Picture: European Southern Observatory

Take an armchair ride into space during a unique concert combining baroque music and spectacular images of the universe.

By Ara Jansen

It’s a tantalising idea to think that somewhere out there in the universe there are others like us or planets like ours.

Astrophysicist and planetary geologist Dr Antony Brian is more interested in what we can see and potentially touch on the way to meeting those universal citizens.  

After doing a PhD on volcanoes and the resurfacing history of the planet Venus at University College London, Brian followed a mentor to California to continue his work, primarily researching and mapping Venus’s volcanoes covering areas around the size of Brazil.  

“I’ve always found space and the night sky fascinating,” says Brian, who is also quirkily known as a Venusian volcanologist. “When I was growing up, the NASA space shuttle era had just started. Becoming a planetary geologist allowed me to look at some amazing images of the planets. It also seemed a lot less theoretical than being a cosmologist. Geology is tangible; you can see and touch a planet’s surface and work out why it looks like it does.”

In 1619, Johannes Kepler in Harmonices Mundi (The Harmony of the World) sought to explain the third law of planetary motion by recourse to the mathematics of scales and tuning systems. The so-called “harmony of the spheres” was a concept alive in the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods and was a potent creative catalyst amongst musicians and astronomers.

Now living in Perth, Brian is a business analyst and sometimes trumpet player who still marvels at space and continues to be inspired by the potential harmony between planets and music. The result is the creation of a multi-sensory performance called Space Music in which Brian guides the audience through the stars, planets, galaxies and nebula. 

Space Music has six movements and Brian will be sharing interesting and curious stories about our solar system, including how an error in translation hundreds of years ago led to the birth of the Martian and how an astronomer early last century fuelled speculation there were canals on Mars but was really seeing something else. 

Known for setting classical music in unexpected places, such as their Bach and beer events in a brewery and cakes and Corelli for high tea, Australian Baroque – in full baroque orchestra format – will create the musical backdrop to the curated images and space footage. They’ve been chosen from multiple sources including NASA’s Apollo, Mars Orbiter and Magellan missions and the Hubble Space Telescope.

Brian says music has been chosen which mirrors or imitates character, for example Mars, considered the god of war, will be accompanied by Biber’s Battalia. 

“The baroque era has some fantastic music but you don’t need to know anything about it to enjoy Space Music.” 

ED: Space Music July 1-3 at Girls School in East Perth. The July 3 show is a 45-minute family special. Tickets from Eventbrite.