articles / Pop Culture

The Sounds of Sunrise


Sunrise. It’s beautiful. Or so I’m told. I am *not* a morning person and can count the number of sunrises I’ve actually seen on my two hands and still have a finger left over to tap the snooze button on my alarm clock. Many composers have also been inspired by sunrises. In fact, some of the most beautiful and exciting music out there depicts sunrise. Here are a few of my favorites.

1. Haydn – He took a couple of different cracks at sunrise, including the first-ever sunrise–that is, the creation of light in his oratorio The Creation. Haydn also gave us a symphony and a string quartet called “Sunrise.”

2. Richard Strauss – There’s the very famous one from Also Sprach Zarathustra (aka that music from 2001: A Space Odyssey), but Strauss also gave us a stunning musical depiction of sunrise in his Alpine Symphony.

3. Grofé: Grand Canyon Suite – From an alp to a giant hole in the ground. On the Trail is the most famous movement of Grofé’s most famous work what with the clip-clop and braying of the mules as they descend to the floor of the canyon, but earlier in the piece, Grofé gives us a vivid technicolor sunrise.

4. Ravel: Daphnis and Chloe – This one is probably my favorite. No real explanation needed. In my opinion, this is the best recording out there. But then, I’m a sucker for when the percussionist whacks the suspended cymbal as hard as possible.

5. Schoenberg: Gurrelieder – This is Arnold Schoenberg before he shook off the influence of post-romanticism and forged his own path. The entire cantata is wonderful and worth checking out, if you’ve never heard it. The last five minutes begin with a sunrise.

6. Peter Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding With Sunrise – Care for some bagpipes with your sunrise? This one is a lot of fun! It starts with a wedding and then moves to the reception with plenty of drinking and dancing. The party continues all through the night until the sun comes up in the morning. The score actually calls for the bagpiper to come in at the back of the concert hall and walk down the aisle toward the stage.

Now that the sun’s up…about that coffee…

Written by:
Brian Lauritzen
Brian Lauritzen
Published on 09.26.2016