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Resource Guides

Music Inspired by Astronomy, Organized by Topic

An Annotated Listing by Andrew Fraknoi

© copyright 2019 by Andrew Fraknoi.  All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Connections between astronomy and music have been proposed since the time of the ancient Greeks. This annotated listing of both classical and popular music inspired by astronomy restricts itself to music that has connections to real science -- not just an astronomical term or two in the title or lyrics. For example, we do not list Gustav Holst’s popular symphonic suite The Planets, because it draws its inspiration from the astrological, and not astronomical, characteristics of the worlds in the solar system. Similarly, songs like Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” or the Beatles’ “Across the Universe” just don’t contain enough serious astronomy to make it into our guide. When possible, we give links to a CD and a YouTube recording or explanation for each piece.  The music is arranged in categories by astronomical topic, from asteroids to Venus.  Additions to this list are most welcome (as long as they follow the above guidelines); please send them to the author at: fraknoi {at} fhda {dot} edu


  • Coates, Gloria Among the Asteroids on At Midnight (on Tzadik). A 1962 piece for string quartet, written for a production of The Little Prince; she has other music with science titles, so we took the liberty of including this.

  • Dean, Brett Komarov’s Fall (with The Planets by Holst, conducted by Simon Rattle, on EMI Classics CD). Honoring the astronaut, who was the first person to die in space, and after whom asteroid 1836 is named.

  • Saariaho, Kaija Asteroid 4179: Toutatis (with The Planets by Holst, conducted by Simon Rattle, on EMI Classics CD). Short piece based on the complex rotational motion of this near-Earth asteroid.

  • Turnage, Mark-Anthony Ceres (with The Planets by Holst, conducted by Simon Rattle, on EMI Classics). Inspired by the composer reading about asteroids. Tries to portray collisions between asteroids and other bodies, like Earth. (The composer later wrote two companion pieces called Juno and Torino scale.)


  • Adams, John Dr. Atomic An opera; DVD’s available with the Metropolitan Opera and the Netherlands Opera. Focuses on the emotions and thoughts of J. Robert Oppenheimer and those closest to him on the eve of the first test of the atomic (nuclear fission) bomb. We include this because, early in his career, Oppenheimer did work on neutron stars and black holes. (A long 2008 discussion at City University of NY about the making of the opera can be seen at link above.

  • Bentzon, Niels

    Bentzon, Niels “Chronicle on Rene Descartes” on Contemporary Danish Orchestra Music, vol. 1 (Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra on BIS). One movement is inspired by Descartes’ ideas on “vortexes,” which are part of the history of thinking about how the solar system formed. (No website or YouTube available.)

  • Borresen, Hakon At Uranienborg: Tycho Brahe’s Dream (Aalborg Symphony on Dacapo or Naxos). A 1924 ballet that takes place at Tycho’s observatory on the island of Hven, and features dancers who are stars, a comet, and the supernova of 1572.

  • Davies, Victor “Transit of Venus,” a 2007 opera about the life and work of 18th century astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil

  • Glass, Philip Galileo Galilei: An Opera (on 9mm CD recorded at the Portland Opera). A retrospective through Galileo’s life and work, going from old age back to his youth.

  • Glass, Philip Kepler: An Opera (on 9mm Orff CD and DVD, recorded at the Upper Austrian State Theater). 2009 opera explores scientific and personal themes in Kepler’s work.

  • Gorecki, Henryk Symphony 2 (Copernican) (Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra on Naxos). Commissioned to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth; includes some text from his book De Revolucionibus. (Background information at:

  • Hindemith, Paul The Harmony of the World (Berlin Rundfunk Symphony on Wergo) An opera, first performed in 1957, about the life and musical ideas of Johannes Kepler, who thought there was an intimate connection between the harmony of planetary motions and the harmonies in music. (Sound recording at:

  • Koechlin, Charles Vers la Voute Etoilee (Toward the Starry Vault) (Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra on Hanssler). An orchestral nocturne dedicated to the memory of French astronomer and astronomy popularizer Camille Flammarion, whose books originally led the composer to think about a career in astronomy, before he turned to music. He described the piece as “…a journey to very distant places, far away from the Earth…” Music is on YouTube at:

  • McClure, Glenn Starry Messenger, an oratorio based on Dava Sobel’s book Galileo’s Daughter, and the letters Galileo and his daughter exchanged. Unfortunately, I can’t find a recording of it, but the story of how it came about is discussed in the link above.

