Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

SPACE MUSIC

A mood music genre, crossing over into new age music, but differing from that mostly acoustic genre in that space music began as a California FM radio phenomenon, composed by Californians and Japanese to be played by synthesizers, e.g. the music of Kitaro, whose many albums (on six different labels in the USA; later 13 CDs on Geffen) some critics professed to be unable to tell apart. In its purest manifestation space music is the ultimate mood music: not music at all but soothing noise, wallpaper for the ears: the hypnotic effect may be welcome or irritating, depending on various parameters.

Hearts of Space in San Francisco offered records, tapes and compact discs on its own label and others through the post in the '80s; about 100 artists and composers represented included Stomu Yamashta, Vangelis, Brian Eno (Music For Airports etc) and guitarist Steven Halpern (Eastern Promise), blamed by some for inventing New Age. The company felt compelled to warn fans that Kitaro's album Asia is loud. New age artists such as Will Ackerman, George Winston were listed as well as film composer Jean Michel Jarre, etc; more interesting offerings revealed some of the sources of the genre, such as the Majnun Symphony by the prolific composer Alan Hovhaness (b 8 March 1911, Somerville MA d 21 June 2000); half Armenian, he specialised in synthesis of music of East and West (his The Mysterious Mountain was beautifully recorded by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra). Minimalist composer Terry Riley appeals (Rainbow In Curved Air); as do albums by Paul Horn (Inside The Taj Mahal '68, etc) and Tony Scott (Music For Zen Meditation '64, with traditional Japanese musicians).

The Hearts Of Space label offered sets of cassettes, some later on CD, called Beyond The Blahs, Mobile Serenity, The Sonic Martini etc with harps, zithers, synthesizers, and wordless choruses, as well as sacred space music for digital orchestra, choral voices, electronics etc composed by Constance Demby, who plays metal intruments of her design called the whale sail and the space bass. Videos were offered, e.g. White Nights by Tadayoshi Arai, electronic art with slowly changing abstract patterns in colour, as well as T-shirts, space tubes (a sort of magic wand) and stars which glowed in the dark and could be pasted on your ceiling.