I think I will safely eschew any controversy in this post by stating that there are more songs about love than about science. It is therefore nice to be able to add the fairly recent opera/oratorio “Kepler”, composed by Philip Glass, to that second select list. I have to admit that I have been listening to it almost obsessively in the last few weeks. Indeed, how often does one hear an enthusiastic chorus singing with gusto such rousing lines as
Numerus, quantitas et motus orbium!
Number, quantity and circular motion!
or declaiming the basis of the scientific method
entwerfen wir uns
in den Hypothesen
von der Natur der Dinge.
Dann konstruieren wir,
die Weise der Berechnung.
So demonstrieren wir
In Folge die Bewegungen.
Und schliesslich pruefen wir,
den Weg zurueckverfolgend,
die wahren Regeln
We sketch [See the first comment below for this change]
Of the nature of things.
Then we construct,
The way of computing.
Thus we demonstrate
Lastly, we check
By retracing the path [Strangely this was not translated in the original libretto, see the 6th comment]
The true rules
Of our calculation.
These quotes are in Latin and German, since P. Glass, as he often does, uses the original language for his texts, and in that case most of the libretto (written by Martina Winkel) is taken literally from Kepler’s own writings, interspersed with bits of German baroque poetry to put him in the context of his time and place.
[I’ve changed a bit the German translation in the second case from what is in the Libretto, where some constructions like “We place us in the hypotheses” seemed a bit strange; any better attemps at translating the German are welcome in the comments!] I just changed this piece following a suggestion from the first commenter below, and added the missing third-before-last line, as suggested by another commenter
While waiting for the DVD, I had a look at Youtube; and — marvel! — some ingenious soul has put there the full recording of the opera, presumably as it appeared on Austrian television some time in 2009 or 2010. As I’m not sure about the legality of this, I’ll abstain from putting a link, but searching “Kepler Glass” on the site will lead you to it quite quickly. (There are two separate movies for the two acts; the first quote above is located around 12:50 mn in the first act, and the second appears around 39:10). (5.2.2011: it seems that these have now been removed from Youtube, which is probably not surprising; fortunately, the DVD will come out in late February.)
(Note: I am aware that in certain rarefied circles, the music of Philip Glass is considered to be just one step above elevator music, but I am personally completely philistinate in that respect, and will not countenance comments along these lines…)