The Sacred Table of Venus, composed for Ensemble Offspring in 2020/21, is conceptually part of a larger work, The Divine Order of Celestial Numbers, a cycle of seven movements based on German Renaissance polymath Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim’s planetary magic squares or ‘sacred tables’, as outlined in his Three Books of Occult Philosophy.

These seven movements can be performed either as separate standalone works or as simultaneous overlays in a complete set for 36 musicians and 6-channel electronics. Each movement is based on a specific planet, with the size of the ensemble reflecting the order of the associated magic square in Agrippa’s text.

Erkki Veltheim looks at the camera with a totally black background.

Erkki Veltheim. Photo © Sarah Walker

Three Books of Occult Philosophy is from a time before a clear demarcation between science and magic, and though Copernicus had by then proposed the heliocentric model of our solar system, Agrippa subscribed to Ptolemy’s geocentric theory and freely combined established astronomical facts with mystical astrological numerology.

Magic squares, which arrange a sequence of numbers in a way that produces identical...