Music meets science with historic Planets concert

Carolina Colon

Today the Music and Physics departments will join forces to create an out-of-this-world-inspired multimedia concert for the first time in Iowa State history.  

The concert, “Planets,” is a seven-movement orchestra of the eight distinct planets by composer Gustav Holst. He composed his work based on astrology.

This movement motivated the Music Department to expand the usual concert in music to join with the Physics and Astronomy departments.

The performance gives an opportunity to feature the ISU Planetarium by creating a multimedia performance, including a large screen with standing lights presenting a series of images from a variety of NASA missions to different planets.

“Music was written in the 20th Century before planets were discovered,” said Jacob Harrison, director of orchestral activities and creator of the concert. “The difference is remarkable between the music elements and how we can relate that to the planets themselves.”

Harrison explained how excited he felt for this new event to take place.

“In general, this is an exciting and fun concert to learn about creative music [and a] really interesting way to show how the music and planets connect,” Harrison said.

Preparation for the event included rehearsals twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6 p.m. since the end of October. 

The ISU Symphony has a diverse pool of student musicians, not all of whom are music majors. There are about 30 different majors represented. 

Samuel Hall, senior in music explained his feelings toward the event.

“Everybody is excited,” Hall said. “The orchestra is really full of excitement for the concert. This is a really good conclusion to this semester’s concert season.” 

Curtis Struck, professor of astrophysics, explained how science is applied to this special event.

“Science and music did develop together,” Struck said. “Science and those beliefs were born together and separated later. This is a great opportunity for people that enjoy one or the other, beautiful music and science.”

Jillian Neeley, third year graduate in astronomy and physics, explained how she got involved with the event.

“We worked with the music theory students when developing the documentary of the different movements of the planets,” Neely said. “I’m really interested to see this in many different ways.”

Neely said this event will expand students’ knowledge about the planets by displaying the information in a creative and artful way.

“Planets” is the first concert in Iowa State history performed with the collaboration of another department. Tickets were $5 for students and $10 for adults, the performance will be held in the Martha-Ellen Tye Recital Hall.

The concert sold out two weeks before the event. The creators had even considered performing a second show. The concert can even be viewed online through the website: