The Galactic Orchestra

Long ago, before the first human foot brushed extraterrestrial soil, a forgotten artist composed a work of art called “The Solar System Symphony.”

Those who came before him were also lovers of space, for they gathered and tabulated and arranged and calculated to assemble the physical properties and orbital characteristics of each of their solar neighbors. Ah, but this man was different. He assembled these works of high art and wove music. Working tirelessly for almost a decade, hunched over his desk, eschewing all social contact, he toiled desperately, tweaking and rearranging his algorithms to reproduce the music he could hear in his heart.

Jupiter: largo, baritone, he booms stately marches of enormous mass, punctuated by raging tempests over a thousand kilometers per hour; greedy gravity; liquid cold.

Mercury: hot, light, rocky staccato piccolo of only 59 days to complete its journey.

Neptune: constant, with a whistle of fast 16 hour days but his heart beats a near-death rhythm, requiring over a century and a half to complete his orbit; blues notes of upper atmosphere in hydrogen and helium.

Saturn: exotic and sweet, but with a devious intention, for her stylish rings have dark origin: the pull of her voice is so seductive that the moons she woos would fight each other, even to the death.

Earth? Ah, Earth. Sonorous, verdant, salubrious, the cradle of humanity. Her strong soprano resonates with the soul of every man. 24 hours is her day, 365 days her year, as it has been since the first man blinked his consciousness through iron and silica dust.

Me? I have orbited exactly 12,347 stars. I have personally broken the dust and the seas of 19,201 planets. I have sampled the atmosphere of tens of thousands more. I have seen stars so neighborly that to fly between them would mean death. I have known spaces so vast and empty that barely a star could be seen, and the shroud of night was the only promise from the frigid sky.

Who am I? I shall compose for the Milky Way Orchestra. And it shall be grand.

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6 thoughts on “The Galactic Orchestra

  1. I hope you’re going to continue on with this thought — the idea of a “cosmic composer” could bear some melodic fruit. Right now it feels like an introduction — was that your intention?

    And any thought as to the relation between what you wrote and Handel’s opus? Simply because what you wrote and his music don’t match — are you writing about a fictional composer, or is what Handel composed changed by the time the narrator speaks?

  2. I decided to change the wording a bit to “for the Milky Way Orchestra”, because composing an orchestra doesn’t actually make a whole lot of sense :p

    I’m unfamiliar with Handel’s work, so no, it was unintentional.

    What Jen said: it was more “flash fiction”, because I don’t really have an idea for it after this. The inspiration was actually a true story that I learned about in my Philosophy of Music class at South Carolina: a man assigned timbre and pitch to planets based on their mass and orbit. It was a sad affair though, and hardly worth remembering except my disappointment with how bland it was. I wish I could remember what it was called so you could hear it.

    I preferred to remember it like this.

  3. Mike — here’s a link to a good presentation of “Jupiter” from Holst’s the Planets. There are links for the other movements of the work there as well. Jupiter is my personal favorite; I imagine the tune in the middle of this movement will sound familiar to you.

  4. I like how you didn’t go through each of the planets, just some. At first I thought that you should have, but reading it again I’ve decided it’s better to keep it short the way it is. All the planets might have felt overdone (not to mention harder to write!).

    Your numbers confused me a little, though… At that many planets, he would have to visit one planet per day for 52 years. Would that even be possible?

    I suppose assuming space fold technology (my favorite form of FTL), it could be possible to visit more than one planet per day. Or maybe this guys is just really old.

    Just something to think about. Orson Scott Card said in his book “How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy” that whether you line it out in your story or not, you have to know how the mechanics of space travel work in your universe, and you have to be consistent with them.

    Good flash fiction piece, overall.

  5. I didn’t really think about how the numbers worked out, Brandon. I just kind of placed it in the realm of nearly limitless possibility. I think in my mind though, the guy was very very old. And if you know anything of the Milky Way, he’s just barely gotten started–something akin to thoroughly exploring your hometown before thoroughly exploring the entire world.

    Perhaps one day we’ll have the opportunity to explore in this manner, driven by something as flippant as a grand composition.

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