It started with a dream:
. . . if we are to win the hearts and souls of humanity to our vision, then the space movement must develop its songs." --Dr. Robert Zubrin
In an effort to inspire such songs, Dr. Zubrin (author of The Case for Mars) initiated the National Space Society's Apollo Awards for Space Songwriting.
Now, the first-ever CD of songs to inspire and enthuse the public towards space exploration for the National Space Society (NSS), highlighting the top Apollo Award winners alongside other works, is being produced by Prometheus Music. The working title of the CD is "Ad Astra," and it seeks to stir the hearts and minds of space-enthused individuals towards the National Space Society's mission by:
Delivering inspiring, exciting, accessible, and fun songs that tell the stories of mankind's first steps to date in space exploration;
Conveying a sense of passion and urgency for space-enthused individuals to work towards achieving a spacefaring civilization; and
Radiating hope and excitement for the bright future that we can achieve by becoming a spacefaring civilization.
The CD will be published and sold by Prometheus Music, co-branded with the National Space Society, and used by the National Space Society to recruit new members, and promote their organization.
In an recent interview, Eli Goldberg, co-producer of Prometheus Music, had this to say:
I think I can comfortably say that this project is the most atypical album put out by anyone ever affiliated with the filk community.
Like most filk enthusiasts, Kristoph [Klover] and I have cherished many of the filksongs on this album.
With Kristoph being a full-time musician and producer, I think we've approached the project from a more impartial angle than a group of filk enthusiasts may have.
For one thing, we've had to critically assess what we could and couldn't draw on from the filk world to deliver a CD that we think could hold broad appeal beyond the thousand or so people who currently buy filk albums.
Like Julia Ecklar's "Divine Intervention" project, we chose to work with a very different set of musicians than you'd find on a typical filk album. Most of the people working on this album don't even know what 'filk' is, let alone how the album overlaps with the filk genre.
When we needed a fiddler . . . Kristoph invited world-renowned klezmer artist Shira Kammen to record at his studio. (She had a few hours before flying out to an East Coast folk festival, and she was brilliant.)
When we needed a pianist for Margaret Davis's track, Kristoph brought on Ira Stein, who was the youngest person to ever cut an album with Windham Hill. And so forth.
Further-out filksong classics like "The Mass Driver Engineer" or "The Ballad of Apollo 13" were swapped out for a Judy Collins tribute to the first female shuttle commander. And, trust me, you won't find any space chanties, or a single song to the tune of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" on this CD. ;-]
We've also worked very hard to invite non-filk singer/songwriters who were attracted by the project. I think filkers have a lot of engaging songs on the subject of space exploration, but it's only a fraction of what's out there. The National Space Society Apollo Awards also brought out several outstanding songs, all written by authors who'd never heard of 'filk.'
We're honored and elated that Christine Lavin is debuting the studio version of her song "If We Had No Moon" through this project, which she considers one of the best works she's ever taken part in. And she's been generously sharing her decades of production wisdom, which has already shaped several tracks on the project.
I think we're also very fortunate to do the album in partnership with the National Space Society. They've been generously patient with the delays involved in reaching an album of the quality we think our audience deserves and demands.
Finally, the financing has been extremely unusual for a filk-inspired album. I didn't want to fall into the self-fulfilling prophesy that plagues most filk projects that, "Only 500 filkers will ever buy it, so we can't afford to do a professional job."
Instead, I've provided a $25,000 budget for the project, to ensure that Kristoph can afford top-class musicians like Ira and Shira, let alone to chip in towards Christine Lavin's studio time in New York City.
The National Space Society
Formed in late 1997, Prometheus Music's mission is to produce the first-ever, mainstream-quality general-interest lyrical albums covering themes of space, science-fiction, and fantasy, and to bring these albums to enthusiasts at large. This CD for the NSS is being produced at no charge, to enable the NSS to further enhance their public outreach.
