Have you been searching for your perfect summer jam? Are you also the kind of person who occasionally, if not frequently, finds “a little truth” in stereotypes about zodiac signs? While I’m skeptical of Astrotalk’s claims that Geminis are Chihuahuas and Scorpios are extra sexually active, I’m not above a trip to an astrologer’s office, and I love a good bop. With hopes that some of you are similarly inclined, I pored over summer horoscopes for all the zodiac signs and matched them to pieces of classical music. You’re welcome.
Good horoscopes aren’t a dime a dozen. You can’t google and procure them for free. The global astrology industry is valued near $13 billion, which means, unless you have the fortitude to teach yourself how to interpret circular maps and glyphs, you have to pay for self-discovery. When I realized astrology charts look like the sheet music for “Scarbo” from Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit,” I consulted a professional astrologer, the inimitable Alexandria Rollet. Thanks to her, if I tell you your ideal composer is Mussorgsky or Berlioz, I’m not drawing names out of a hat. My ideas emanate from the tropical zodiac and equinoctial points.
From an astrological standpoint, the summer of 2023 will have star quality (no pun intended). In June, Venus and Mars will move into Leo, the zodiac sign concerned with performance and individuality. This means we’ll begin summer with an abundance of energy helping us indulge and take risks romantically and creatively. Think heavy Leoš Janáček energy circa 1928 (He wrote Kamila Stösslová, the woman who inspired his String Quartet No. 2, “You stand behind every note, you, living, forceful, loving. The fragrance of your body, the glow of your kisses—no, really of mine. Those notes of mine kiss all of you. They call for you passionately…”).
Additionally, we’ll begin to feel the impact of Jupiter occupying Taurus, the zodiac sign of loyalty and constancy. Taurus has experienced a lot of change and chaos over the last few years. For this reason, Jupiter, the planet of growth and abundance ruling over our belief systems and connection to a high power, will feel like a gift. Many of us will experience bursts of inspiration, see things we didn’t see previously, and even find new directions for creative work. We’ll be basking in the energy Anton Webern embodied in 1911 when he discovered his calling as a miniaturist.
But we’ll still face challenges. Saturn (the planet representing structure, discipline, and authority) and Neptune (the planet of inspiration, spirituality, and the unseen) will station retrograde in Pisces, the zodiac sign most closely associated with music. When Saturn stations retrograde in late June, many of us will begin questioning and revising “big ideas” as well as personal choices. And when Venus stations retrograde at the end of July, some of us will begin feeling stuck, insecure, or frustrated with the way we’ve been doing things. You may find yourself on your own island of Mallorca, your honeymoon abruptly over.
Don’t worry: This will pass. Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.
Aries: March 21–April 19
Steve Reich: “Come Out” (1966)
Reich’s “Come Out”—a visceral, hallucinatory piece looping four seconds of tape on two different channels to create phase-shifting effects—is unmistakably yours this summer. It has the scintillating, steady Venus-Mars energy you’ll feel in your creative endeavors, plus the Jupiter energy of truth and justice that will lead you toward new vistas. Reich created “Come Out” using a recorded statement from Daniel Hamm, one of the Harlem Six who endured beatings in prison while awaiting trial for a 1964 murder he didn’t commit. Hamm claimed that in order to convince police that white prison guards assaulted him, he had to perforate bruises on his own body: “I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them.” Aries, this summer you’re uniquely positioned to make your own propulsive masterpiece at the nexus of art and politics. Be careful. But get to it.
Taurus: April 20–May 20
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18: II. Adagio sostenuto (1901)
For you, Taurus, more than any other zodiac sign, Jupiter energy this summer will feel like a “Hallelujah!” Uranus has been hampering your personal growth and creativity for years. You’ve suffered like poor Rachmaninoff, who had a nervous breakdown and writer’s block following the disastrous debut of his First Symphony in 1895. Now, with Jupiter’s support, you can expect to feel more grounded and inspired. The Piano Concerto No. 2 represents “light at the end of the tunnel.” It’s the first great piece Rachmaninoff wrote coming out of creative paralysis. He composed it while undergoing hypnotherapy with the esteemed Moscow psychiatrist Dr. Nikolai Dahl: “I heard the same hypnotic formula repeated day after day, while I lay half asleep in the armchair in Dahl’s study. ‘You WILL write a Concerto… You WILL work with great facility… It WILL be excellent…’” Welcome to a more harmonious, productive period.