  • Pennypacker, Carl Falling Through a Hole in the Air: The Incredible Journey of Stephen Hawking (a light opera written with science writer Judith Goldhaber). (For an excerpt, see:

  • Smit, Leo “Copernicus: Narrative and Credo” on American Masters: Leo Smit Collection (on CRI). With text by astronomer Fred Hoyle. Written in honor of the 500th anniversary of Copernicus’ birth; contains a moving declaration of cosmic belief from Hoyle.

Popular Music
  • Grant, Amy “Galileo” on Heart in Motion (on A&M). Compares the singer’s attraction to her lover to Galileo’s attraction to starlight.

  • Indigo Girls “Galileo” on Rites of Passage (on ). The singer is thinking about life and the possibility of reincarnation, and sees Galileo as the exemplar of how humanity can get life right.

  • Knopfler, Mark “Sailing to Philadelphia” on Sailing to Philadelphia (on Warner Brothers). About Mason and Dixon (known for the Mason-Dixon line in the U.S.) and their surveying expedition; refers to the fact that Mason was an astronomer.

  • Rundgren, Todd “Hawking” on Nearly Human (on Warner Brothers). A moving meditation on Hawking’s work and disability.

Astronomy in General

  • Barrett, Richard Dark Matter (on NMC). This very modern and complex piece is inspired by new and old ideas in astronomy and physics, and includes text or ideas from Lucretius, Eratosthenes, Hesiod and other ancient and medieval thinkers. For the composer’s thinking, see:

  • Eotvos, Peter “Cosmos” on IMA (on Budapest Music Center). Piece for two pianos, inspired by Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight; the composer says he was thinking of a mixture of astronomical ideas, including the Big Bang, comets, asteroids, meteorites; the piece ends “a quarter of a second before the next big bang.” The same composer has a more recent piece called “Multiversum”:

  • Granados, Enrique The Song of the Stars (on Naxos). A 1911 piece, recently rediscovered, with a triple chorus singing poems that take a mystical view of the starry sky.

  • Ives, Charles Universe Symphony (on Pitch.) American composer Ives left only sketches for this ambitious symphony celebrating the evolution of life on Earth and our planet being part of the cosmos. It was assembled and completed by Johnny Reinhard; see: Section titles include: “Pulse of the Cosmos” and “Earth is of the Heavens.”

  • Ivey, Jean Eichelberger Three Songs of the Night (on Folkways). One of the songs is a setting for Walt Whitman’s poem “When I Heard the Learned Astronomer.” On other recordings, she also has pieces entitled Aldebaran and Solstice.

  • Lehar, Franz The Stargazer (Der Sterngucker) (on CPO). A comic operetta whose title character is an absent-minded “head in the stars” astronomer, who learns the ways of love through the machinations of his sister and her friends.

  • Messiaen, Olivier From the Canyons to the Stars (on several recordings). Complex, modern orchestral piece, with sections called “What is Written in the Stars,” “Interstellar Call,” and “The Resurrected and the Song of the Star Aldebaran.”

  • O’Regan, Tarik A Celestial Map of the Sky (on NCM). A piece for orchestra and chorus inspired by astronomical charts, and philosophical views of the sky and our relationship to it.

  • Penderecki, Krzysztof Kosmogonia (on Naxos and other labels). This modern, often dissonant 1970 oratorio includes quotations from Copernicus, John Glenn, and others.

  • Pickard, John A Starlit Dome (Raymond Clarke, piano, on Diversions). A 1965 “astronomical nocturne”, which the composer says was inspired by his being a “keen amateur astronomer.” The piece reflects his feelings about watching celestial sights such as the Orion Nebula, through his telescope.

  • Prado, Almeida Cartas Celestes (Celestial Charts) (part one is a piano piece available in several recordings and in performance on YouTube). Jose Antonio Rezende de Almeida Prado was a Brazilian composer who wrote a series of pieces entitled Celestial Charts, the first of which -- for piano -- was commissioned for the planetarium in Sao Paolo. The pieces take their names and draw inspiration from a wide range of astronomical objects. In the first one, the globular cluster M13 has a recurring turn.

  • Renzo, Giovanni Atlas Coelestis: The Music and the Stars (Book and DVD available in Italian). In this piece for piano, computer and video, astronomical images accompany a contemplation of things astronomical, from the discovery of the moons of Jupiter by Galileo, to Cygnus X-1, to modern ideas of a multiverse. Produced with assistance from Gianluca Masi of the Planetarium of Rome.

  • Ruders, Poul Serenade on the Shores of the Cosmic Ocean (a piece for accordion and string quartet; with Mikko Louma on Bridge). Inspired by Carl Sagan’s book/TV series Cosmos, this piece by a living Danish composer explores with music some ideas about space and our thinking about cosmic perspective on Earth.

  • Simpson, Robert String Quartet No. 7 (Delme String Quartet on Hyperion). Written for the 100th anniversary of the birth of astronomer James Jeans, by a composer who was himself an avid amateur astronomer (and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society), this piece shows a universe “quiet and mysterious, yet pulsating with energy.”

  • Talbot, Joby Worlds, Stars, Systems, Infinity (see the DVD of Holst’s The Planets by conductor Essa-Pekka Salonen on Signum Vision). Continues the Holst journey through the solar system outward, but without the reference to astrology.

  • Weir, Judith Moon and Star on The Welcome Arrival of Rain (on NMC). Orchestral setting of the Emily Dickinson poem “Ah, Moon and Star” about the great distances between astronomical objects and people.

  • Zaimont, Judith Lang Solar Traveller (concerto for piano and wind orchestra.) Section titles are: “Outward Bound,” “Nocturne (Lunar),” and “Ad astra per aspera”.

Popular Music
  • Armor for Sleep “Slip Like Space” on Dream to Make Believe (on Equal Vision Records.) Dissatisfied with life on Earth, the singer dreams of traveling through space, past the Moon, into the Milky Way, through a wormhole.

  • Blur “Far Out (the Beagle 2 Version)” on the No Distance Left to Run DVD. Lyrics mention a lot of astronomy, including names of Jupiter’s moons and well-known star names, plus the universe being 10 billion lightyears wide. The song was part of what was sent aboard the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission to Mars.

  • Bock, Jerry and Harnick, Sheldon “Perspective” in She Loves Me (on Decca/Polydor) A song in this old-fashioned 1963 musical takes a cosmic view of human goings-on and has a nice series of astronomy images.

  • Echo Movement Love and the Human Outreach (on Jersey Shore Island Beat). On this 2012 album, the reggae-rock-space-music band uses actually transit data from two candidate star systems in the Kepler mission catalog (processed by the Georgia Tech Sonification Lab) as rhythm elements and includes some audio from the Voyager golden record.

  • Echosmith “Bright” on Talking Dreams (on Warner Brothers). A song that uses images from astronomy (shooting stars, Jupiter, shining bright) to express the feeling of having just fallen in love. The official video is all about going on a star party camping trip with your friends and enjoying meteors in the night sky.

  • Emerald Rose “Urania Sings” on Archive of Ages to Come (on Emerald Rose.) This 2005 song by a Celtic folk rock group is about the effect of the muse of astronomy on astronomers (and the singer). It’s full of images of the night and uncovering the secrets of the universe. ( We also like their song about evolution, “We Come from Monkeys,” on the same album.

  • Grateful Dead “Throwing Stones” on In the Dark (on Arista.) The song takes the perspective of seeing planet Earth and humanity from space.

  • Jethro Tull “Astronomy” on Under Wraps (on Chrysalis). Stuck in a traffic jam, the singer fantasizes about doing astronomy and seducing “Miss Galileo;” mentions telescopes, black holes, quasars and the Big Bang.

  • Monty Python “Galaxy Song” on Monty Python Sings (on Virgin). This comic song about our insignificance in the scheme of the Universe includes an array of astronomical facts.

  • Moody Blues “The Best Way to Travel” on In Search of the Lost Chord (on Deram). Including several astronomical references, this “spacey” song emphasizes (as does every astronomy course) that “thinking is the best way to travel” over interstellar distances.

  • Oldfield, Mike “Saved by a Bell” on Discovery (on Blue Plate Caroline). Lyrics are about an observing session, looking at Sagittarius, Aquarius, the Milky Way and planets.

  • Reeves, Natty “Orbit” on Soul Drive (on Deep Matter). Astronomical images are used to describe the singer’s lover, including “shooting stars light across the sky” and “your stare tighter than Orion’s belt.”

  • Rush “Entre Nous” on Permanent Waves and Snakes & Arrows Live (on Anthem). Uses the planets’ orbits in space as a metaphor for human loneliness.

  • Sleeping at Last “Venus” on Atlas: Year One (on Independent). A love song to the singer’s wife, using a lot of astronomical images, particularly of a telescope seeming to bring them closer.

  • Sparro, Sam “Black and Gold” on Sam Sparro (on Island Records). Singer looks out into the universe, ponders evolution, and questions the existence of God.

