Space-themed music

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This article is about music from all genres with themes of outer space. For the contemplative music genre, see Space music. For other uses, see Space (disambiguation).

Space-themed music is any music, from any genre or style, with lyrics or titles relating to outer space or space travel.

Songs or other musical forms influenced by the concept of outer space have appeared in music throughout history, both in instrumental and vocal pieces with lyrics. As early as Ancient Greece, Pythagoras believed in something called the "harmony of the spheres". He believed that since planets and the stars all moved in the universe according to mathematical equations that these mathematical equations could be translated into musical notes and thus produce a symphony.[1] This idea was explored further throughout Western history under the theories of Musica universalis. Some more recent and widely different examples are The Planets by Gustav Holst, and the song "Space Oddity" by David Bowie. Outer space also appears as a theme in "space age" retro pop music, such as Stereolab's Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music.

Music about outer space attracts enthusiastic listeners from all walks of life. Some have created web pages to share their interests. NASA, JPL, and the US Governmental Centennial of Flight Commission even have a webpages showcasing and discussing music about outer space. [2] [3] [4]

Music about outer space[edit]

In 1958, Karl-Birger Blomdahl composed an opera Aniara to a libretto by Erik Lindegren based on the poem Aniara by Harry Martinson, a tragedy set aboard a space ship.

The Japanese musician Isao Tomita has produced many albums with space-based themes, such as The Planets (1976), his version of Holst's suite; Kosmos (1978); Bermuda Triangle (1979); Dawn Chorus (Canon of the Three Stars) (1984); Space Walk - Impressions Of An Astronaut (compilation, 1984); Mind of the Universe - Live at Linz (1985); Back to the Earth - Live in New York (1988); and Nasca Fantasy (supporting Kodo, 1994).

The Vangelis album Albedo 0.39 (1976) is entirely devoted to space, while a segment of Heaven and Hell (1975) was used as the theme to the PBS television series Cosmos by Carl Sagan. His work Mythodea: Music for NASA's Mars Odyssey Mission is reflective of his interest in space exploration. [5]

Mike Oldfield's 1994 album The Songs of Distant Earth was based on Arthur C. Clarke's SF novel Songs of Distant Earth. Pop songs also mention outer space, such as Chris de Burgh's "A Spaceman Came Travelling", the Bonzo Dog Band's "I'm the Urban Spaceman", David Bowie's "Space Oddity", Elton John's "Rocket Man", Major Tom by Peter Schilling, and Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'". To Our Children's Children's Children by the The Moody Blues was a 1969 album inspired by spaceflight.

Several albums have featured music inspired by the Apollo space program. In 1983, Brian Eno with his brother Roger Eno and producer/recording artist Daniel Lanois, composed the score for the film For All Mankind, a documentary of NASA's Apollo program; an album of the music, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, was later released.[6] On The Orb's 1991 two-disc debut album, Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld, disc one of features an ambient musical simulation of the Apollo 11 moon journey, including excerpts of NASA recordings of the radio conversations between Mission Control and the astronauts in space.

The filk anthology albums Minus Ten and Counting (1983) and To Touch the Stars (2003) celebrate and promote the exploration of outer space.

Author and classical music critic David Hurwitz describes Joseph Haydn's choral and chamber orchestra piece, The Creation, composed in 1798, as space music, both in the sense of the sound of the music, ("a genuine piece of 'space music' featuring softly pulsating high violins and winds above low cellos and basses, with nothing at all in the middle ... The space music gradually drifts towards a return to the movement's opening gesture ... "); and in the manner of its composition, relating that Haydn conceived The Creation after discussing music and astronomy with William Herschel, oboist and astronomer (discoverer of the planet Uranus).[7]

Another band to use space as musical inspiration is the Christian "Astro-Rock" group Brave Saint Saturn, whose three albums, So Far from Home, The Light of Things Hoped For, and Anti-Meridian, form a trilogy that chronicles the journey of the fictional spaceship, the USS Gloria, on a trip to survey the moons of Saturn. The music uses space narratives, lingo, samples and quotes to portray the journey.

Soundtracks for movies and TV shows about outer space[edit]

An Etherwave-Theremin, assembled from Robert Moog's kit: the loop antenna on the left controls the volume while the upright antenna controls the pitch
A Bach piece played by Italian thereminist Fabio Pesce on a Moog Etherwave theremin.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Soundtracks of science fiction movies and television and radio series often feature music associated with outer space, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Red Dwarf, The X-Files, and others.

The theremin is an electronic musical instrument associated with a very eerie sound, which has led to its use in movie soundtracks such as those in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Music played in planetariums and observatories[edit]

Many forms of music are used Observatory and Planetarium shows, particularly genres such as Electronic music, classical music, Space music, and Space rock.[8] Some artists, such as Geodesium, specialize in creating custom music for Planetariums.

During the 1970s, IMAX's OMNIMAX (now IMAX Dome) film system was conceived to operate on planetarium screens. More recently, some planetariums have re-branded themselves as "dome theaters," with broader offerings including wide-screen or "wraparound" films, fulldome video, and laser shows that combine music with laser-drawn patterns.

Music made with sounds of outer space[edit]

Energy sources in the atmosphere, such as lightning, can produce sounds (sferics, tweeks, and whistlers) in the very low frequency (VLF) radio band. [9] [10]

Objects in space - the Sun, planets, stars, quasars, pulsars, galaxies, and active galaxies - all produce signals that, if received (usually through radio astronomy dishes and processed), can be used by a musician as the basis for any kind of composition imaginable. [11]

Scientists with an interest in space-based sounds include:

Artists/bands who have included such sounds in their works include:

  • Terry Riley, along with the Kronos Quartet, in their album Sun Rings, which used "sounds of the planets recorded by the Voyager mission on its journey to deep space" .[14]
  • Stephen Taylor, in the album The Heart of the Sun.[15]
  • Robert Schroeder's album Galaxie Cygnus-A used interstellar noise from the distant galaxy in the title [16][17][18]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Riedweg, Christoph (2005). Pythagoras: His Life, Teaching, And Influence. Cornell University Press. pp. 29, 30, 116. ISBN 0-8014-4240-0. 
  2. ^ http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2003/dec/HQ_03396_Labelle.html ASA Song Soars To Grammy Nomination
  3. ^ http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/news/press-releases-00/20001215-sn-a.cfm "Sounds" of Outer Space Near Jupiter Now Online - JPL/NASA website
  4. ^ http://www.centennialofflight.net/essay/Social/music/SH16.htm Aviation and Space Music - U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission
  5. ^ NASA Spotlight on Vangelis music for Mars Odyssey Mission
  6. ^ Prendergast, Mark (2000). The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance - the Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age. Bloomsbury Publishing, New York. p. 125. ISBN 1-58234-134-6. 
  7. ^ Hurwitz, David (2005). Exploring Haydn: A Listener's Guide to Music's Boldest Innovator. Amadeus Press Unlocking the Masters Series. Hal Leonard. pp. 78–81. ISBN 1-57467-116-2. 
  8. ^ Enthusiast's website with detailed information about music for Planetariums and generally about outer space
  9. ^ space weather glossary sounds information
  10. ^ NASA space-sound poetry page
  11. ^ here Hobbysapce article on space sounds used in music
  12. ^ NASA Voyager CD
  13. ^ electromagnetic fields processed with digital sampling techniques
  14. ^ report on Voyager music by Kronos Quartet
  15. ^ Stanford - Stephen Taylor album info
  16. ^ The Music of Robert Schroeder
  17. ^ AmbientMusicGuide.com - Robert Schroeder
  18. ^ Robert Schröder - Galaxie Cygnus-A