Grade 1 (2:00)
Saturn, the Sixth Planet
Saturn, the Sixth Planet is a Grade 1 piece written for beginning or young bands. It contains many open harmonies intended to evoke the majesty of space in general, and specifically the beauty and distinctiveness of Saturn. The “gas giants” of our home solar system each have their own personality, and Saturn’s most distinctive quality is it’s spectacular set of “rings.” The rings are composed of debris from space that have been set in permanent orbit around the massive planet. When viewed through a telescope, they are magnificent.
This piece was written to commemorate the occasion of the 6th birthday of the composer’s son, Gerald “Gerry” Martin. Gerry has become quite enthralled with space and specifically loves the individuality of Saturn. He is always reading books and articles about the planets, solar system, and space travel. A favorite afterschool activity is a trip to the local planetarium. The theme of his 6th birthday party was space, complete with moon walking games and a space shuttle glider toss.
In order to emphasize the connection of music about the 6th planet (from the sun) on his 6th birthday, the piece contains many groupings of sixes, some overt and some more subtle. The rhythmic ostinato that persists throughout the piece is a grouping of six notes. The basic form of the main melodic statement is also a six-note pattern. The harmonic foundation for the space-like “surprise” harmony at the end is a major chord built on the lowered-6th scale degree (often known as the “flat-6 chord”) of the tonic key of F. It is the composer’s hope that discussion and awareness of these concepts and nuances will be effective teaching tools to help the director “teach beyond the notes.”