  • Tunstall, KT “Universe & U” on Eye to the Telescope (on Relentless). Song about a feeling of belonging to the universe and a relationship, by a singer whose father was a physics lecturer at St. Andrews University.

Black Holes

  • The Garden of Cosmic Speculation (Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony on Telarc). The “Black Hole Terrace” section of this suite of music (inspired by a Scottish garden that embodies ideas in modern physics): features such sections as “The Distant Grasp of the Black Hole,” “Crossing the Event Horizon,” “The Energy Jet,” and “Beyond the Black Hole.” (

  • Wormholes. Chamber music inspired by the notion that a black hole might open up into a pathway to other spaces or times, called a “wormhole.”

Popular Music
  • Compares the hopelessness of a relationship to the hopelessness of getting out of a black hole. Uses words from astronomy: singularity, supernova, lines versus circles, etc.

  • “To the Quasar” on Universal Migration Part II (on InsideOut). Part of a “rock-opera” or storyline album by a Dutch group, this song tells of travel by the neutron star in the Crab Nebula and on to the supermassive black hole in 3C273. Their other albums also have a significant amount of science, often mixed with science fiction.

  • “Into the Black Hole” on Universal Migration Part II (on InsideOut). Part of the concept album described above, the lyrics are evocative of conditions near/in a black hole.

  • “Places Named After Numbers” on Frank Black (on Electra). A love song to a black hole, with lyrics such as “And though it seems from here, That she was never there, Light beams disappear, Into her blackened hair.”

  • “Beyond the Black Hole” on Somewhere Out in Space (on Noise). Heavy metal song about falling into a black hole -- with an emphasis on the idea that you don’t come back.

  • “Black Holes in the Sky” (on the album Phoenix, now available on CD as part of Nightbirds/Phoenix/Chameleon on 101 Distribution). Offers the death of stars and black holes as metaphor for the careers of rock stars.

  • “Black Holes” on Never Trust a Pretty Face (1979 album, now out of print; the song is available on greatest hits CD’s, such as Sony’s The Sphinx). Compares an all-consuming love to a black hole; lyrics include; “Like a black hole in the sky, You crush me from your universe, What you want you just erase without a trace, Like a fantastic goodbye.”

  • “Cygnus X-1” on Farewell to Kings (on Mercury/Universal). Portrays ideas around the discovery of the first stellar-mass black hole. Lyrics include: “Headlong into mystery, The x-ray is her siren song, My ship cannot resist her long, Nearer to my deadly goal, Until the Black Hole -- Gains Control…”

Calendar, Time, Seasons

  • Bayer, Josef

    Sonne und Erde (Slovak Radio Philharmonic on Naxos). A ballet based on the relationship between Sun and Earth during the four seasons. (No YouTube video available.)

  • Solstice, a ballet (California Symphony on Phoenix). Depicts mythological and physical aspects of the solstices, and the fear that “is everything going to get hotter and will we all burn up” contrasted with “is everything going to get darker and we will head into oblivion?” The link includes a brief talk before the music explaining the piece)

  • Equinox (on Simax). Four concertos, each containing six pieces, making 24 parts, each corresponding to a time zone on Earth, which tour both the world and the circle of fifths in the music.

  • The Four Seasons (hundreds of recordings are available). Early program music that depicts characteristics of the four seasons in the northern hemisphere, such as a summer thunderstorm.

Popular Music
  • “Time” on Dark Side of the Moon (Harvest/Capitol). Uses the image of the Sun racing to rise and set to illustrate the inexorable passing of time in human lives.


  • “The Comet at Yell’ham” part of the collection of songs, A Young Man’s Exhortation (on Naxos). This is a setting for voice and piano of a short poem by Thomas Hardy about Donati’s Comet of 1858.

  • Oort Cloud (on DeCapo). This 1-hour-long piece of modern ambient classical music is meant to surround the listener, much as the Oort Cloud surrounds the solar system.

  • Waterhouse, Graham

    “Hale-Bopp” on Portrait 2 (English Chamber Orchestra on Meridian). This 1997 piece celebrates a bright comet with scoring that the composer says “evokes an other-worldly atmosphere.” It ends with 16th century chorale tune “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.”

Also see Glenn McClure’s Rosetta under Space Travel.

Popular Music
  • “Comet” on Palace of Gold (on Warner). Country-and-western meditation on how a comet goes on and on along its orbit unconcerned with human emotions.

  • “Halley Came to Jackson” on Shooting Straight in the Dark (on Columbia). Country music song about the pass of Halley’s Comet in 1910, as observed by the singer’s parents.


