For as long as mankind has gazed up into the night sky at the stars and planets following their ordained course, the imagination has been set free. In ancient days, people spoke of “music of the spheres”, ghostly sounds that were long thought to have been created by the planetary bodies brushing past each other. The music they made was ethereal and, quite literally, otherworldly.
“I’ve been fascinated for a long time by this idea of ‘spherical music’ and by the philosophers, mathematicians and musicians who expounded their theory of musica universalis over the centuries,” explains Daniel Hope. “It started with Pythagoras and extended to some of those extraordinary German thinkers such as Johannes Kepler who were convinced that music was created when planets move or collide, and that music had a mathematical foundation, a kind of astronomical harmony. I thought it was significant that these were brilliant scientists and mathematicians, not just soothsayers. My aim was to make an album touching on this sublime theme, while also discovering what composers nowadays might write when thinking in this context.”
“Spheres” can be interpreted in a number of ways, beginning with the exploration of pieces that ally themselves to the concept of extraterrestial music which can as easily come from the 17th century as from the 21st. But the circularity of a sphere, the shape’s roundness, can also be related to the use of repetition in much of modern music – from the minimalism of Philip Glass via the fusing of the minimal with a more overtly emotional language, as in Michael Nyman’s Trysting Fields (music from the soundtrack to Peter Greenaway’s film Drowning by Numbers), to the quirky and immediately communicative Eliza Aria by Elena Kats-Chernin. (James Jolly)