Gemini: May 21–June 21
Johann Sebastian Bach, Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, BWV 1007: I. Prelude (1717-23)
Gemini, say goodbye to the energy that made your communication style John Cage-y (au revoir, “4’33”,” adieu, I Ching). When Venus and Mars station in Leo, you’ll be able to express yourself more clearly, and people will hear you and sympathize (even if they’re not entirely sure what you mean). Additionally, with Jupiter energy soothing your subconscious, you’re likely to become more aware of the beauty and longing in your own voice, which might motivate you to seek therapy or solitude to balance your Apollonian and Dionysian impulses. Hence, the Prelude from Bach’s First Cello Suite is your ultimate summer bop. It’s instantly recognizable with its lonely, flowing voice, but it isn’t easy to interpret; it’s a cathedral of erudition and feeling. If it makes you want to cry on your summer vacation, listen to Arthur de Lulli’s “The Celebrated Chop Waltz” instead.
Cancer: June 22–July 22
Babatunde Akinboboye: “Largo (‘Figaro’)” (2019)
Cancer, you’ll be dropping C-notes—not to be confused with high Cs—this summer to boost your personal aesthetic, thanks to Venus and Mars. Simultaneously, Saturn retrograde will prompt you to reevaluate your education and relationship with a higher power. The bottom line? You’re liable to invest in your “look” for heuristic or spiritual reasons. More than ever before, your energy is a Balinese-style mansion equipped with a pop-up Wild West town and “Avatar”-themed garden. Akinboboye’s “Largo,” which combines Rossini’s “Figaro” with Kendrick Lamar’s beats, is therefore your perfect summer soundtrack. Listen while getting that Mahler tattoo you’ve always wanted and booking tickets to Abu Dhabi for next year’s Festival in the Park.
Leo: July 23–August 22
Felix Mendelssohn: Octet in E-Flat Major, Op. 20 (1825)
Mendelssohn’s gorgeous, effervescent Octet in E-Flat Major captures your summer vibe impeccably, Leo. Here’s why: This summer you’ll be feeling especially attractive and charismatic (thanks to your Venus-Mars energy) and making choices that enhance your career and public persona (Jupiter is in the house). At the same time, Saturn retrograde will have you reconsidering how you merge with other people romantically, financially, and in business partnerships. In a nutshell, you’ll be glowing and growing, realizing your potential while recalibrating your inner circle. A birthday present for his violin teacher, Mendelssohn’s Octet was the first of its kind, and its beauty and verve astonished all of Germany. It made Mendelssohn a star and publicly marked the moment he achieved artistic independence. We don’t know exactly how the 16-year-old prodigy (an Aquarius) reacted when his mentors and new admirers heaped praise upon his accomplishment, but I imagine he felt as any Leo might: “You love my Octet? Of course you do!”
Virgo: August 23–September 22
Valentin Silvestrov: “Cherubic Song” from “Four Spiritual Songs” (2006-08)
Virgo, you’ll likely experience some turmoil this summer and need to make the best of a bad situation. All the creative and sexual energies of Venus and Mars will only impact you subconsciously, meaning you’ll be dealing with powerful jibber-jabber just below your awareness. Saturn retrograde will have you questioning the quality of your one-to-one relationships; meanwhile, Mercury retrograde will make it harder for you to cope with adversity. Hopefully, music by Ukraine’s most famous living composer—who has himself weathered great storms, most recently as a refugee—will de-escalate your internal battles and quiet unproductive mental chatter. Silvestrov’s breathtakingly beautiful sacred choral music has an echoing, otherworldly quality: It calms and consoles. I found it difficult to choose just one of these a cappella works. I’m highlighting “Cherubic Song” for you because its harmonies float in mid-air, conjuring angels.
Libra: September 23–October 23
George Gershwin: “Walking the Dog” (1937)
Libra, your summer forecast is fun, fun, fun. Your romantic life, with help from Jupiter, will have the energy of Gershwin’s “Love is Here to Stay.” Your social life, revitalized by Venus and Mars, will be “A Wonderful Party.” The only hitch is that when Saturn stations retrograde, you’re likely to have trouble maintaining your routines, and by the end of summer, you could fall behind or feel bored and stuck in your career. God willing, whether you’re weekending in the Berkshires or working overtime in the office, you’ll be able to absorb the mood of “Walking the Dog,” a relaxed, sultry piece accompanying the iconic dog-walking scene in “Shall We Dance.” Don’t let small setbacks spoil your fun. And after the ecstasy, just do your laundry.
