The world premiere outside Washington last week featured the first public performance of “‘Cosmic Cycles: A Space Symphony” and vivid images compiled by the US space agency.
Henry Dehlinger, its American composer, describes it as “almost a work of art”.
“It’s not just music, it’s not just pictures, it’s not a score for a picture,” the 56-year-old said before an AFP launch event.
“It’s an immersive experience that combines both images and sound,” he said.
A similar attempt was made by the English composer Gustav Holst a century earlier, but when he wrote his famous hymn to “The Planets”, astronomy was still only theoretical.
Since then, humans have walked on the moon, sent research labs to Mars and explored the solar system with powerful telescopes billions of light years away.
Films from that research, compiled into seven short films by NASA producers, inspired Dehlinger.
“I almost had to pinch myself that this is not fiction, this is real, this is not science fiction, this is real science,” he said.
Piotr Gajewski, music director and conductor of the National Philharmonic, explained that the idea for the project came after previous work with NASA on images accompanying a double performance of Claude Debussy’s “La Mer” (“The Sea”) and “The Planets.” .”
For Wade Sisler, executive producer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the challenge paid off.
“It’s a journey like I’ve never helped anyone take,” Sisler told AFP.
‘Like Van Gogh’s paintings’
The seven-part piece begins at the heart of our solar system, with scenes of the Sun, its spinning, roaring surface, and bursts of particles toward the planets.
The next two movements focus on NASA explorations of our planet through photographs of Earth taken by astronauts, from a global perspective.
In addition to photos and videos, interspersed throughout the seven films are a “fascinating set of data visualizations” created by NASA, explained Sisler.
For example, the scenes in the ocean currents, he says, “look like when you play Van Gogh paintings. The colors are beautiful, you see patterns you’ve never noticed before.”
A fourth section focusing on the Moon follows profiles of each planet, including a focus on images of the Martian surface taken by NASA rovers.
For example, Jupiter, according to Dehlinger, is introduced musically with the “Royal Theme”, blaring and blaring horns.
Symphony takes a closer look at recent experiments on asteroids before the grand finale of nebulae, black holes and other interstellar phenomena.
In addition to the two performances at locations outside Washington, NASA posted videos on its YouTube page featuring a condensed version of Dehlinger’s audio.
‘A Great Mystery’
Director Gajewski explained that the decision was made to be more “fluid” rather than aiming for perfect timing, to indicate the same importance between music and video.
That approach allows you to “find a few moments that are different every time and every run.”
“We really wanted people to experience music, artists, and science in one seamless creation,” Sisler added.
Knowing that the images and works are real, Sisler said, “Anything that can be created with AI (artificial intelligence), while triggering anything with digital effects, gets a strong response from the audience in the digital age.”
That factor made the films perfect companions for orchestral pieces, Gajewski said.