Electronic music and space exploration — whether real or fictionalized — have always seemed to go hand in hand. NASA’s Apollo program timeline largely mirrored the rise of the Moog synthesizer. Early sci-fi alien movies gave a home to the theremin, and the ARP 2600 gave a voice to R2-D2. The Orb’s seminal album, Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld — now celebrating its 25th anniversary — literally fused ambient music to space in many young ravers’ consciousnesses.
Last Friday, the trend proved to still be in full swing. For one thing, Hollywood Records released the Star Wars Headspace album, a somewhat kitschy compilation of pieces featuring recognizable samples from Lucasfilm’s immortal franchise. The album features the likes of Kaskade, GTA, Baauer, Claude VonStroke, Rick Rubin, Bonobo, Royksopp (listen to their "Bounty Hunters" here) , Flying Lotus and Galantis.
However, the announcement that carried a bit more gravity, or gravity-defying gravitas, came when Virgin Galactic unveiled its newly completed SpaceShipTwo, which Professor Stephen Hawking has rechristened VSS Unity (Virgin Space Ship Unity). The VSS Unity has room for two pilots and six passengers, and Virgin Galactic has already reserved more than 700 seats for eventual flights to the final frontier, aka the next tourist destination.
Of course, this doesn’t have much to do with electronic music, unless Virgin is going to put the same entertainment system on its spaceship as the one on Virgin America’s flights, which has a rather tasteful selection of electronic music past and present. But Virgin did choose “Sea of Voices” by Porter Robinson for its VSS Unity unveiling videos. The 24-year-old Robinson was still floating in the clouds when The Orb’s “Little Fluffy Clouds” came out, but his “Sea of Voices” perfectly captures the kind of ascendent possibility that the achievement of space tourism brings to mind. You can hear it in the two videos below.
Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson’s buddy and music technologist Ray Kurzweil often points out that the human being is Earth’s one animal that constantly transcends its limitations. So the human drive to the most inhospitable environment of outer space encapsulates that trait to the extreme. What better music then to accompany space travel than electronic music, the style that always embraces the next round of limitation-transcending technology? Here’s to the sky not being the limit, but only the beginning.
Professor Stephen Hawking Welcomes VSS Unity
Celebrating Unity - Our Journey
“Sea of Voices” by Porter Robinson