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Classical Notes

It's (not) da bomb!

Posted at 9:32 AM on January 29, 2007 by John Zech
Filed under: The blog

So what do classical music and bombs have in common? No we're not talking about opening night failures at the opera, but it's a weird bit of synchronicity that in the past few days two different stories have come out about classical music and "the bomb."

Composer John Adams recently said he is not going to be able to finish his "Doctor Atomic Symphony" in time for its scheduled March 31 Carnegie Hall premiere. That piece is based on his opera "Doctor Atomic," about Robert Oppenheimer, the developer of the A-bomb. (The making of the opera is also the subject of a documentary film that was entered in the Sundance Film Festival, which just wrapped up yesterday. It's called "The Wonders Are Many: The Making of Dr. Atomic." )

Meanwhile, there's this headline from an Iranian news agency: "Nuclear symphony to commemorate Iran’s Islamic Revolution victory." Well, it's not about a bomb, apparently. It's actually the "Nuclear ENERGY Symphony," but with American skepticism running high about Iran's nuclear program, there may be some eyebrows raised in the classical music division of the State Department about that one. You can find more background in this story from Yahoo news. Jeff Esworthy was wondering if they would open the program with "Mars, the Bringer of War," from "The Planets" by Gustav Holst.

And for you trivia buffs, there was also a symphony called "Atomic Bomb" by Japanese composer Masao Oki, which premiered on November 6, 1953, one year to the day after the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb at Eniwetok Atoll.