Celebrate World Space Week With Space-Themed Music

World Space Week 2017 is an ideal time to introduce your family to space-themed orchestral music and the magic of astronomy. 

I remember being mesmerized by the music in the 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. The soundtrack in the movie is known for its use of many classical and orchestral pieces by composers such as Johann Strauss II, Richard Strauss, and Gyorgy Ligeti. The beauty of the night sky has been a source of fascination and an inspiration for many composers. World Space Week 2017 is an ideal time to introduce your family to space-themed orchestral music and the magic of astronomy. 

Since its United Nations declaration in 1999, World Space Week has become the largest public space event on Earth. This year, World Space Week is held between October fourth and October 10th, and the theme for 2017 is “Exploring New Worlds in Space.” 

There are many events planned for World Space Week such as planetarium shows, astronaut appearances, exhibits of space-related art, films about space, educational outreach, and telescope viewings. Inspire your children to search the night sky for “new worlds in space” while listening to space-themed music.

Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 by Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss composed this tone poem in 1896 and it became the initial “sunrise” fanfare for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. It begins with a sustained low note on the double basses, contrabassoon, and organ. This is followed by the 22-bar epic brass fanfare known as the “dawn” motif. Even though his music was composed long before the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, this one still remains a music gem of the 21st century.

Night Ride and Sunrise, Op. 55 by Jean Sibelius

Another piece of music with a “dawn” theme is Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’s Night Ride and Sunrise. Get up early one morning with your kids and enjoy the sunrise while listening to this mystical work. This can lead to discussions about horizon astronomy as well as sunrise and sunset positions. Composed in 1908, the music has a nocturnal ambiance and captures the soft light of a northern sunrise, and the magical and changing colors of the sky.

The Planets: Suite for Large Orchestra, Op. 32 by Gustav Holst

This well-known orchestral piece will make your kids to want to learn more about the planets. Written by the English composer Gustav Holst in 1914, The Planets is a suite with seven movements and each movement is named after a planet of the solar system. The most mystical movement is “No. 7 Neptune,” which features a mystical choir, intertwined with a diaphanous veil of orchestral sound. Observe the night sky while listening to this evocative music. Keep an astro journal or logbook to record observations of the planets and any other night explorations such as meteor showers or shooting stars.

Atmospheres by Gyorgy Ligeti

Puzzle over the diverse shapes of galaxies and deep space while listening to Gyorgy Ligeti’s Atmospheres. Composed in 1961 for orchestra without percussion, Atmospheres is an exploration in timbral effects and drifting tone clusters. This innovative piece displays micro-polyphonic textures and evokes a sense of mystery and timelessness. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard telescope or even a pair of binoculars, Ligeti’s music is ideal for listening to while stargazing.

Vishnu Symphony No.19, Op. 217 by Alan Hovhaness

Composed in 1966, the musical textures and free rhythms in this supercharged symphony suggest swirling galaxies and constellations. Vishnu was used on the soundtrack to astronomer Carl Sagan’s PBS television series “Cosmos.” Encourage your kids to listen to the music and then go outside to sketch their observations in a night sky journal. All they need is a pencil, a notebook or artist’s sketch book, and they’re ready to go. Encourage them to sketch planets, comets, and even the Milky Way. Perhaps introduce color pencils for further enhancement.

By exploring the world of space-themed music, your child will receive an enriching experience that will enhance their appreciation for music as well as stimulating their imagination about science and space. Check out worldspaceweek.org to find hundreds of events in North America and abroad and download some space-themed music to get your family started.