(May 21 – June 20)
First, let’s address the single biggest Gemini stereotype. Anyone born under this sign will be familiar with the following reaction: “You’re a Gemini?… So, you’re two-faced!” I know where people get this. It’s because the symbol for Gemini is the twins. While some elements of that image hold, such as being generally “multi-everything” — multi-talented, multi-lingual, multi-taskers, etc. — to really understand where the twins come in, it’s important to know the myth behind the symbol.
The Gemini twins are the mythical brothers Castor and Pollux. Pollux was an immortal, but Castor was not, and when he was killed, the heartbroken Pollux asked Zeus to be allowed to share his mortality with his brother. In Greek mythological terms, this meant that each twin would spend one half of the year in Hades, the underworld, while the other was atop Mount Olympus. Rather than being “two-faced,” the twins-theme is more that Olympian ups and Hellish downs are an inherent part the Gemini experience; neither will last, but the challenge is for the Gemini to meet and embrace the lows as ably as the highs.
It’s only when they don’t manage this well that you then meet your stereotypical “shallow” Gemini, and in this case some gifts of the sign may come into play in a negative way… But this is true of every sign. Even Libra.
Gemini’s ruling planet is Mercury, the winged messenger. This tells you a lot about what makes this sign tick: Gemini’s prime directive is the collection and dissemination of information. Curiosity is a hallmark of this sign. Those born under its influence will find themselves craving knowledge of all kinds; but there’s so much to know about and life is so short, there isn’t time to rest on any one topic for too long…
Which speaks to another quality of Mercury that infuses the Gemini: It is quick, and, well, mercurial! They’re fast thinkers, physically agile, hard to pin down and most of all, quick with their tongues. Gemini LOVES words. Words are vessels for all that cherished information, but also they are magic. Words are like a remote control that transfers thoughts and ideas through the air. They can effect change without lifting a finger.
Quicksilver Mercury combines with the Twins to endow Gemini with versatility. As intellectuals, this versatility allows them to view any one subject from different angles. Their knowledge can be more comprehensive than most, and they are effective at puncturing inert, monolithic views.
In a broader sense, this versatility will result in them speaking more than one language, and in having more than one job or career. This last is partly to fulfill their multiplicity of interests, but also to avoid boredom. Gemini HATES being bored.
And now… to the Music…
As a sign about communication, it is interesting to note that you are more likely to find that great Gemini performers outnumber the great Gemini composers. To be in the immediate act of communication is where Gemini comes alive, more so than in the solitary act of composing. And as Gemini rules the lungs and hands, it isn’t surprising that some of the greatest Gemini musicians have been pianists and singers! Frederica von Stade and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Martha Argerich and Emmanuel Ax are just the tip of that iceberg.
That said, there are some notable Gemini composers who can give us a window on what this sign can look like. Here are three.
RICHARD WAGNER – THE WELL-READ MULTI-TASKER
(May 22nd, 1813)
It is not lost on this sign that one of the most effective means of communication is through a good story. So we shouldn’t be surprised that one of the most legendary storytellers in modern music history was a Gemini: Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle is European music’s grandest, most all-encompassing myth. It’s true that, with both the Sun and Ascendant in Gemini, Wagner was himself born into a set of tall tales. His “official” father was only that, his “stepfather” was something quite more, and his mother’s background was not at all what it seemed. In this sense, he came by one negative aspect of Gemini quite honestly: the penchant for poetry over proof… or to put it more bluntly, being a good liar! This he would continue in his own biographical yarn-spinning, downplaying his formal music education in order to be perceived as an “untutored genius,” for example.
But in his art, the assets of Gemini found formidable expression. Wagner was widely read, and put his agile mind to work analyzing the roles of literature and music — word, sound and drama — developing new theories on the subject, which he put forth in the influential essay, Oper und Drama. More significant was his own realization of these ideas. Up to this point, any opera would have been a collaboration between a composer and a writer (librettist). Wagner, Gemini wordsmith that he was, did it all himself. Every one of his 13 operas are settings of his own poetry. The Ring of the Nibelung, the famous operatic epic, is Gemini at its best. In this highly researched telling of Norse sagas and the Song of the Nibelungs, the gifted Wagner took control of every element — not only the music and the poetry, but also the stage direction, conducting the orchestra, and even the building of the theatre itself. The Bayreuth Festspielhaus was designed from top to bottom by Wagner specifically for “The Ring”. His vision was of a unified, grand art in which every element was significant. Through his multi-faceted Gemini powers, he was able to make it a game-changing reality. European music would never look back.
IGOR STRAVINSKY – THE CHAMELEON
(June 17th, 1882)
When I say Wagner was game-changing, I’m not kidding. Whether he was liked or reviled — he was and is both — everything in European music that came after was a response to him. Some continued his course, some reacted against it. One of the latter was Igor Stravinsky.
Turning his back on Wagner’s thick textures and systematic, but labyrinth-like harmonies, Stravinsky goes down in history as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, and his Gemini-nature shines through. His ever-changing style, and his fluency in many different musical languages did Mercury proud. He was a musical Picasso, a real chameleon. His rational outlook further reflects the highly intellectual nature of this sign: ‘I consider that music is, by its very nature, essentially powerless to express anything at all … The phenomenon of music is given to us with the sole purpose of establishing an order in things.’ These just might be the words of one of the many avoidance-prone Gemini — the type who aren’t entirely comfortable getting real and spending time in Hades!
But as I never did have to put up with Stravinsky on a personal level, I have no problem praising his gift for music. From his primary-coloured, revolutionary ballet music; to his “Russian Period”; from his neo-classical period, borrowing forms, ideas and systems from music history; to his adoption of the atonal world of Stockausen-like serialism, Stravinsky’s astonishing versatility is Gemini to the core.
But as often as he “changed his skin,” Stravinsky, like Picasso, was always Stravinsky, which you can hear through the persistent presence of powerful rhythm.
PRINCE – THE WHOLE PACKAGE
(June 7, 1958)
And then there’s Prince. He’s an artist we’ve lost too soon, and whose passing has spawned a world-wide, cross-generational outpouring of appreciation and, to a rarely unanimous extent, respect. For those who doubt that a Gemini can have integrity, look to Prince to see that it is possible, and note that, that when it’s all there, the results are dazzling. This is the sign of the magician, after all.
As Gemini assets go, Prince had and did it all. He was both the performer and the composer; an extraordinary singer and pianist — not to mention guitar player, bass player, drummer… The versatility and mastery of his skills astonished those who witnessed them. He was no dabbler. Of course, large doses of Scorpio in his chart endowed him with inexhaustible energy which he could devote to all these ventures. Even so, the fact that he played almost every instrument on his first 5 albums (with the number on the first one alone totalling 27!) is an extreme example of how facile a Gemini can be.
Then there’s the voice. As Lenny Kravitz told Rolling Stone, ”His vocals are just limitless. There’s the androgynous, very feminine Prince, there’s the James Brown-style Prince, the gospel Prince, the rock & roll Prince. He has so many different textures and dimensions with his voice — and everything is funky.”
An artistic multi-linguist, his grasp of every musical style in our cultural river is present in his wide-ranging output, the majority of which we have yet to hear. And his ability to give us fresh perspectives on them, and introduce new alchemical possibilities, rendered him a legend even before he was done.
Prince filled out the Gemini imperative in every facet of his work. Mercurial in the extreme, it was all tinged with a trait I’ve neglected to mention so far: playfulness, childlike whimsy, wit, charm, and disarming cleverness. It’s too soon to say what Prince’s long-term legacy will be, but there’s no question he has been yet another game-changer, and the picture of a Gemini well-fulfilled.