2018 marks the fifth year that Patchogue-Medford Library will be hatching baby chicks! We have been monitoring and maintaining the optimum temperature and humidity levels in the incubator since our eggs arrived on March 15. We are just about ready to increase the humidity from 48%-56% to 65% and begin the final three day countdown to hatching. [Read more…]
In celebration of Long Island Reads, PatchChords examines the music of outer space.
Outer space conjures up many images – danger, nothingness, a deadly vacuum, a new frontier to be explored, eerie mystery, the twinkle of the stars, infinity, and even a touch of romance. One finds it easy to imagine that our ancestors, thousands of years ago, improvised music as they stood under the night sky to celebrate and commemorate the breathtaking panorama of shimmering stars that greeted them after every sunset.
One of the earliest operas to feature the idea of space travel was Franz Joseph Haydn's opera buffa, Il Mondo della Luna, written in 1777, about a man who falsely believes that he has been transported to the Moon. Also, Haydn's choral and chamber orchestra piece, The Creation, was conceived after discussing music and astronomy with the astronomer (and, incidentally, oboist), William Herschel, and it could be argued that the vast, empty void of outer space can be heard in the piece, with its softly pulsating high violins and wind instruments above low cellos and basses, leaving an enormous, unoccupied void between them, in both the orchestral and the spatial senses.
And Gustav Holst's famous suite, The Planets, of course, immediately springs to mind. Written before the discovery of Pluto in 1930, it, as many have noticed, does not contain a movement for the dwarf planet, Pluto. Holst, in his lifetime, however, expressed little or no interest in writing one, but, eventually, a movement for Pluto was created by British composer, Colin Matthews in 2000. And then, there is the "Aquarium" movement from Camille Saint-Saëns' famous Carnival of the Animals, a piece seemingly often drafted into service to evoke outer space, with its descending "twinkling" piano figures, although, as the title indicates, it was originally intended to evoke something much more terrestrial and aquatic.
Sound, being nothing more than air vibrations, does not, by definition, actually travel in the airless vacuum of space, however objects in space (the Sun, planets, stars, quasars, pulsars, galaxies, etc.) produce signals that, if received through radio astronomy dishes and processed, can be perceived by the human ear as audible sound. Moving into the modern era, Terry Riley, Karlheinz Stockhausen, David Bedford, Henry Brant, Henryk Gorecki, Philip Glass, John Cage, Rued Langgaard, and George Crumb are just a few of the composers who have explored the potential of such sounds as the basis for their musical compositions. And space travel has even been used by rock musicians as a metaphor for loneliness, two of the most notable examples being Elton John's Rocket Man and David Bowie's Space Oddity.
The blackness and silence of the night sky, the glow and whisper of planets, the fire trails and crackling of comets, the darkness and roar of black holes, and the twinkling and ringing of stars – the great ethereal gulf of outer space conjures up many images…and musical sounds.
New Year's Eve, 1899. The dawn of a new century. Four Victorian gentlemen assemble on a cold, snowy night to accept the invitation of their mutual friend, George, to dinner and a demonstration of his "time machine", as he explains to them the novel concept of the "fourth dimension".
What happens next challenges their "modern" perceptions and understanding of science, and George is plunged on a fantastic trip backwards and forwards over humanity's past and future, all the while observing it all through his learned, scientific and Victorian eyes.
Otherwise a relatively faithful adaption of H.G. Wells's original novel, the film eschews Wells's cynical observations about the British class system and about mankind's ultimately insignificant place in an indifferent cosmos, and features the young Australian actor, Rod Taylor in the lead role (giving the character youthful, optimistic and idealistic qualities) and an increased emphasis on heroic action and adventure. The other ingredients in the mix are the Academy Award-winning special effects of the day (blue-backed traveling mattes, double-printed background sets, time-lapse photography, and models and miniatures), and a story of love across time, not to mention a glimpse of the Victorian era as seen through the eyes of a 1960's design sensibility. And the idea of fantastic technology archaically wrapped and realized in brass, rivets, art nouveau arabesques, and crystal mechanisms can arguably be seen as an influence on today's steampunk genre.
And, as the final drop of celebratory champagne, one of the film's final lines presents the ultimate question for the avid bibliophile; consider…which three books would you have taken?
Today is the day when a 70-mile-wide, 2,500-mile-long stretch of the United States will experience one of outer space’s most amazing events: a total eclipse of the Sun. So, what music does one choose to accompany such a momentous occasion?
The very definition of this event is the Moon blocking the Earth’s view of the Sun, so some lunar-inspired music would seem to be called for, the two most famous and obvious examples being Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Debussy’s (and other composers’) Claire de Lune.
Since this event will cause the sky to darken such that four planets (i.e. Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter) will be visible, we could also consider adding the relevant movements of Holst’s The Planets to our list.
Let us not forget that our own humble planet Earth is also part of this unique stellar ballet, so music inspired by our own planet, such as Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, fits in as well.
And even though it is being relegated to the background of this event, let’s not forget to add some music inspired by our Sun. Thanks to the influence of Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey", Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra is a choice in many people’s minds for capturing the grandeur and spectacle of this event; the opening moments of the piece, appropriately titled "Sunrise", certainly feature the required fanfare, excitement and power.
Finally, a couple more suggestions:
…and even some original pieces have been commissioned for this event!
Happy listening (and watching!)