Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on the Theme by Thomas Tallis

Many of my favorite pieces of music I associate with the night sky. This is because my father, who was throughout my life a planetarium director, often used his favorite pieces of music as background during planetarium shows. Being the oldest, I frequently had the chance to tag along to planetarium shows, and sit under the dome, listening to my father's voice. And so now, when I hear something like Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on the Theme by Thomas Tallis I find myself thinking of the constellations, and I also find myself oddly misty about the eyes.

4 comments:

j. christian said...

I don't think it's odd to get misty about that piece of music; it has that effect on me, and I don't have the same associations that you do. I especially love the counterpoint when the theme is repeated near the end of the piece.

Do you have any favorite constellations, stars, or other objects in the night sky? Things that you always find yourself looking for?

Darwin said...

For all the time I spent in the planetarium and watching my dad point out constellations under the real sky, I'm afraid my constellation knowledge is probably no better than normal. I can pick out planets from stars reliably, and I instantly recognize Orion and the two dippers. Plus I recall that you and find Polaris by drawing a line through the two stars in the front edge of the bowl of the big dipper, and that you can find Arcturus by drawing an arc through the stars of the handle of the big dipper (follow the arc to Arcturus). I can also recognize the Pleides by sight, and I guess I could also claim credit for being able to find the Orion Nebula, but that's easy since it's the fuzzy patch where a sword hangs on Orion's belt.

Sadly, that's about the limit for me. Perhaps a function of how you get so used to being shown someting by someone else that you never bother to learn it yourself. And a little sad.

Though I certainly have memories that center around the stars, it's the actual music from Planetarium shows which primarily has an emotional hold on me. Though for me (and I think this may be a general human reaction) aural memory seems much stronger than visual. Extreme example: There's a spot in my back yard, under and around the playscape, where when mowing I invariably remember a passage from a biography of Winston Churchill which once (several years ago) I was listening to on my ipod while mowing that spot.

BettyDuffy said...

Had the pleasure of playing this piece in high school youth orchestra. Conjures up all kinds of old memories for me too, not the least of which: being jazzed up on classical music (not Mozart or Bach), and the principal cellist who, in our performance, sat out in front of the Orchestra in a chamber ensemble within the orchestral ensemble. Envy, admiration, and the thrill of experiencing a sound that was entirely new to me at the time, and that wonderful crescendo where every instrument is playing about three different chords at once--made the chandeliers vibrate.

Good memories.

Jan said...

I've lived with the Tallis since I was 12, over 50 years back, and it never ceases to hold me in that place which I then find hard to leave. For me, it speaks of something about England, its truest values of aspiration and maybe even fortitude, and that is why it is the most 'English' of pieces, 180 degrees reversal of narrow chauvinism. Heard it as a boy when it was being rehearsed at Gloucester Cathedral when I was in a school party visiting there. Hooked, lined and sinkered for British Music from then so that now I'm trying to start British Music Radio on line. Funny about the astronomical association, maybe it makes us all look upwards in body and mind?