The Houston Symphony is bringing outer space down to Earth tomorrow, as it closes its latest season. Cosmos—An HD Odyssey displays images of the far-flung reaches of space along with classical music from 19th-century composer Antonín Dvořák.
Cosmos, the third of a trilogy that began in 2010 with The Planets and The Earth, is set to Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, “From the New World,” along with visuals produced and directed by British planetary scientist-turned-filmographer Duncan Copp.
Copp, who brings his experience from planetary science when he transitioned to filmography, has been working with the Symphony to provide images and film for their outer space shows for the past six years. “Science is a very visual discipline,” says Copp. “It’s all about storytelling, with regards to unraveling the geology of a planet or a particular place on Earth.”
With a strong passion for “conveying science,” Copp says he was given high-definition images from several telescopes, and they themselves serve as ample inspiration for the show’s visuals. One such telescope, Solar Dynamics Observatory, takes photos at a resolution Copp says humans have never seen before. “We’re really seeing the sun in its true colors,” he says. “This spacecraft can see so much more than we can and it’s transformed our understanding of the sun.”
He adds that the telescope’s images not only help the audience see the sun from a new angle, but it also can provoke them to think about it with a new perspective. “We can see this dynamic, fast, seething mass of plasma that has fast eruptions and has a temper, has a personality,” says Copp. “These images are just very inspiring and thought-provoking.”
Aurelie Desmarais, Houston Symphony’s chief of artistic planning, says the idea for the show came about when the Symphony put on The Planets, a seven-movement orchestral production created by composer Gustav Holst in the 1900s, with each movement named after a planet in the solar system. NASA astronaut John Grunsfeld saw the production and encouraged then-Houston Symphony’s music director Hans Graf to incorporate NASA images into a production. “The great thing about Cosmos is it allows me to explore a vast area,” Copp says. “There’s a lot of space out there and there’s a lot of fantastic instruments both on Earth and off the Earth [to look] at the cosmos.”
Thru May 29. $35-139. Houston Symphony, 615 Louisiana St. Ste. 102, 713-224-4240. houstonsymphony.org