Week 7 Reflection: Jupiter

Holst’s movement Jupiter might be the most famous of the suite’s pieces next to Mars. While not used as frequently in science-fiction films, it is the movement most often played by itself on the radio or in a performance. And it is no wonder – the piece is memorable, with a strong, repeated melody and variations on it supported, rather than contested, by the accompanying instruments. In this way, the structure of the song is more like a pop or vocal song, with a main voice performing the melody and the rest of the instrumentation providing the background.

However, Holst does something in this movement different from the majority of music with a strong melodic line: he gives the melody to the bass instruments. The theme is first introduced by the brass, namely the tubas, trombones, and euphoniums, echoed briefly by the bright trumpets before bouncing back to the lower brass. Again and again, any new section of the melody or variation on it is first played by the low instruments, and only echoed by the higher instruments – the clarinets, flutes, trumpets, oboes, etc… – which the rest of the time are relegated to providing a scintillating background. This conveys the effect of the mass, weight, and sheer gargantuan proportions of the largest planet in the system.

The melody itself is audacious and jovial… except for the middle section. Here the melody shift to the mid-tone instruments – french horns, lower strings, and the lower registers of the clarinets – and takes on a slower, steadier, reflective tone, like someone thinking of happy, by-gone days. In fact, the conductor in the video has to make an exaggerated face to remind the players this section is supposed to be happy too as the emotion of the section almost slips into a melancholic nostalgia. Besides simply providing contrast, it’s difficult to imagine what the purpose of the middle section is suppose to be. Wistfulness doesn’t quite seem to fit the personality of the god of joy.

The sheer size of sound in the piece is absolutely evocative of the size of Jupiter – it is 11 times the diameter of Earth and almost 318 times its mass. There the similarities end, however. Jupiter is an inhospitable planet. The composition is mostly hydrogen and helium, similar to the sun, mostly in liquid form because of the intense atmospheric pressure. This liquid hydrogen forms the largest ocean in the solar system. The atmosphere itself, though, is incredibly only 1% of the planet’s radius. The entire “surface” of the planet that can be seen through a telescope is actually clouds, rotating around the planet in belts of high, bright gasses and lower clouds which reflect back less light, therefore appearing darker. While we can’t get an instrument down far enough to tell what the temperature is deeper than 130km, the core itself is estimated to be five times hotter than the surface of the sun. Jupiter also has 63 confirmed moons by the latest count! Its sheer mass is able to hold these numerous satellites in orbit. There is a possibility that on some of the moons, such as Europa, which have evidence of significant amounts of water, there might be life. Eight of these moons are large enough that if they orbited the sun instead, they would be considered dwarf planets. Jupiter is almost a solar system within a solar system. Given today’s knowledge, if The Planets were rewritten, it might be more suitable to evoke Jupiter the King and Jupiter the Father, rather than Jupiter the Jovial.

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CHID 496

14 February 2011

 

I find Jupiter to be the most interesting planet we have studied so far.  The planet is different from any of the terrestrial worlds in almost every respect.  Possessing a mass and size difficult to conceptualize, Jupiter is the center of its own miniature solar system.  The planet is extremely colorful, unlike the monotone visages of Mars, Venus, and Mercury.  The planet has no identifiable surface.  All of the gas giants are of a similar type, but looking first at Jupiter, the grandest gas giant, creates a large contrast between the gas planets and the rocky worlds.

Listening to Holst’s music, the brass section sounds something like a fanfare until 1:03 where the actual melody begins.  Jupiter, the king of the gods is the namesake of the king of the planets, so this amount of introduction makes a great deal of sense.

Holst characterizes Jupiter as the bringer of jollity.  Thus I would expect the piece to be full of exuberant energy and an almost drunken happiness.  But it nowhere attains this reveling attitude.  Instead, much of the piece maintains a measure of dignity as the melody marches on.  The movement in the melody suggests purpose and direction; the music is inspiring.  I find all this to be an appropriate characterization of creator king of gods.  I am not sure what Holst means by jollity.  The music is too serious in parts, such as 3:40, to be considered happy.  Perhaps Holst refers to the feelings brought on by hope and self-confidence.

Either way, I am glad that the music’s emotional content is multi-dimensional.  Mars was almost entirely a nerve-wracking war march, and Venus never once left its peaceful demeanor.  But Jupiter is not always blasting majestic tones.  Consider the quietness of 2:50 and the use of a tambourine at 6:30.  These sections seem slightly outside of the unassailable dignity of royalty which seems to pervade other sections of the peace.  This fits the god Jupiter, who was anything but constant.  There are times when Jupiter is the role-model and mediator, but also Jupiter is a womanizer.  Sometimes too, Jupiter is wrathful.

