Friday Classical Music: Ceres by Mark-Anthony Turnage
This is perhaps the only piece of music inspired by the horrific destruction of humanity by an enormous piece of rock. I saw this performed live last weekend, along with two related pieces he composer wrote later, and so I quote from the program notes for that performance:
I was inspired to write Ceres after reading Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. Ceres was one of the first asteroids to be discovered. I took the idea of asteroids being rocky objects, all of which are capable of colliding with the earth and all of which are moving at slightly different courses through the sky at different rates. There are possibly two thousand asteroids big enough to imperil civilized existence. Even a small asteroid the size of a house could destroy a city (paraphrased from pages 241-43 of Bill Bryson’s book).
The idea of the piece is that different blocks of material (the first two a tune with florid clarinet accompaniment and then a syncopated trombone idea) gradually collide into a dense climactic section, then split apart. I was very attracted to the doomsday aspect of asteroids and the idea that the earth could be destroyed by one any day. Maybe this was affected by my strict religious upbringing that in the book of Revelation warned of Armageddon and the destruction of an evil world.
There is no recording of Ceres as I heard last weekend, that is, as part of the complete set of three. Ceres can be purchased as part of a disk headlined by Holst’s The Planets. This disk includes an additional composition for Pluto (unknown during Holst’s time, and, ironically, now no longer a planet) and others for different astrological phenomena.