Liftoff of the Apollo 17 Saturn V Moon Rocket from Pad A, Launch Complex 39, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, at 12:33 a.m., December 7, 1972. Image via NASA Flickr Commons
NASA’s SoundCloud library includes the deafening noise of rocket launches, the banter between crew and mission control, music made by comets, and the wails of interstellar “tsunami waves” traveling through space. For musicians at multidisciplinary collective Fabrica Music Area, this treasure trove of sound was the inspiration and the starting point for collaborative four-song EP, titled 80UA, after the dimensions of the solar system as measured in Astronomical Units. The only rule in creating their new work? They had to craft their compositions solely using NASA’s original recordings.
The idea for the project was born when Fabrica members Davide Cairo, a.k.a edisonnoside, and Giacomo Muzzacato, a.k.a Yakamoto Kotzuga, were working on the soundtrack for a documentary about aliens. Intrigued when NASA unveiled their sound library in October, they wondered how to creatively remix such a source. With Francesco Novara, Geremia Vinattieri, and Jhon Williams, a.k.a JWCM, on board, the team of five challenged themselves to sample, process, reconstruct, and interpret their own space music. In conjunction with the 12th anniversary of Creative Commons, their EP debuts today on Bad Panda Records, and is available for streaming and free download, for all us Earthlings to jam out to.
We spoke with each composer about their inspiration for their individual contribution, their fascinations with space, and their creative process:
Track 1: "Express 999" by Francesco Novara
Francesco Novara was inspired by the mood of the anime Galaxy Express 999 by Leiji Matsumoto, in which a steam train travels through space. For Novara, composing is not so much about creating, it’s about receiving. He compares his process to the work of a “radar,” picking up data and transmitting to far corners. “I perceive music as an extension of my body, my thoughts, and my feelings. When you call someone, you actually use the sound to fill the distances,” he explains. “In this case the sound of space travelled from far away, creating an invisible connection with us—this is amazing to me. Travelers are always interesting and full of beautiful stories to tell.”
Track 2: "Yellowknife Bay" by Edisonnoside & Yakamoto Kotzuga
The sinuous rock feature in the lower center of this mosaic of images recorded by the NASA Mars rover Curiosity is called "Snake River." Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech via.
Edisonnoside & Yakamoto Kotzuga collaborated on "Yellowknife Bay," a song composed with the idea that it could be the soundtrack to the video of the Curiosity Rover exploring Mars for the first time. Keeping the structure of the soundscape experimental, they mixed “one-shot sounds,” like parts of John F. Kennedy’s speech or comet rain to represent the unknown terrain. To create a strong “kick” for the ending, they chopped up the sound of Kepler, one of the “most powerful bass sounds they’ve heard recently.”
Says Yakamoto, “I think it's really crazy to be able to listen to the sounds that do not really exist. Especially if they come from light-years away. Space has always been fascinating to me, and I believe that this discovery represents the highest point of human evolution.”
Track 3: "V1 | 130" by Geremia Vinattieri
For Vinattieri, what’s most intriguing about the final frontier is that there is no sound out there at all. But, still everything vibes and emits frequencies that can be translated into audio wave emissions. For “V1-130,” he was inspired by the Voyager 1 mission that launched in 1977, sent immense data about the universe back home to Earth during its journey, and now has finally reached the cusp of interstellar space. The probe is now 130 AU from the Sun, the furthest human-made object has traveled.
“To recreate the feeling of this giant travel, I create a sort of cycling theme that is imitating the rotation of V1 into the empty space,” he describes. “For my bass line I make an instrument using a granular synthesis of the recording called Van Allen Probes B "Giraffes in Space” For my “sort of mallet theme” I used a really tiny sample of "Kepler: Star KIC7671081B Light Curve Waves to Sound" and for all the percussions and drum sounds I used many samples taken from Voyager 1 and 2 recording.”
“I discover that the main structure of most of these space sounds has sort of regular pulsation breaks by some unknown melodic elements,” he continues. “So, in the composition, I put some little variations into the patterns and some big variation into the structure that breaks the hypnotic effect of the themes. Imagining the big variations as representation of the huge encounters of V1: planets, moons, and asteroids. As the space probe V1 is slowly getting lost in this huge distance, the track at the end fades towards undefined sound.”
Track 4: "Corona Borealis" by JWCM
JWCM’s track is a tribute to Carl Sagan, since Corona Borealis was one of his favorite constellations. “The idea was to create two fundamental atmospheres, one of a melody that's almost reminiscent of a maternal singing, and another one intended to be the exact opposite, frightening and unknown. Which in essence how I think of the universe,” says JWCM.
“To me, the most fascinating thing about this project is working with something so unknown and far away. The mystery of these sound’s origins really fascinate me; the time and distance they have traveled, the hidden messages that they might carry with them. All this make these sounds really magical to me. Making music from the sounds of NASA was like creating color from black and white; taking these ''noises'' and turning them into a language that speaks to us as emotional beings.”
Listen to the stellar 80UA EP below: