March 3, 2021

Mars in Music


The latest space probe has landed on Mars, continuing the centuries of interest in Mars. That interest includes music as composers have been inspired by outer space.

Probably the most well know classical piece about Mars is Holst’s ”Mars, the Bringer of War,” the first movement of his seven-part orchestral suite The Planets. This piece, begun in May 1914, seems to foreshadow World War I and forces of change. The brutal 5/4 time and tri-tonal harmonies underscore energy and ultimate revolution.  While set for a huge orchestra, Holst’s “Mars” is also arranged as a piano piece.

Probably the most popular tune about Mars is David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” from his 1971 album Hunky Dory.  The song was inspired by Frank Sinatra, and Bowie called it a love song: “a sensitive young girl’s reading to the media.” Its vivid surreal imagery give it a mysterious sci-fi experiences. A 2012 poll voted ‘Life on Mars” as Bowie’s best song. This tune is also available as a piano score.

Mars also made its appearance in jazz music, most notably in Sun Ra’s “Blues on Planet Mars.” Sun Ra was known for his experimental music and his belief that he came from Saturn. Science fiction inspired his writing. Released in 1968, “Blues on Planet Mars” is unique because of its jazzy improvisation and electronic synthesizer background.

Another space-inspired music genre is space rock. Hawkwind was the earliest space rock group, which recorded “Uncle Sam’s on Mars” in 1979. The song describes America’s obsession with space exploration, focus on human’s invasion of untouched Mars. It’s the opposite perspective from Mars invading Earth.

Across musical trends and times, composers have expressed their personal and societal perspectives. Tomoko translates those perspectives brilliantly in her iano performances.


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