How things come into being

Transit of Venus

While I was out walking this morning, a song from my 2014 CD Invisible popped up on my playlist. With rekindled memories I listened to a few other tracks and decided that the quality of my home studio recording and mixing back in 2012/13/14 was pretty good, after all.

Anyway I digress; as I listened to The Transit of Venus, I recalled what had proved inspiration for me to pen the lyrics back in twenty-twelve, before building a song around them.

A business function I had attended at the time was in the process of wrapping up; the proceedings had finished and while some participants made their way out, others lingered to chat about business, this-or-that. A particular conversation invited me to sidle closer and into the group; something about the previous day’s celestial display. ‘The transit was amazing’, one said, ‘Of course Venus’ll not do it again in our lifetime’, said another.

I stood in sage agreement, wearing a knowing smile and offering the occasional nod or grunt of accord until I backed away with a ‘Thanks guys, great session but ah well, I have to be off’, turned and made for the door before anyone asked my opinion about said transit and exposed my embarrassing lack of knowing.

I mean, I spent a fair bit of my childhood evenings, right eye glued to my modest tin-bodied telescope, gazing into the heavens so surely I’d seen a transit or two without remembering? More to the point, what on Earth (or any other planet) had I been doing while the media must have been advertising that the phenomena the previous night was imminent? Whatever (wo-evva), I left the building with a niggling feeling that I wanted to write a song about this thing that I knew nothing about. It didn’t matter; there was a ring about it as intriguing as the ones around its otherworldly sibling.

As soon as I had returned to my desk, I sat myself down for a long-overdue lesson: A Transit of Venus occurs when Venus is observed moving across the face of the Sun I was told and is evidently among the rarest of predictable astronomical phenomena (for us humans, that is). They occur in a pattern that generally repeats every 243 Earth-years, with pairs of transits eight years apart, separated by long gaps of over 100 years.

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Venus can be seen at one o’clock on the sun’s face. The other marks are sunspots and acne. 

I learned, too, that prior transits of said planet were useful for early scientific research. From the 1700s, they allowed us to begin working out Earth’s distance from the Sun and offered the first clue that Venus might have actually had an atmosphere. If you want to know more, best look it up for yourself because for my part it goes right through to the keeper, as the cricketing metaphor suggests.

This was a very cool subject, but I wasn’t sure my talents as a songwriter could massage any of this data into a meaningful, entertaining set of lyrics. The answers fell into the domain of science / astronomy that only Eric Idle and Jon du Prez can do comic justice (The Galaxy Song). Hence I changed tack; rather the transit being focus, I considered what humans had been doing all the while Venus was going about her (Venus is a woman, right?) business.

When the CD was first released I received a lot of positive feedback about The Transit of Venus. So, even though it’s late coming I thought to finally share the inspiration behind it for any who have listened and liked.