  • Cassiopeia and Perseus (by various performers on the album Vientos on Albany). The composer, an active amateur astronomer, writes “I have taken the shapes of the stars that form the constellations and plotted them on the music staff… in Cassiopeia, a five-note cell traces the letter W on the staff…”

  • Boyadjian, Hayg

    Scorpius Rising (Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra on Opus One). A tone poem in which the composer also uses the shape of the constellation to make a principal motif, but also portrays the rising of the constellation in the spring evening sky and contrasts peaceful scenes of the stars with the violence of supernovae. (No YouTube video available.)

  • Atlas Eclipticalis (S.E.M. Ensemble Orchestra on Asphodel). Cage, the notorious “bad boy” of modern music, put musical note paper on the pages of a star atlas and let the arrangement of the stars determine the pattern of the notes. The project continues with another piece, Etudes Australes, for piano, whose score is based on southern hemisphere star maps.

  • Makrokosmos, vol. I and II (a number of performances are available). Each volume of this cycle of piano pieces has its 12 parts named after the constellations of the zodiac (or perhaps the signs), but a number of the individual pieces are named after astronomical phenomena, such as “The Abyss of Time,” “Spiral Galaxy,” “Twin Suns,” and “Voices from the Corona Borealis.” The fourth, eighth, and 12th piece in each volume has a score in the shape of something, like a spiral galaxy.

  • Symphony 4: Star Chant (on ABC Classics Australia). With text by astronomer Fred Watson, this piece traverses the northern and southern constellations, using both European and aboriginal names for stars, clusters, and constellations.

  • Orion (on Orange Mountain Music). Commissioned for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, this multi-cultural piece (played on instruments -- and performed by players -- from around the world) draws its inspiration from the different myths based on the constellation of Orion.

  • Orion (on Ondine). A 2002 orchestral piece inspired by both the mythology of Orion and its role as a constellation. Sections include “Winter Sky” and “Hunter.”

  • Orion and Pleiades (on A Flock Descends on BIS) Piece for piano and cello, part of his “constellations” series, which also includes Gemini and Cassiopeia.

  • The Zoo in the Sky (on RCA/BMG). Subtitled “piano pieces for children with small hands,” many are named after constellation pictures (though not necessarily Western ones), while four are entitled “Star Song.”

  • Ralph The Sons of Light (e.g. David Lloyd-Jones conducting on Naxos). Part of this rather mystical cantata, written by Ursula Wood, soon to be the composer’s wife, concern the signs (constellations) of the zodiac and their annual march across the sky.

  • Orion (on Naxos). Orchestral music made up of seven motifs, one for each of the bright stars in the constellation of Orion.

Popular Music
  • “Orion” on Stormwatch (on Chrysalis). Uses images of Orion and Canis Major to contrast the majesty of the skies with the misery down on Earth.

  • “Constellations” on In Between Dreams (on Brushfire.) This simple folk-rock song takes its central idea from watching the constellations and hearing the singer’s father tell the stories behind them.

  • “Bold Orion” on Through the Bitter Frost and Snow (on Prime). Nice images of the constellation of Orion the hunter in the winter skies, contrasted with the impermanence of earthly things.

  • “See the Constellation” on Apollo 18 (on Elektra). Singer compares the emptiness of his life after his “lady” leaves to the emptiness of a constellation figure -- “just a guy made of dots and lines.” (Also refers to light pollution making star patterns difficult to see from cities.)


  • Star’s End (on Virgin). Piece for orchestra concerned with entropy and “the heat death of the universe;” that phrase was Bedford’s preferred title for the piece, but the publisher did not want the word “death” in the title.

  • The Big Bang and the Creation of the Universe (on Chandos). We list this piece because of its title; the composer indicates that it was inspired more by the beginning of the book of Genesis than by science.

  • Holographic Universe on At Midnight (on Tzadik). Piece for violin and orchestra whose three sections are: Dark Energy, Mirror Manifolds, and Holographic Universe. Interestingly, the piece is said to be from 1975, before “Dark Energy” had its current cosmological meaning.

  • Rhythms of the Universe. Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and Nobel laureate and cosmologist George Smoot have cooperated on a film that explores interactions between music and science.

  • 3-2-1 Violin Concerto. The movements are called “Big Bang,” “Zeno’s Paradox,” and “Distant Suns” (where the universe has expanded so much it’s hard to see other parts of it). The composer was inspired by a cosmology article he read in Scientific American magazine in 1999. ( ) (For a documentary about Kubian and the concerto.