Color the Music
A marriage of art and music for young artists age 5-17.

Great artists and musicians have inspired each other throughout history. The Color the Music program encourages students 5-17 to create artwork depicting music performed at two of National Philharmonic's concerts during its 2017-18 season. Artwork will be on display in the Orchestra Lobby of Strathmore the weekend of the concerts.

Winter Color the Music Project featuring The Planets by Gustav Holst (1914-1916)

Background on The Planets:

This is a seven-movement orchestral suite composed by British composer Gustav Holst between 1914 and 1916. Why only seven planets? Pluto had not been discovered (it was discovered in 1930) and Holst did not include Earth because the suite’s concept is astrological, not based on astronomy. Holst wrote music that reflects the “personality” of each planet from an astrological view because he had become very interested in astrology. Even though he did not think it was one of his best compositions, The Planets became Holst’s most popular work. Today, “Mars” and “Jupiter” are perhaps the most familiar movements to listeners.

Creating artwork for our Winter Exhibition

The Music:

Use the following recording of Holst’s The Planets released in 2014 by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, James Levine, conductor:

The timings for each of the movements are listed here, along with Holst’s original titles (he did not include the actual name of each planet in his score) and some descriptors for each one:

1. 00:00 “MARS, the Bringer of War” — fanfares, marching, machine guns, loud, dissonance

2. 07:27 “VENUS, the Bringer of Peace” — gentle harmonies, solo instruments, the opposite of Mars.

3. 14:52 “MERCURY, the winged messenger” — swift, light, short

4. 18:39 “JUPITER, the bringer of jollity” — big, happy

5. 26:11 “SATURN, the bringer of old age” — heavy

6. 35:26 “URANUS, the magician” —an entertaining musical picture of a magician

7. 41:12 “NEPTUNE, the mystic” — mysterious and fades away to nothing. Includes a women’s chorus which performs in an adjacent room and, at the very end, continues to sing as the door to the room closes, creating a complete fading!


1. Choose one (or more) of the movements and create an artwork depicting the music you hear. Think about what Holst knew about astrology associated with each planet (look at the titles he gave each section!) that inspired him to compose this music. Decide how your artwork will reflect the music you hear for your chosen planet(s).

2. Listen to the music for your chosen planet several times. Let the music inspire your design:
Is the sound loud and bold?
Quick or slow?
Does the melody move in long lines or in short sections?
How can your art reflect your answers to these questions?

3. You may use any 2-D medium — crayon, colored pencils, water colors, oils, pastels,etc. Pencil line drawings are not encouraged for this project. Feel free to incorporate metallic colors or some glitter if you want.

4. Art should be on white paper either 8”x10”, 9”x12” or 11”x17” in size. LARGER SIZES WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED due to limited space!

5. Accepted artwork will be displayed in the Strathmore Hall Orchestra lobby the weekend of
January 27 & 28, 2018 during the National Philharmonic’s concerts.

Deadline for submitting artwork is JANUARY 12, 2018, 4 pm at
National Philharmonic Offices
5301 Tuckerman Lane
North Bethesda, MD

For more information and questions, please email Sara Josey at .

F or tickets to the Cosmic Design concerts on January 27&28, 2018, please click here .

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