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Music Impressed by Astronomy: A Catalog

June 11, 2019 - Comment

Catalogs are helpful in astronomy. Now there’s one devoted to musical items influenced by astronomy. Andrew Fraknoi paying a go to to Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe in Prague in 2012. Alexander Fraknoi Because the occupation started, astronomers have relied on catalogs for a plethora of various issues: object coordinates, lunar phases, stellar magnitudes, planetary


Catalogs are helpful in astronomy. Now there’s one devoted to musical items influenced by astronomy.

Andrew Fraknoi paying a go to to Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe in Prague in 2012.
Alexander Fraknoi

Because the occupation started, astronomers have relied on catalogs for a plethora of various issues: object coordinates, lunar phases, stellar magnitudes, planetary conjunctions, galaxy morphologies, star cluster diameters, you title it. The checklist is limitless. Now, a brand new type of catalog is accessible: an astronomical music catalog. Let’s meet the individual the behind the catalog.

Andrew Fraknoi, a graduate of Harvard College and the College of California, Berkeley, and not too long ago retired Chair of the Division of Astronomy at Foothill School, is well-known for his lifetime work in making astronomy eminently accessible to not solely his college students but additionally most people. He has a protracted checklist of credentials and recognitions, the latest being the 2019 Area Educator: Lifetime Achievement Award from the Nationwide Area Membership.

Fraknoi found early on, whereas nonetheless in graduate college, that he had a knack for speaking his ardour for astronomy to a variety of audiences. All through his lengthy and profitable educating profession, a big fraction of his college students had been non-science majors. Striving to make astronomy vibrant and accessible to them, Fraknoi drew on connections between astronomy and extra acquainted disciplines and pursuits, similar to artwork, poetry, philately, cartoons, science fiction, ecology, and likewise music.

Music has all the time been an integral a part of Fraknoi’s life. He and his spouse are avid symphony-goers, however he listens to a variety of genres, from classical to Broadway to rock-and-roll and past. So whereas educating astronomy, Fraknoi was naturally tuned to musical references in his quest to encourage his college students. Having used music extensively in his decades-long profession, Fraknoi figured it is likely to be helpful not solely to himself but additionally to different astronomy educators and researchers to collect this data in a single place.

Thus Fraknoi’s catalog, “Music Impressed by Astronomy,” was cast.

The catalog is organized each by astronomical subject (Occupied with black holes? Head to that part. May eclipses be your factor? There’s a piece for that, too) and by musical style. The present iteration of the catalog has greater than 250 items listed, many with embedded hyperlinks to YouTube movies or different on-line sources.

Which musical genres are included within the catalog? Nicely, all types. Nonetheless, Fraknoi could be very clear about one factor: “I solely acquire music the place there’s a severe intention about together with vital and proper astronomy, not simply using random astronomical phrases.” This implies, for instance, there are not any songs which are restricted to rhymes of “Moon” and “June.” By the identical token, Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” isn’t included within the catalog as a result of its astrological, and never astronomical, foundation.

The breadth and scope of the entries is staggering. Even for these musically inclined, there are actually surprises in there.

Actual astronomical information was used to create this enjoyable piece.
Alex Parker and Melissa Graham

Amongst Fraknoi’s favorites are works that discover a novel connection between astronomy and music. One good instance is the “Supernova Sonata” by Alex Parker and Melissa Graham. On this piece, 241 Sort Ia supernovae noticed between 2003–2006 with the Canada-France-Hawaii telescope present the premise for the musical notes: Every notice corresponds to a supernova, calibrated in pitch and quantity relying on distance and stretch (how the supernova brightens after which fades), whereas totally different devices characterize lots of the host galaxy.

There are some attention-grabbing items within the catalog showcasing collaborations between composers astronomers. Leo Smit’s “Copernicus: Narrative and Credo,” written occasionally of the 500th anniversary of Nicolaus Copernicus’s beginning, encompasses a declaration of cosmic perception by Fred Hoyle, who was good mates with the composer. Mario Livio (previously of the Area Telescope Science Institute) was an adviser on and narrated “The Hubble Cantata” by Juilliard graduate Paola Prestini, whereas Fred Watson, an English-born Australian astronomer, contributed the textual content to Australian composer Ross Edwards’s “Symphony No. four ‘Star Chant.’” Even Nobel laureates have gotten in on the musical recreation: George Smoot, winner of the 2006 Nobel prize, collaborated with Mickey Hart, drummer of the Grateful Lifeless, on “Rhythms of the Universe,” a multisensory exploration of the cosmos.

Mars fever was excessive when this march was composed by Raymond Taylor and organized by Edward Taylor Paull in 1901.
Library of Congress, Music Division

Fraknoi commonly dips into his catalog to select a bit or two for a lecture or an outreach occasion. For instance, when discussing the Moon’s diminished gravity vis-a-vis Earth’s, Fraknoi performs excerpts from “Strolling on the Moon,” through which The Police examine how gentle one feels in love with how gentle one would really feel on the Moon. One other well-liked lecture collection, “Einstein for Poets,” through which Fraknoi explains Einstein’s scientific theories and concepts with out resorting to any arithmetic, will get kicked off with “Einstein on the Seashore,” an opera by Philip Glass.

Should you’re an astronomy educator, you, too, will discover inspiration from Fraknoi’s catalog. Dip into it, and see the place the notes take you. Possibly you’re a researcher engaged on a paper — tune right into a cosmic overture for background music.

As soon as the catalog started to achieve traction, fellow colleagues and college students started sending Fraknoi ideas, for which he was and continues to be grateful. Do you may have any suggestions? You’ll be able to drop Fraknoi a line right here. However keep in mind: Solely severe astronomical musical ideas will likely be thought-about.

Completely satisfied listening!



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