Gustav Holst was among those few classical composers to exert a major influence on rock music and popular music in the mid- to late- 20th century -- which is all rather ironic, since he passed away in 1934. Holst was part of the early- 20th century school of English composers usually referred to as post-Romantics -- along with his friend Ralph Vaughan Williams, with whom he shared a common interest in English folksong, he helped advance the cause of distinctly English orchestral music far beyond the boundaries of England; but much of Holst's music, as distinct from that of his contemporaries, was also steeped in Eastern influences that made it unique. Born in Cheltenham in 1874, Holst survived a childhood blighted by poor health (including painful neuritis in his right hand), the death of his mother when he was eight years old, and an overly demanding father. He studied at the Royal College of Music, and late in the 1890s took up the trombone as a means of earning a living. He also began composing during this period, and this, in turn, coincided with his discovery of the Hindu religion. He later became fascinated by its underlying philosophy (even learning Sanskrit), which would come to inspire some of his finest and most distinctive works. Mostly, however, he toiled in obscurity as a composer while earning his living as a teacher, until the first decade of the 20th century. It was during that time that he somewhat belatedly became fascinated by English folk songs. From that point on, his work would be built around the two distinct sources of inspiration, folk music and Eastern philosophy and music.