There’s nothing quite so epic as “Mars, the Bringer of War.”
While we know that Holst came to hate The Planets for being so popular, we all know that we just can’t help ourselves when it comes to “Mars”. As one YouTube commenter said, “This Influenced about… Everything in the sci-fi music genre.”* And it’s true. The following are comments, taken directly from the video above, illustrating the influence of "Mars" (interspersed with a few random facts about Holst).
“The most brutal, metal, classical song ever written.” HeathenMetalhead221
Random Fact #1: Papa Holst wanted Gustav to play the piano and organ, and really, Gustav did do that, but he was never performance caliber. Holst had neuritis in his right arm which caused him constant pain. He picked up the trombone to help his asthma instead.
“...it seems Zimmer took some creative assistance from this beautiful body of work…,” lovewhisper68
(This one might be tricky to hear. There's speaking over the top. But, especially at the beginning, the melody of "Mars" is here, but in a different rhythm.) [There's echoes of Pirates of the Caribbean in there too, but that's another post for another day.]
Random Fact #2: Two of Holst’s other works that gained huge followings were St. Paul’s Suite--composed for the opening of a new wing at the St. Paul’s Girls School--and Brook Green Suite--a song based on one of the places he lived. Holst was a huge advocate for female music education.
“‘Attack of the Airships’ from the Super Mario Galaxy game soundtrack totally sounds like...” Lucy Deetz
Random Fact #3: Gustav Holst was what we today would lovingly term an introvert. Part of the reason that he hated the popularity of The Planets was because he hated the fame. He just wanted to compose and teach, not deal with crowds and people.
One note here. The person nominated for the most academy awards is not an actor or a director. It’s a composer. John Williams, specifically. When George Lucas asked John Williams to compose the soundtrack for the Star Wars movies, he gave him several classical pieces that he was using as filler*. The Planets was one of them. And so, in probably the most well known spin off of "Mars"...
“John Williams: can i copy your homework?
Gustav Holst: yeah but change a few things so it's not obvious
John Williams: ok” Eric Dean
Come hear The Timpanogos Symphony Orchestra on September 27th and 28th. We are playing The Planets and The Star Wars Suite. You can hear how John Williams based his whole soundtrack on The Planets.
This is a bonus piece that we are playing at our concert: Avatar. You’ll hear echoes of Mars in the piece when war starts.
*More on Star Wars next post! George Lucas lurved his classical music!