The current list of contributors includes (among others):
Julia Ecklar (vocals, songwriting)
Operatically trained, Julia Ecklar has professionally performed songs of space exploration since her teenage years, alongside regular appearances in the Pittsburgh Bach Choir. For Julia's "day job," she writes science-fiction and fantasy novels, including many of Pocket Books' Star Trek novels (some written under the "L.A. Graf" pseudonym.) She won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for the Best New Writer in 1991.
Leslie Fish (songwriting)
Leslie Fish has been writing and performing songs about space exploration for over two decades; her songs have been heard by an audience ranging from NASA Administrator Dan Goldin to the front-line engineers and scientists who comprise our nation's space program.
As one veteran rocket engineer put it, ". . . late at night . . . it's below freezing and the wind is howling around the test stand and we've been working in the stinging dust for twelve thankless hours, and the coffee's three days old and the LOX tank is creaking from thermal stress and the cooling chamber in the engine's throat has cracked and all the engine does is light, roar, sputter . . . and die. Then we listen to [Leslie Fish's] "Hope Eyrie" . . . and that pulls us back into perspective."
Karen Linsley & the late Lloyd Landa (vocals, keyboard, songwriting)
Karen & Lloyd are perhaps best known for their Canadian Top 40 hit "Someone Else's Heart" (Comstock Records). Karen received a Toronto Arts Council grant to create a country/folk song cycle, depicting today's women in ordinary and extraordinary situations. Most recently, Karen and (posthumously) Lloyd received the first place in the Mars Society's Rouget de Lisle song contest.
Michael Penkava (vocals, songwriting)
Michael is a Midwestern elementary school teacher by profession, and a composer and performer of science songs for adoring school children by interest. His song, "Now's the Time to Touch a Star," was the winner of NSS's 1998 Apollo Awards. To quote Michael, "Space isn't just vocabulary words and data; it comes alive as we explore and discover, as we analyze and synthesize, as we discuss and debate." And as we sing.
Ira Stein (piano, synthesizer)
Before he reached the age of 20, pianist/composer Ira Stein had already signed his first recording contract and released his first album on Windham Hill Records, Elements (1982), followed by work on the Narada label. Explaining that labels are no longer as adventurous and experimental as they once were, Ira now records on his independent Lost Time Records label, performing a fusion of classical and Jazz with The Ira Stein Trio.
Kris Yenney (cello)
Ms. Yenney received her M.M. from the New England Conservatory, and was a member of the New England and Sunrise String Quartets. She was the first woman to win the John W. Work III Composition Competition. She has participated in the Banff, Tanglewood, Norfolk, and Meadowmount Music Festivals and the Juilliard Quartet Seminar. Ms. Yenney can be heard on several recent recordings, including Grammy-nominated Short Stories with Fred Hersch and Janice Seigel, as well as on Lyle Lovett's and Rod Stewart's releases.
Kristoph Klover (musical director, engineer, vocals)
Kristoph Klover operates Flowinglass Music, an independent studio, with his wife Margaret Davis, in Oakland, CA. Kristoph is a career musician and sound engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area, with eleven years experience recording and performing Celtic, Medieval and Renaissance music. He has recorded Grammy-winner Janet Harbison, leader of the Belfast Harp Orchestra, and two albums for all-Ireland concertina champion Gearoid o hAllmhurain, among many other clients. He leads Celtic Rock band Avalon Rising and also performs with acoustic Celtic/Early Music ensemble Broceliande. Watch for an upcoming profile of Kristoph and his album "The Starlit Jewel" -- Songs from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Sound Clips and Downloads
- "Fire in the Sky" (lyrics and music by Jordin Kare, bridge by Kristoph Klover)
- Download a sound clip (mp3)
- Download the whole song (mp3)
- "Starfire" (lyrics and music © 1981 Cynthia McQuillin)
- Download a sound clip (mp3)
- "Witnesses' Waltz" (lyrics and music by Leslie Fish)
- Download a sound clip (mp3)
- Download the whole song (mp3)
Note that these song clips and downloads are works-in-progress, and thus may differ slightly from the versions released on the CD.
Peggi Warner-Lalonde is Senior Music Editor for Strange Horizons.