The Nation: Also Sprach Houston

Mission Control in Houston chose to awake the Apollo 15 astronauts from one of their sleep periods with an interesting choice of tunes: the grandiose opening strains of Richard Strauss's symphonic poem Also Sprach Zarathustra. Evocative of spectacular sunrises and other occurrences that call for a 107-piece orchestral accompaniment, the splendid fanfare was also used in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, which probably accounts for Houston's playing it.

Actually, when Strauss wrote the music, he was thinking of Nietzsche's treatise in which the philosopher poured out his prophecies of Superman through the...

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