Watching The Planets

We broke our unplanned summer hermithood not just once, but twice this week. On Thursday night we took part in what was billed as the World’s Largest Sound Bath and City-Wide Meditation — an hour of lying on yoga mats and blankets in the grass at Columbus Commons with a thousand other people, as we were bathed in waves of sound coming from an array of instruments. Some folks referred to this as an “ocean of harmony.”

Sound baths are purported to have some therapeutic effects, helping with stress, fatigue, and depression. I’d never heard of a sound bath before Thursday. After experiencing one, I am not fully sold on their curative powers. That said, was it peaceful to lie under a blanket, the sky overhead all big and black pierced only by the occasional star and aircraft running light, while ambient music was blasted at me? Absolutely.

Then on Friday, we went to another symphony, this one of the more traditional variety: Gustav Holst’s THE PLANETS, performed by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

So many people — myself included — think “classical music” and picture these dry, fusty chamber pieces made by long-dead white dudes wearing powdered wigs. You know, music that’s really great to fall asleep to. Well, Holst was a white dude and he has been dead for nearly a century, but, to the best of my knowledge, he never wore a powdered wig, and THE PLANETS has a frisson running through it that is anything but sleep-inducing. You listen to it and understand where generations of sci-fi film composers have drawn at least some inspiration.

“Mars, The Bringer of War” is a banger, thunderous and ferocious, and is easy to love. It’s my favorite suite, but “Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity” is a very close second. “Jupiter” feels less like an army is on its way to crush you, see you driven, etc., and more like you’re an adventurer off on some kind of star tr — uh, expedition.

My introduction to THE PLANETS was, of all things, an early episode of THE VENTURE BROS. Henchmen 21 and 24 sing “Mars, The Bringer of War” while they prepare to resume their henching jobs. It’s a funny scene and I was quite taken with “Mars,” so I downloaded a copy of THE PLANETS and gave it a listen. I’ve wanted to see it performed live ever since. I’m happy to report back to Past Josh: it was as cool as we’d always hoped it would be.

A visual tour of the Solar System, created by NASA, played above the orchestra, that followed the music as Holtz took us from planet to planet. It was unexpected but really cool. Photo by Jess.

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