Australian Baroques Space Music blends historical composition and astronomical images at the Girls School – The West Australian

An image of Earth taken from lunar orbit bookends Australian Baroques Space Music a montage of astronomical images set to historical composition on authentic instruments playing at the Girls School, Perth, until Saturday.

Since the dawn of humankind two-and-a-half-million years ago, people have gazed upwards and viewed the cosmos, astrophysicist Antony Brian explains, introducing the grandaddy of all perspectives, the Big Bang.

An explosion of sound in the cluster chords of Jean-Fery Rebels Le Chaos summons a panorama of burning gas and stars, nebulae and limitless space. Sound by turn fierce and ethereal explores the boundless dimensions unleashed in that moment.

Australian Baroque leader Helen Kruger Dr Brians wife and harpsichordist Stewart Smith have curated star-themed perennials and repurposed others to match the imagery and words, with incisive effect. A sense of majesty in the clean lines of Baroque seems to match the awe-inspiring wonder of the universe.

The Sun is next in view: 99.8 per cent of the mass of the solar system, orbiting the galaxy every 250 million years, Dr Brian informs.

If the figures werent so, well, astronomical it could almost be Monty Python, yet the marvels keep coming.

Thomas Arnes The Glittring Sun follows, the warm strains of high Baroque as sustaining as sunshine to support soaring soprano Emma Oorschot, with echoes of a dawn chorus in her florid cadence.

Handels Concerto Grosso No.5 next brings confidence born of mastery radiating like sunrays, as images of solar storms rage on screen; the beauty and brutality endlessly fascinating and richly rewarding.

Rocky Planets roll into view: Mercury extreme in its close relationship to the Sun, Venus our twin yet vastly different early landing mission were crushed, incinerated or dissolved, Dr Brian says and Mars with a volcano three times the height of Everest, attended now by eight orbiters, 12 stationary probes, three rovers and a helicopter.

Corellis Concerto Grosso No.8 draws deeper resonance from the 25-piece orchestra through a duet of cello and harpsichord while ancient craters instil awareness of untold eons.

Speculation is thrown into sharp relief by Bibers Battalia: Presto; timpani breaking out a robust tattoo for the classical God of War, fragmented strata a vestigial remnant of past disorder.

By contrast the imperious Gas Giants, named after the most powerful gods, set new standards in size and scope: Jupiter more massive than all other planets combined, Saturn with its 1800km/h winds, Uranus 21-year polar winter, and a hint of life in Jupiters moons.

Wassenaers Concerti Armonici No.3 evokes mystery in lingering chords giving way to a stately lead in violin as images reminiscent of Michelangelo pass across the screen; a change of pace to vivace perhaps channelling the same spirit as Holsts later Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity.

Clever use of the Ken Burns effect changing the aspect of a still image to suggest motion puts the audience in the place of a traveller, passing by.

Deep Space is a cause to redouble the awe, with hundreds of millions of stars and planets in our Milky Way galaxy alone, and 2 trillion galaxies in the observable universe without considering the unknown unknowns further out.

Perotins Beat Viscera, arranged by Smith, introduces richly resonant soprano over attenuated strings to bring distance into the room, and a sense of secular adoration. Deep bass notes open further avenues and flutes and bells enhance the meditative calm, as if in the infinite we lose sight of anxiety.

Finally Dr Brian focuses on the Moon, the only visited body to which we must return one day.

Rameaus Chaconne from Dardanus speaks to the expansive quality of that endeavour, woodwinds over plangent strings vigorous and hearty, offsetting the most poignant image of all: our home among the stars.

We will find other worlds, Dr Brian concludes: But will we ever find a planet as rich and habitable as this?

Australian Baroques Space Music plays at the Girls School on Saturday, with a 45-minute program for families at 10.30am and 12.30pm. Tickets from https://www.australianbaroque.com.

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Australian Baroques Space Music blends historical composition and astronomical images at the Girls School - The West Australian

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