Archive for moon landings

The First Landing on the Irish

Posted in History with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2019 by telescoper

While at the Irish National Astronomy Meeting last week I picked up a free copy of the magazine Astronomy Ireland. I chuckled when I saw this little item about the stamps issued in Ireland to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 first landing on the Moon:

If you can’t read the text it refers to a spelling error in the Irish language version of the caption on the Neil Armstrong stamp at the top image: instead of the Irish word for Moon (Gealach) the text contains the word for Irish (Gaelach). The caption thus translates as the 50th Anniversary of the First Landing on the Irish


Also Sprach Zarathrustra: Einleitung, oder Sonnenaufgang

Posted in History, Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , on July 21, 2019 by telescoper

Here is a short video of the historic first manned landing on the Moon. I don’t know about you but I find the ghostly images are extremely affecting.

If there’s one piece of music indelibly associated with the Apollo missions, it’s the piece accompanying that clip: the introduction (or `Dawn’) from the orchestral tone poem Also Sprach Zarathrustra by Richard Strauss. Amazingly it was only a couple of years ago that I heard this piece performed live for the first time. I vividly remember how  the percussionists were clearly enjoying themselves during that performance. Not many orchestral pieces start with the percussion section front and centre. Whenever I’ve heard the piece since then I can’t help thinking how much I’d love to have a bash at the timpani part!

Anyway, here’s a clip from the Proms a few years ago to give you some idea of the tremendous impact this piece can have when you hear it in a concert hall.





Also Sprach Zarathustra

Posted in Biographical, Music, Poetry with tags , , , , on September 8, 2009 by telescoper

Today is the 60th anniversary of the death of the great composer Richard Strauss in 1949. I’ve already used up the music which is probably the most appropriate for this occasion, so I thought I’d mark it instead with a clip from the work that is probably most familiar to my likely readership, Also Sprach Zarathustra, as used in the closing stages of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey.

This little clip is from the final stages of the film, though the music itself is from the opening segment of the Strauss work, the part that represents the Sunrise.

For people of my age, this music is inextricably linked not only with the film, but also with the TV coverage of the moon landings that happened about the same time as its release, about 40 years ago, and for which it also provided the theme music. I don’t know which came first. I’d love to be able to say that these events are behind what made me become an astrophysicist but, as I’ve explained before, the truth is somewhat different.

Anyway, the theme of transfiguration and rebirth depicted in the movie  seems to me to be one more closely related to Strauss’ earlier work Tod und Verklärung,  and it always makes me think of the following lines from East Coker, the second of the Four Quartets by TS Eliot:

Old men ought to be explorers
Here or there does not matter
We must be still and still moving
Into another intensity
For a further union, a deeper communion
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation,
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
Of the petrel and the porpoise. In my end is my beginning.