Have you ever listened to silence…complete and utter silence. You might think that you have, but you haven’t.
This is nearly impossible on earth because we do not live within a vacuum. Even the slightest vibration disturbs and propagates through airwaves enough to defeat silence. But this is not a science lesson.
And while there is no sound in all the vast reaches of outer space, there is a lot of sound about space; it even has its own sub-genre if you wanna get picky about it (see Space Rock). And despite being a completely silent place itself, we are so intrigued by this unknown world that we have created sonic representations of how we imagine the galaxies to sound.
Any unknown, whether it be a person, place, etc., makes the best theme for a piece of music because there are no boundaries; it’s not something that everyone knows, has seen, experienced or can define. It leaves itself open to for the utmost personal interpretation and does not limit creativity with harsh reality or preconceived ideas. Space, to some degree, represents and defines the limits of our human understanding: we describe something/someone out-there as spacey; we space out when not paying attention. Anything beyond the boundaries of normalcy must be from outer space.
While all music can be an escape from everyday life, there are certain compositions that offer an even farther refuge from this world…one Beyond the Infinite.
So what does rock and roll sound like in space. It varies slightly depending on which artist you ask, but generally speaking HUGE. It appears there are few subtleties amongst the stars. Large, sustaining notes that stretch far into the stars; unlimited reverberations and echoes of sound from a distant planet; an intoxicating, lush swirl of sound; droning loud & distorted tones; a sputtering sequence of synthetic and alien bleeps and blurts.
Each of the instruments used to create this cosmic symphony serves a purpose: the percussion propels the listener’s vessel into deep space like a steady rocket; you feel the pulse of the bass and sub-low frequencies as you climb farther into darkness and then, you see the vivid and colorful guitar and vocal tones and textures of melody and harmony, like the bright astral bodies that litter the galaxies and pass by you on your interstellar voyage.
Pink Floyd, while speeding through the cosmos in Interstellar Overdrive, decided to Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and took a few albums to come back to self-reflective reality here on Earth. ‘Surely’, said Hawkwind, ‘Space is Deep‘ as they rode along in their Silver Machine until they heard Earth Calling. Blue Oyster Cult is another well-versed student of Astronomy. Even Black Sabbath have travelled Into the Void and beyond to Planet Caravan.
It’s liberating to listen to these sounds and mental place oneself outside the world as we know it; to carry only your imagination with you and be transported from reality. I doubt that any record made about the confining atmosphere and gravity of Earth would be nearly as exciting.
Put on something ‘spacey’ (preferably on vinyl so that you can hear the hiss and pops), turn off the lights (lava lamps can stay on) and climb aboard.