Saving Holst (and Star Wars)

While you’re waiting for me to start blogging, I thought I would publish a few of my “Saving (composer’s name)” series that I wrote for the Community MX blog some years back. This third one is about “Saving Holst”.

Saving Holst (and Star Wars)
Posted Wednesday, July 13, 2005 8:49:41 AM by Sheri German
After reading my blog piece called Saving Schoenberg, my daughter asked me what composer I was going to try to save next. So, I thought, it’s a series now, is it? Why then, let’s spin a series within a series! With the recent release of yet another Star Wars movie, what better composer to save than the English composer Gustav Holst (1874-1934)?

If you’re wondering what Holst has to do with Star Wars, you may not know that he wrote a piece called The Planets that saw a lot of heavy lifting from the Star War movie’s sound track composer, John Williams. You can read all about it at A Young Person’s Guide to Holst’s Planets – Mars Here’s a paragraph from that page:

“Gustav Holst’s “Mars: Bringer of War” will sound familiar to science fiction buffs, as much of the score of Star Wars consists of John William’s variations. In particular, compare the climax of this movement to the music accompanying the destruction of the Death Star.”

Sneaky, huh? Someone’s been tricking you into listening to classical music.

This brings me to an important point for anyone who would like to like classical music, but is at a loss while listening to hardcore composers. It really makes sense, especially for young people: start from what you know. Movie scores are a good bridge between classical music and what you know. Indeed, much movie music borrows heavily from classical music.

If you like the Star Wars music, first listen to Mars, the Bringer of War from The Planets. It is full of percussion, brass, and dare I say it? It gets going like heavy metal. From parents who want to give their children a little music education to anyone who wants something exciting to crank up on the car stereo while speeding down the Interstate, The Planets is a great segue into classical music. (I have an “audiophile sound system” in my car, and I am always sure to turn up the bass while listening to this piece, and to never let my ear stray too far from the fantastic orchestration for the percussion instruments.)

After you listen to Mars, you can move on to the other movements:

Venus, the Bringer of Peace
Mercury, the Winged Messenger
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
Uranus, the Magician
Neptune, the Mystic
Yes, Earth and Pluto are missing.

The piece was written before Pluto was discovered in 1930, and you might want to speculate why Holst did not translate the planet Earth into sound. If you want to know about Holst’s interest in astrology during the time he was composing this piece, or how Stravinsky influenced this work, you can read all about it at

In spite of what you may have heard, however, you don’t have to know what dissonance is, or what period in music history this piece is from, or what key signature it’s in, or anything else in order to “get it” and fall in love with the music. Just enjoy. And who knows? You may very well save Holst…