Classical music has nearly been relegated to soundtrack status; it’s often playing while something else is happening. Few of us spend quality headphone time with Bartok. Amazing classical music in movies or TV gets used as a backdrop or part of the staging, thereby chaining it to pop culture. Most people can't hear Liszt's “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” without thinking of Tom and Jerry. Other times a movie is lifted by the music beyond its small budget and toward the heavens, as Star Wars was elevated by John Williams’ soundtrack.
I'm waiting for hip-hop artists to start sampling Gustav Holst en masse. His melodies can be eerie, mournful or thrilling, sometimes all at once. The Planets, “Op. 32” is his best-known piece, written after a friend introduced Holst to astrology. The suite is comprised of seven movements, each dedicated to a planet and its supposed influence on the psyche. The Venus movement is perhaps the best piece of music dedicated to our neighbor, though the entire work, and specifically the last three movements, are magnificent.
On Tuesday, June 5, Venus makes its twice-per-century cross between Earth and our sun. A transit of Venus watching party at the Balloon Museum will duly feature the New Mexico Philharmonic Orchestra performing Holst's The Planets suite, as well as the scores from E.T. and Star Wars by John Willams. Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Concert Band is polishing up its rendition of John Philip Sousa's “Transit of Venus March.”
There’s no need to bother with frustrating homemade pinhole viewers—which, in turn, left you watching the recent solar eclipse through three pairs of sunglasses. The Albuquerque Astronomical Society will be projecting the image of the four-hour event on LCD screens while the music plays.
The Balloon Museum is an appropriate host. Humans have a long history of looking upward toward the stars and planets. Hot air balloons are one way our species attempts to get just a bit closer to them.