With Venus and Mercury, I have remarked upon the disparity between the music and the physical counterparts.  However, with Jupiter, I think Holst is right on point.  If anything, Jupiter is awe-inspiring, and the music captures that.  I think of Jupiter with an amount of reverence and wonder.  I think it will be a long time before humans are so familiar with the planet and its workings that Holst’s grand rendition seems out of place.

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Weekly Response #4

02/14/2011

 

 

I like the idea that Jupiter could have been a second sun to our solar system had things turned out a little differently. It is fascinating to me that with all of its moons, Jupiter is almost like a mini-solar system within our own solar system. The sheer size of Jupiter is pretty amazing, especially when the book shows the size of Earth right next to Jupiter. I, like I think a lot of people, am especially interested in Jupiter’s moons. I think it was the movie GATTACA which first interested me most in Jupiter’s moons—in the movie, the main character is set to go to Europa, if I’m not mistaken.

That this large Jovian planet is named after the Roman King of the Gods is appropriate given its sheer size and the dramatic effects it has on the rest of the solar system. That it affects meteors and asteroids and actually helps protect some of the inner planets from these stray bodies is rather like something you’d expect from the King of the Gods. Without Jupiter, Earth would not be what it is today.

The planet itself from where we can view it looks beautiful with the swirling gasses and the Great Red Spot. This is appropriate for the music of Holst’s. The music is both beautiful and wondrous. There is a feeling of definite joviality in this piece, which seems to reflect a regal ruler of the Gods. The usage of brass instruments in several portions of the piece also add to the idea of royalty being reflected in the music. I really enjoyed this composition. It is indeed very majestic and awe inspiring, just as it should be. I felt the movement of this piece and felt that it had purpose and direction. This is my favorite piece so far. The amount of variability in the music is great. It doesn’t get boring. Everything keeps moving and is optimistic and bright sounding.

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Jupiter: Bringer of Jolly

 

It makes perfect sense that Jupiter was the king of the Roman Gods, given its massive size, strong magnetic field, and intimidating Great Red Spot.  Jupiter’s size is simply impossible for me to imagine, given that it is overwhelming to think about how big the Earth is (relative to me), and that the Great Red Spot alone is twice the diameter of Earth.  Given its daunting nature, it is difficult to connect Jupiter the feeling of being jolly.  Jupiter orbits rapidly, has an extremely hot core temperature, has more moons than any other planet, and even has a ring made up of microscopic particles, easily making it the ruler of the solar system, but not so easily invoking a sense jolliness.

Of all of the unique aspects of Jupiter, perhaps the most interesting are its four Galilean moons: Callisto, Ganymede, Europa, and Io.   Each moon has its own story and distinctive characteristics.  Callisto is a mixture of both ice and rock and while it has only a weak magnetic field of its own, it does interact with Jupiter’s magnetic field, suggesting that this moon actually has a layer of liquid water.  Ganymede is also a mixture of ice and rock, but it is mostly rock.  It has a mysterious magnetic field and relies on tidal heating for its heat source.  Europa is a mixture of rock and metal, with an icy surface that is almost completely free of craters, despite being closer to Jupiter than Ganymede.  It does not have a magnetic field, but the interaction from the magnetic field of Jupiter indicates that Europa has a liquid-water ocean that could contain twice as much water as all of the oceans on the Earth!  Io is the innermost moon, and yet does not have any impact craters on its surface due to its 150 plus active volcanoes.  There is no water on Io; instead it is mostly rock and sulfur.

While Jupiter itself does not seem very jolly, Gustav Holst’s movement for Jupiter certainly does.  It is upbeat and inviting, and even reminded me a bit of Christmas.  It is by far my favorite of all of the Planet songs so far.  The beginning and the end of the song reminded me of another song I had heard, but I could not quite figure out where I had heard it.  After listening to Holst’s music for about 30 minutes, it finally donned on me that I heard similar music in the chorus of a song from the first Shrek movie.  After another 30 minutes, I found this song on YouTube-it’s called It Is You (I Have Loved) by Dana Glover.  I then listened to this song for awhile before going back to Holst, and they indeed sounded very similar to me.  The piece by Holst is very symmetric, with the beginning and the end sounding almost identical, and the middle being a lot softer.

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