Music for Stargazing by Don Knabb
If you are as lucky as I am to have stereo speakers mounted on the outside of your house, you might choose to have some music playing while you sit looking at the night sky. Along with my interest in astronomy I also am a fan of "space music" and the two interests go hand in hand. In this article I'll list a few CDs that I often listen to or associate with stargazing and give you a brief description of each.

What is "space music"? My definition is that space music is music that has an "other worldly" quality to it or that would set a mood that is consistent with contemplating the great beyond. Most space music is electronically created. Although space music could be created with acoustic instruments, that would be the exception. If you have been to a planetarium show (and I'm SURE you have been) you have almost certainly heard space music even if you were not aware of it at the time.

And The Stars Go With You Planetary Chronicles vol 2 Planetary Chronicles vol 2 Jonn Serrie

The most classic producer of space music is Jonn Serrie: He has several CDs out, but the three that are most commonly associated with astronomy are And the Stars Go with You, Planetary Chronicles Vol 1, and Planetary Chronicles Vol 2. This music is used for planetarium shows throughout the world. Serrie has a long history producing music for planetarium shows, and several pieces on And the Stars Go with You were commissioned by the Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. He has worked on projects with NASA and the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Any of these CDs are great to have playing while stargazing or if you want to stargaze in your mind on a cloudy night.

All the Stars Burning Bright A bit further out in electronic land is a CD called All the Stars Burning Bright by a musician named eM. This CD is pure electronic music but has sounds generated by various astronomical phenomena. One track includes the signal from the Voyager spacecraft. The CD has a hydrogen alpha photo of the sun on its cover. Titles of some tracks are interesting, including "A Dream of Summer Stars," "Parsecs," and "Starswarm".

My personal favorites for stargazing are several CDs by an artist named Steve Roach from Tucson Arizona. His classic Structures from Silence is incredibly beautiful and a great fit with stargazing. Other of Steve's CDs can be a bit deeper and dark, such as The Magnificent Void which really does feel like a voyage in the deep spaces between galaxies. His very recent Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces is my current favorite. It's a 4-CD set that can cover many hours under the stars with soft, enjoyable but very interesting music. His CD Midnight Moon would be a good one for lunar observing:

Structures From Silence The Magnificient Void Mystic Chords and Sacred Spaces Midnight Moon

Entering Twilight If you'd like to have very restful and soothing music to set the star gazing mood, I'd recommend James Johnson's Entering Twilight. It's drifty and soft, just like those moments after sunset when the stars are just coming out.

A couple CDs I'll mention have astronomy titles that speak to the music on the disk. I greatly enjoy them both. They are space music in its most pure form. One is Mike Griffin and Dave Fulton's The Most Distant Point Known. This CD has a real science fiction feel and can take you quite deep into the void. The other one I'll mention is Celestial Mechanics by Chuck Van Zyl. Chuck is best known for his work as the disk jockey of the radio show "Star's End" that plays Saturday nights on the University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN. This show is 5 hours of excellent space music that you could play during a late night/early morning stargazing marathon. But Chuck is also quite a musician and has put out several CDs with a strong astronomy connection. Celestial Mechanics has liner notes that discuss Jupiter's moon Callisto and the cosmic coincidence that results in a solar eclipse.

The Most Distant Point Known Celestial Mechanics There are many more artists out there making music perfect for stargazing. I've tried to hit a few of my personal favorites above. Although the sounds of silence are perfectly fine for stargazing, the music above also complements the experience.

from OBSERVATIONS the monthly publication of The Chester County Astronomical Society :: May 2005

Essays Index