Music is one of my favorite things outside work, and it played a much more important role in my life than I ever imagined, which I guess can be said about most of you. So I thought, I listen to a lot of music, so why not look up my favorite ‘astronomy’-related music?
By ‘astronomy’-related music, I mean space music, or, in other words, music with a message or a feel strongly related to space. Unsurprisingly, there are many songs with such themes, and I will break down my favorite tunes, some of which are more widely known and some lesser-known.
First of all, what are the genres that gave us ‘space’ music? From what I see, there is space rock, widely popular and listened to in the 60s, and the ambient genre, which can include electronic music, where a large output of space-themed music can be found. I will discuss some songs and albums in the following lines.
More than meets the eye – Sandy Cash
More than meets the eye is a tribute to astronomer Vera Rubin, one of the first scientists to detect the presence of dark matter in galaxies. The song very well describes the struggle of Rubin in a male-dominated society. Written by Sandy Cash, the song summarizes the life and work of the forgotten astronomer.
Life On Mars?, and Space Oddity, wonderful works of David Bowie
These songs have been extremely influential to my development in the world of music, and these two Bowie tunes may be his most well-known. However, the first one is poorly related to the actual outer space: there is no other mention of Mars other than in the final words of the chorus, when Bowie asks the great question, Is there life on Maaaaaaars?.
Why the song was named like that, we shall never know, but a wild guess of mine is that it comes with the surrealistic world presented in the song, which has the power of transporting the listener in another world, allowing him to ask the toughest questions, such as if there is life on Mars or not. However, the song was used by NASA more than once, and even SpaceX’s floating Tesla Roadster keeps playing the song while traveling to space, even at this exact moment.
Space Oddity, on the other hand, is definitely a space opera told in two minutes. A song inspired by the Moon landing, it tells the story of Major Tom, and I swear that whenever he sings, “And I’m floating in a most peculiar way / And the stars look very different today,” I’m transported right there, outside the ISS, engaging in the most adventurous spacewalk ever. Even Chris Hadfield performed it on the ISS! The whole song is extremely well written, as you can guess from this short excerpt:
For here am I sitting in my tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
Ticket to the Moon, Electric Light Orchestra
If you never heard this, you’re in for a treat. Ticket to the Moon is just a song from ELO’s wild concept album, Time, which is centered on a man taken from the 80s to 2095. When I first heard this, my expectations were very high, and happily, I was not disappointed.
Not all of the album is exactly space-themed, as it is more of a science-fiction story of advanced technologies and longing for a past love, these two themes being intertwined through the record. Ticket to the Moon is an amazing tune describing a man’s worries regarding his trip to the moon, and we see him thinking about meeting his long-lost love and singing the existential problem of a one-way trip, which is what awaits him.
Ticket to the moon
Flight leaves here today from Satellite Two
As the minutes go by, what should I do?
I paid the fare, what more can I say?
It’s just one way (Only one way)…
Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, Spiritualized
A lot more experimental, Spiritualized is a band with few limits. Their song Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space offers a thrilling space experience, making you feel small yet so important at the same time.
Everything happens today
And we’re out here in space
And I don’t know where we are all going
Apollo, Brian Eno
This is an album, not a song, and I really recommend it, not only because Brian Eno is an innovator in ambient music but also because of the story behind its creation. Apparently, Eno was so impressed by the Moon landing that he decided to create a soundtrack. For a much more practical purpose, he created the album as a soundtrack to the documentary For All Mankind. The original version of the album was abandoned as it had no commentary, only music.
The producers decided that it would do better with the audiences if there were a narration, which is what they did, leaving aside Eno’s concept. Proof that masses aren’t always right. Apollo is, for real, the closest thing to a soundtrack to the Moon landing one can get.
The Planets, Gustav Holst
Here we have a classical work by a very talented composer. The Planets is probably the most massive space-themed work in classical music, stretching to around one hour of fine compositions on Mars, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Definitely worth checking.
Bonus: Funniest song around
Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas), by They Might Be Giants. Listen to it. I challenge you to. I shall say nothing more.