that NASA has been put at the heart of the operation.
“Instead of presenting them with a musical work and pasting pictures on it, they started putting together video clips” of “their best work,” he explained.
For Cessler Valley, of NASA’s Goddard Space Center, the result is up to the challenge.
“It’s a different adventure than any I’ve helped start before,” Sessler, 64, told AFP.
Like Van Gogh’s paintings.
The symphony begins, in seven movements, at the heart of the solar system, with our sun – images of its swirling surface, and explosions that hurl particles into the void of space.
The next two movements focus on the study of our planet, especially through photographs taken by astronauts in orbit.
Also scattered throughout the show: “an amazing collection of data visualizations,” says Wade Sisler. The one in Sea Currents, for example, “looks like Van Gogh’s paintings when you set them in motion. The colors are beautiful, and you see patterns emerge that you weren’t aware of before.”
The fourth segment on the moon is followed by images of every planet in the solar system – including images of the surface of Mars taken by the robots sent there.
The symphony even looks at asteroids, before the majestic finale, about nebulae and black holes.
NASA made the videos available on their YouTube page, along with a digital copy of their soundtrack.
Band leader Piotr Gajewski explained that it was decided not to fully sync the music and videos, but rather to be more “smooth”. This approach allows him to create “different moments in each show”.
Knowing that these images and space missions are real is amazing for the public, according to Wade Sisler, in the digital age where “you can make anything appear with artificial intelligence.”
“People are interested in the real results, and they say, +Wow, we really went to see this asteroid+,” he says.
According to Piotr Jajewski, the grandiose beauty of these images makes them ideal companions for orchestral works.
He asks, “What makes us all suddenly so excited when we hear one kind of music, or so proud when we hear another?” “It’s a big puzzle, and of course space is the other big puzzle, so they complement each other really well.”