What We’re Listening To: Music for the Solar Eclipse

We have the perfect (symphonic) playlist for the eclipse

By Andrew Stiefel

The United States will experience a total solar eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017. The path of totality will cross in Oregon, about four hours South of Seattle. In honor of the event, we put together a playlist with some of our favorite music celebrating the sun.

Listen to the playlist on Spotify and let us know if you have any other suggestions! We’ll continue to add music throughout the weekend.

Helios Overture by Carl Nielsen

Follow the sun’s track through the sky, from sunrise to sunset, with this overture by Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Written in 1903 during his stay in Athen, Greece, Nielsen inscribed the following quote on the score:

“Silence and darkness,
The sun rises with a joyous song of praise,
It wanders its golden way
and sinks quietly into the sea.”

The Planets by Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst’s enduringly popular suite devoted to the planets continues to delight us. During the totality of the eclipse, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Venus will all be visible, from left to right. Speaking of space…

Also Sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss

Best known around the world as “that theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey,” the opening movement of Strauss’ orchestral poem depicts light racing across the horizon. Kubrick’s film is built around celestial symmetry, with planets hanging in the balance. Strauss’ opening perfectly captures the drama of Monday’s eclipse.

Lichtbogen by Kaija Saariaho

The music of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho frequently draws on connections to celestial objects. We’ve picked one of her pieces related to solar phenomena, Lichtbogen, which evokes the shimmering luminescence of the Aurora Borealis. The mysterious music is also perfect for contemplation during the eclipse itself.

Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin

Alexander Borodin’s opera tells the story of a total solar eclipse in 1185 that was sighted by the Prince and his army during a campaign against the Polovtsians. The eclipse was considered a bad omen and figures prominently in the story.

“Total Eclipse” from Samson, HWV 57 by George Frideric Handel

Long before Bonnie Taylor recorded “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” composer George Frideric Handel wrote an aria about the total eclipse in his 1741 oratorio, Samson. Also from Haydn, we suggest the duet “Shall the Sun Forget to Streak Eastern Skies?” from his oratorio, Solomon.

Eclipse Musings by Augusta Read Thomas

This compact, two part concerto from American composer Augusta Read Thomas is a delightful, colorful journey for flute, guitar and chamber orchestra. We also suggest listening to her duo for violin and cello, Silent Moon.

“Sacrificial Dance” from The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky

Why not include some music that NASA sent into space? There’s something barbaric about watching the sun’s light disappear, so we’re adding Stravinsky’s “Sacrificial Dance” from The Rite of Spring.

Symphony No 3 “Illumination…Eclipse” by Robin de Raaff

Dutch composer Robin de Raaff captures the motion and drama of the event in his Third Symphony, aptly subtitled “Illumination…Eclipse.”

What do you think?

Did we leave out some of your favorite eclipse music? Let us know on Facebook Messenger or Twitter!

Listen to the playlist on Spotify and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more stories and music from the Seattle Symphony. #listenboldly