Philip Glass: Cosmic Symphony to Johannes Kepler

Kepler is an opera by Philip Glass dedicated to Johannes Kepler. It premiered on 20 September 2009 at the Landestheater in the Austrian 

The early 17th century astronomer Johannes Kepler came up with three laws of planetary motion, describing each planet’s orbital path around the sun. This contribution alone transformed the trajectory of scientific thought, shifting astronomers from the Copernican idea of circular orbits to Kepler’s elliptical orbits. Isaac Newton later corroborated Kepler’s theories of elliptical orbit, claiming they mirrored fundamental principles of motion and gravity on Earth.


Kepler’s positive contributions to heliocentric (sun-centric) astronomy are often repeated in high school science classes. Few people realize that his ideas developed over many decades and during an earlier phase of his career, Kepler had presented the solar system as a collection of nested geometric forms, based on the early Greek philosopher Plato and his notion of “pure forms”.

The above images were featured in his first major book, Mysterium Cosmigraphicum (1596). 

Kepler wrote a book two decades later called Harmonices Mundi (1619) elucidating an ancient Greek concept of musical planetary orbits. Each planet’s orbital frequency was correlated to an audible musical frequency, positing that whole universe is alive with sonic harmony!

It was in this very same book on astro-musical harmony that Kepler laid out his third law on planetary motion. Here is a photo of it’s cover and an illustration from inside the book:

Curiously enough, there was another prominent family that composed celestial music during this era and was suffused with a variation on the name Johannes.

Johann Sebastian Bach, the crown jewel of Baroque music and godfather of Western classical music, came into prominence during the early 18th century. His great-grandfather lived from 1580 to 1626, placing the elder Bach on the timeline with Kepler’s publication of Harmony in 1619.

The great-grandfather’s name was Johann Bach. He was the first person in the family to show a strong interest in music. Curiously, Johann named his son Cristoph, who named his son Johann Ambrosius Bach, who in turn was the father of the famous Johann Sebastian Bach.

Within fifty years, Johannes Kepler‘s astronomical musical discoveries inspired new musical thought, effectively aiding the transition from the harmonic simplicity of Renaissance music to the sophisticated geometric complexity of Baroque music.

J.S. Bach’s music was written for the church and catalogued with very little thematic elaboration beyond the language of conventional hymns during that era. However, his work clearly implied a deep universal harmony that inspired later composers like Gustav Holst, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and John Cage, among countless others, to compose elaborate devotional symphonies to the Celestial Harmony that Kepler alluded to.

The composition by new-era classical composer Philip Glass represents another link in the chain of high level international Astro-Music propaganda.

All the world is a song…

Read more about astromusik at

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