by Matthew Whitehouse

The link between music and astronomy has deep historical roots.  Pythagoras, in his notion of the “Music of the Spheres,” associated vibration ratios of strings with movements of the planets.  In the Middle Ages, both music and astronomy – along with arithmetic and geometry – were considered to be part of a group of disciplines known as the quadrivium.  William Herschel, often considered to be the father of modern astronomy, was a composer, organist, and central figure in the musical life of Bath, England during the late 1700s.  The fabulous Herschel Museum in Bath has an entire room with exhibits related to Herschel’s music career.

The science of astronomy exploded in the 20th century, driven by rapid advances in technology and the construction of increasingly large and sophisticated telescopes and related instrumentation.  The 20th century was a similarly dynamic period in music history, with the rapid pace of scientific and technological developments having a profound effect on composers.  Computers became incorporated into music composition and performance, and experimental music became increasingly common.  This experimentation continues into the 21st century.  In 20th- and 21st-century music, it is not uncommon even for pieces involving only traditional instruments to have a scientific or experimental bent.

Fiorella pic2The music of Fiorella Terenzi, January’s Astro-Artist of the month, connects into this long history of links between astronomy and music.  Her music is also part of the 20th- and 21st century tradition of experimentation.  As you listen to “Music from the Galaxies,” think about both the historical connections between music and science and the more recent interactions between modern science and modern music.  The links have roots that extend into antiquity – and yet are strikingly contemporary.






"Cosmic Time" by Dr. Fiorella Terenzi

"Plasma Waves" by Dr. Fiorella Terenzi



Dr. Fiorella Terenzi is an Italian-born astrophysicist and composer currently based in the United States. Terenzi is the AWB "Astro-Artist of the Month" for January 2013.

Author Matthew Whitehouse is an organist, composer, and educator fascinated in combining music and astronomy. He is part of the AWB AstroArt program.



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