Lockdown Lesson 4

The Planets

written by Gustav Holst between 1914-1916

Introduction

The Planets is a musical suite of seven orchestral pieces written by the British composer Gustav Holst between 1914 and 1916:

1. Mars, the Bringer of War
2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
6. Uranus, the Magician
7. Neptune, the Mystic

The planets themselves are named after ancient Roman and Greek gods. Each of those deities had their own characteristics. However, The Planets isn’t about those ancient gods, nor the planets themselves. In fact, The Planets was originally called Seven Pieces for Large Orchestra, and didn’t feature the planets’ names at all – the pieces were just called Bringer of War, Bringer of Peace, etc. The inspiration behind the pieces is actually about their astrological (not astronomical!) influence. Astrology is the supposed effect that planets and the stars have on people and events on earth – for example, horoscopes – while astronomy is the actual science of stars, planets, blackholes, and all the other weird and wonderful things beyond Earth.

Image result for pillars of creation
The Pillars of Creation, clouds of gas roughly 23,462,784,000,000 miles high. If there were a motorway from the bottom to the top it would take 335,182,628,571 years to drive the whole way. That’s a long trip without any toilet stops!

If you completed lessons 1 and 2, you will probably have guessed what your task is for this week: listen to the suite and match each movement to its title. This is the last exercise we will do like this – next week we will continue looking at the different instruments of the orchestra and concerti. For this exercise I would like you to try a different approach. Rather than guessing the names straight away, for each song I would like you to either:

  • draw a picture based on what you hear, or
  • write down some words based on how the music makes you feel. This can be a short story or poem, or it can just be a list of expressive words.

You can do both if you like, or writing for some movements and drawing for others. Just remember you will only have a few minutes for each piece. When you have finished writing/drawing for each of the seven movements, use your writing/pictures to help you figure out which song belongs to which title.

Grab yourself some paper and pencils/colours, download the worksheet, and get started! I will be listing some of the movements in a different order here so it won’t be obvious which is which.

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7.

When you’re done, please click here to check your answers.