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The Planets: A soundtrack fit for Hollywood

Imagine that your life has a soundtrack.

Which tracks would be on your most played list? It might be the songs you never skip during evening workouts, classics you queue for relaxing bath times or albums that wake you up on morning bus journeys.

When composers Simon Emmerson and Simon Richmond were thinking about creating the music for The Planets treatment, film soundtracks were at the forefront of their minds. Emmerson believes, ‘It’s quite incredible how effective a film score is, and it’s most effective when you hear it but you don’t notice you’re hearing it. You feel it.’

The Planets – a three-phase transformative experience – is based on the notion that areas of muscle tension  are relieved far more effectively when we speak about areas of corresponding mental tension in our lives at the same time. This revelation became the foundation for the first phase of The Planets, which represents the past stage of the massage’s chronological past, present and future progression.

Unlike many traditional massages aimed at deep relaxation, the first stage of The Planets is participatory. You don’t have to talk by any means, but to get the full benefit of the treatment it is remarkably effective to do so.

‘What we did in the first part is we tried to write a film score, and it is really surprisingly heroic at times. We wanted to give people a sense of support; no matter how tough things are you can get through it. And then to go out into moments of complete calm and tranquillity as the massage takes effect and the music reflects what’s happening in your body.’

For Simon Emmerson, in essence, you become a film protagonist. The musical collaboration between Emmerson and Simon Richmond has been composed with you in the focus, so that whilst the therapist eases knotted areas of muscular ache it feels natural to share emotionally. You no longer need rocket fuel to go on a feature length voyage into outer and inner space; during this experience, you’re the star.

The task of creating a 3 ½ hour film-style score that could fit any dialogue was an audacious one which needed expert input.

On a rainy Monday in November 2014, Simon Hale – a man whose Wikipedia page resembles a musical best of album (he also has a BAFTA, and his work has won a Tony award) – orchestrated a 36-piece orchestra. In an Islington recording studio, the first recording of the brass and strings sections of the soundtrack were laid down, with Hale meticulously leading the musicians. Even entirely isolated from the massage experience, the wave of sound from the cavernous booth was contagiously enchanting. It was hard not to be awestruck listening to the score being brought so tangibly and immediately to life.

The following day, composer, arranger and violinist, John Metcalfe, took the helm and the orchestra swelled in size to a full 43-musicians. In the context of spa soundtracks, this is an extraordinary, incomparable endeavour. With such an impressive orchestra it was also important to pay equal attention to the vocal arrangements of the soundtrack; London Voices seemed an instant best fit. Even if you think you haven’t heard of them, you probably have (among their renowned collaborations are the recordings of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings film series). Their talent was the final added touch that completed the line up.

 

‘It’s quite incredible how effective a film score is, and it’s most effective when you hear it but you don’t notice you’re hearing it; you feel it.’

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