Gustav Holst’s The Planets is perhaps one of the best-known suites of classical music; I doubt there are many reading these words who have not heard it at least in part. Notably, perhaps, thanks to Mars: Bringer of War and Jupiter: Bringer of Jollity (a movement from which is often used – possibly with Holst’s own posthumous disapproval – as the music for I Vow To Thee My Country).
Written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after one of the seven major planets of the Solar System beyond Earth, and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst. The pieces are richly evocative and emotive – hence their popularity in modern western culture, and perfect for interpretation through many mediums – dance, theatre, film and musical re-arrangement.
Holst’s Suite forms the focus for Caledonia Skytower’s Poetry of the Planets, which opened on Sunday, April 2nd, and runs through until the end of May. It offers a unique means ffor further interpreting Holst’s music – through the designs built by Caledonia, the music and our own words.
“Legend has it that the Ancient Gods of the Greeks have abandoned this realm, but evidence of their existence can be found above, in celestial spheres,” Cale explains. “These signs and symbols, both direct and abstract, are also reflected in Gustav Holst’s 1918 orchestral suite, The Planets, Op 32.”
And thus, we are invited to take the teleport boards from Olympus Island, where a visit begins, and travel the spheres of Holst’s suite (Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity – to use the original titles for each piece in the suite before the names of the planets were appended in 1918 – have yet to be added).
Within the spheres, scenes have been set which elegantly reflect the central theme of each piece, while a web link allows visitors to hear the associated piece from Holst’s suite via YouTube. Uranus, for example, offers a world of light and symbols, circles turn, runes glow, stars are born and fade mist hides and reveals – all emblematic of the arcane science of magic.
Meanwhile, Saturn offers a long winding patch that twists ever upward, passing windows in which a candle slowly burns. Steps along this winding path are in keeping with the doleful beat to The Bringer of Old Age, while the windows and the candle remind us of the passing of years, the slowness of progress up the hill a physical reminder of growing age until we reach the top – and?
As you explore these spheres and allow their mystique and the beauty of Holst’s music infuse you, you may well be moved to words and poetry – which is precisely the aim.
“Let your exploration of one or all of the planets inspire you to write a poem, Cale explains. “You need not be an experienced poet – all poems are welcome. You are even welcome to write a poem about Olympus Island itself.
“One poem a day will be featured here on the project blog, In May, at the end of the project, there will be a reading event to share selections from the featured project poems.”
Dropboxes for poems can be found within each of the spheres, close to the landing point in each (where a blue sphere also offers a teleport back to the temple at ground level), and Cale points out that all rights to the poems submitted are retained by the poem’s author.
Poetry of the Planets is an inspired idea, bringing together fable, mysticism, music and words – and a wonderful means by which we can immerse ourselves in Holst’s suite. I look forward to a return visit to witness Bringer of War and Bringer of Jollity – and to trying my hand at writing a poem or two.
Poetry of the Planets will be open through until the end of May, as noted – and don’t forget to visit the resource centre while there.
- Poetry of the Planets (LEA , rated: Moderate)