I have to interrupt the episodes of The Last Gonzo Joy Ride to the End of the Galaxy to relate a real-world joy ride, this one into the cosmos. Last night, I went to the Houston Symphony production of The Cosmos—an HD Odyssey. It was amazing. This is the third and final collaboration between the Houston Symphony Orchestra and NASA to create out-of-this-world visual and aural experiences. While the orchestra played Anton Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World, images from the Hubble space telescope and the International Space Station, plus some terrestrial-based images, flashed on a movie-theater sized screen above the players.
Those who have been reading my Gonzo Joy Ride know that I have mined NASA’s vast archive for images to use in the story. Well, this performance had NASA’s photographs in a huge format that remained high definition even at that size. The producer, Duncan Copp, sifted through the enormous store of NASA images and videos and set them to the music. He did a remarkable job.
The opening sequence includes images of radio telescope arrays looking into the sky. Through time-lapse photography, the dishes move and stop in a synchronized ballet that reminded me of the Pixar lamp as it turns to look at the audience. They have a similar squat shape with a big bowl face that jerks from place to place. Meanwhile, we see the stars rotating overhead.
In another sequence, the sun shone before us in a spectacular display of storms that dwarfed the size of the Earth. Matter burst forth and looped back into the sun. Later, we saw simulated sequences showing galaxies colliding compared with Hubble images of galaxies that are in the midst of collision. All the while, the New World symphony carried my mind and emotions into these new places.
The first two symphonies in this collaboration are available at Amazon (The Planets and The Earth), and the symphony recorded the concert last night, I presume to create a DVD of this final production. One last thing: lest you think I’m just shilling for the symphony, I don’t even have a season subscription. I obtained the tickets for last night’s performance through a church fund-raising auction and got a better reward than I was expecting.