Listening to the music of stars


In our coming concert on 16th December, we will be celebrating piano music and songs about stars and performing music that we hope would inspire you to listen more to stars, to revisit thoughts about stars, to reflect on the feelings stars invoke in us and the meanings we impute to them, and to wonder more about stars and the world around us.

And we are going from “hearing the song in the music (2018) to “reaching out to the stars” (2019-2020) … from hearing song themes in piano music (here’s our list from last year of 10 favourite song-inspired piano music) to reaching out to see and hear the sounds and songs of our universe.

But what is the music of the stars?  This is a serious question that has some serious answers.

We wanted to share four of these.

First, scientists have discovered singing stars!  NASA has found stars “singing” – listen here!  Interestingly, stars make sound naturally in their outermost layers by turbulence and this gets trapped, similar to sound in a musical instrument.

Second and more harmonically, we have already confessed our love for 6 songs from musicals that are about stars and are our musical obsessions too.  (There are many, many songs in classical music that are about stars – we will write about this in a Part 2 to this post!)

Stars have also inspired much piano music: here is the list of our 6 favourite piano pieces that are about stars (4 of these will be in our programme for our December concert).

Fourth and finally, we most definitively heard stars colliding and collapsing into each other when on 14 September 2015 the LIGO in the US picked up, for the first time ever, some unusual sounds they had been built to detect.  These “gravitational waves” may be more accurately called the “wailing” sounds of these stars rather than the stars singing, and the stars were colliding and collapsing billions of kilometres away from us, but detection of these gravitational waves was of great significance as it provided direct proof of Einstein’s theorem exactly 100 years after it was proposed.

Finally, we give you a verse from one of most favourite poems about listening for stars, as well as Mozart urging us to listen also:

We are listening for a sound
beyond us, beyond sound

an electronic murmur
a bright, fragile I am.
(Diane Ackerman)

The music is not in the notes but in the silence in between.
(W.A. Mozart)



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