Scorpio: October 24–November 21
Engelbert Humperdinck: “Evening Prayer” from “Hansel and Gretel” (1893)
In the second half of Humperdinck’s opera, Hansel and Gretel are lost in the dark forest. Frightened, Gretel weeps, “I’m afraid, I’m afraid, Oh, I would be at home! How does the forest look so ghostly!” Hansel tries to comfort her: “Gretelchen, hold tight to me, I hold you, I protect you!” Before falling asleep, the children sing “Evening Prayer,” which calls upon 14 angels to protect them through the night. This luminous, soothing piece is for you, Scorpio, because this summer, when Saturn and Neptune stifle your creativity and ability to express yourself, you’ll need sustenance. If you find yourself lost in a dark wood, Hansel and Gretel might also remind you that Jupiter is still on your side, helping you strengthen your one-to-one relationships. Take comfort and have sweet dreams.
Sagittarius: November 22–December 21
Béla Bartók: Violin Concerto No. 2 (1938)
You’re a rule-breaker by nature, and this summer you’ll be yearning to branch out. Venus and Mars will be whispering in your ear things like, “Go abroad, join the Sangha, collaborate with the Beastie Boys.” Additionally, Saturn retrograde will have you questioning whether you’re happy with your home life. You’ll be in a “Flute Loop” state of mind, until Jupiter, your ruling planet, warns you, “You’re scheming on a thing that’s a mirage / I’m trying to tell you now, it’s sabotage.” With all this going on, you might not want to rush into any radical creative decisions or long-distance moves. Go slow and welcome Bartók as your totem. Bartók famously remained loyal to the peasant music of his youth while striving to establish his modernist credentials throughout Europe. His Second Violin Concerto, one of his final works, is the apotheosis of his blended style, inhabiting the realm between the local and universal. Let the wisdom in it wash over you.
Capricorn: December 22–January 19
György Ligeti: “Three Pieces for Two Pianos,” II. Self-Portrait with Reich and Riley (and Chopin is Also There) (1976)
You’re entering a fruitful creative period (Jupiter is supporting your artistic endeavors) and could start making more money (Venus-Mars energy is governing your finances), but it’s possible you’ll have trouble communicating with people (blame Saturn for that). Frankly, you might need to hire a publicist or lean on a trusted advocate. Think of this summer as your “Terry Riley circa 1969 period.” In 1969, when Riley’s “In C” played at Darmstadt, people booed loudly. Only a few close listeners, among them György Ligeti, recognized the value of Riley’s new work. Indeed, Ligeti was so transfixed that seven years later, when he debuted “Three Pieces for Two Pianos,” he publicly aligned himself with Riley and commemorated “In C” as a major event in avant-garde music. Capricorn, let’s hope you get your due too.
Aquarius: January 20–February 18
Shelley Washington: “Middleground” (2016)
Aquarius, you’re a nonconformist, but all your energy this summer is conforming. Venus and Mars are enhancing your one-to-one relationships, and Jupiter is throwing rainbows and cloverleaves on your home. More than likely, you’re going to feel intensely focused on your home life and family. “Middleground,” a celebration of Washington’s upbringing in Missouri and Kansas, thoroughly suits your vibe. Washington dedicated this piece to her family and describes it as “my refuge born from the land living in my heart. Where my home is, living and breathing outside of my body, thousands of miles apart.” You might expect it to be demure, but “Middleground” is infused with elements of jazz, rock, and American folk music. It’s laced with romance and nostalgia but drives vigorously forward, recalling the past while expressing new, encompassing impressions from the American Midwest.
Pisces: February 19–March 20
Julius Eastman: “Stay On It” (1973)
During his lifetime, Eastman strove to crack the canon with experimental compositions infusing minimalism with pop elements. In a 1976 interview, he said, “What I am trying to achieve is to be what I am to the fullest. Black to the fullest, a musician to the fullest, a homosexual to the fullest.” All of Eastman’s music, but maybe “Stay On It” especially, captures your vibration this summer, Pisces. Jupiter will be helping you express ideas, but at the same time Saturn will be agitating your sense of self, potentially causing an identity struggle you’ll need to work through creatively. With any luck, you’ll persevere listening to “Stay On It,” which makes use of tight repetition and inviting pop structures interrupted by tumultuous, discordant segments that sound a little like whales crying. Although Eastman died in obscurity in 1990 at 49 years old, he’s remembered today for his visionary, commanding work that affirmed his identity as a gay Black artist. ¶