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Thread: Where did the "space ambient" sound come from?

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    Where did the "space ambient" sound come from?

    I've been listening to a a lot of Stellardrone recently and it made me realise two things: first, no one seems to care about space ambient anymore unless they're playing Stellaris, and second, I have no idea why we decided to give space that sound. Space is silent. So where did that sound come from?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

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    What sound?

    (All I find when I search for "space ambient" is a lot of ambient music that doesn't seem to have much in common apart from being vaguely threatening or vaguely heroic.)

    Grant Hutchison

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    You know, think Vangelis's opening to Blade Runner or pretty much everything in Stellaris. Lots of sustain, usually accopanied by a "waaw" sound that resembles an autotuned meow?
    "Occam" is the name of the alien race that will enslave us all eventually. And they've got razors for hands. I don't know if that's true but it seems like the simplest answer."

    Stephen Colbert.

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    It's probably been around longer than space exploration. It was probably massed produced when Moog synthesizers replaced theremins as a practical musical instrument. It's probably far older than that, perhaps as old as mezzo-soprano and soprano singers.
    Solfe

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I've been listening to a a lot of Stellardrone recently and it made me realise two things: first, no one seems to care about space ambient anymore unless they're playing Stellaris, and second, I have no idea why we decided to give space that sound. Space is silent. So where did that sound come from?
    The music in that link in particular reminds me of some of the music from the BBC TV version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    But I don’t remember the music that well from Stellaris. I found it annoying to play after you get past the early game so I got tired of it pretty quickly. I kept hoping they would fix it in one of their many updates so you could at least have a decent war with another empire but they actually bogged things down more. Their game design philosophy is far different from what I wanted.

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    You know, think Vangelis's opening to Blade Runner or pretty much everything in Stellaris. Lots of sustain, usually accopanied by a "waaw" sound that resembles an autotuned meow?
    Isn't that just a particular (now old-fashioned) futurist kind of music, rather than anything to do with space? Vangelis used it constantly, including for historical dramas.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Jan-08 at 01:06 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Solfe View Post
    It's probably been around longer than space exploration. It was probably massed produced when Moog synthesizers replaced theremins as a practical musical instrument. It's probably far older than that, perhaps as old as mezzo-soprano and soprano singers.
    If we're just talking "floaty, ethereal", then presumably the treble passages in the Allegri Miserere (17th Century) would fall into that category. For me, that's a kind of music that evokes a sort of peaceful and accepting mournfulness: Miserere mei, Deus. Modern composers use it to conjure up sunsets, calm seas, snowscapes, people enjoying peace after coming through hard times, etc, etc. So I think we hear it also for particular emotional interpretations of space, emphasizing a combination of serenity and threat.

    Grant Hutchison
    Last edited by grant hutchison; 2021-Jan-08 at 01:54 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    If we're just talking "floaty, ethereal", then presumably the treble passages in the Allegri Miserere (17th Century) would fall into that category. For me, that's a kind of music that evokes a sort of peaceful and accepting mournfulness: Miserere mei, Deus. Modern composers use it to conjure up sunsets, calm seas, snowscapes, people enjoying peace after coming through hard times, etc, etc. So I think we hear it also for particular emotional interpretations of space, emphasizing a combination of serenity and threat.

    Grant Hutchison
    Then there is the planet suite, Holst, maybe too close to mythical attributes but ethereal in parts. And threatening in other parts.
    sicut vis videre esto
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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I have no idea why we decided to give space that sound. Space is silent. So where did that sound come from?
    At the risk of taking you too seriously:

    A soundtrack is not meant to mirror what characters externally hear; it is meant to emote what characters are internally feeling. Which - when floating in the desolate vacuum of space - is likely surreal, elusive, and hair-raising.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Isn't that just a particular (now old-fashioned) futurist kind of music, rather than anything to do with space? Vangelis used it constantly, including for historical dramas.

    Grant Hutchison
    Ouch. I actually write, and play that kind of music on synthesizers. To me it’s not old-fashioned.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Ouch. I actually write, and play that kind of music on synthesizers. To me it’s not old-fashioned.
    Why "ouch"? Old-fashioned is good.
    But my point was specifically about futurism--it is, of necessity, always a moving target. The Futura typeface is still a beautiful typeface, and people still design modern geometric sans typefaces that look like Futura, but it now screams Bauhaus, not "the future".

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Why "ouch"? Old-fashioned is good.
    But my point was specifically about futurism--it is, of necessity, always a moving target. The Futura typeface is still a beautiful typeface, and people still design modern geometric sans typefaces that look like Futura, but it now screams Bauhaus, not "the future".

    Grant Hutchison
    Sorry, I wasn’t really offended. I was just pretending to be, which is why I used the smiley at the end.


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    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    I've been listening to a a lot of Stellardrone recently and it made me realise two things: first, no one seems to care about space ambient anymore unless they're playing Stellaris, and second, I have no idea why we decided to give space that sound. Space is silent. So where did that sound come from?
    I have never heard it in my life.

    In most media set in space that I have seen, either silence or (in older works) a low rumbling hiss are used to represent background "noise" in empty space. Despite the logic of vacuum.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    Sorry, I wasn’t really offended. I was just pretending to be, which is why I used the smiley at the end.
    No worries, I understood that.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    ... a low rumbling hiss are used to represent background "noise" in empty space. Despite the logic of vacuum.
    You sure that isn't representing the sound inside a spacesuit?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    You sure that isn't representing the sound inside a spacesuit?
    I figured they got it from the sound traditionally used for spaceship engines, which goes back even further.
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    I would go back to the 1962 song "Telstar", written for the famous satellite, for that Star Trekky space music.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telstar_(instrumental)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIfRRDOdRrg
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    I would also go back to Bran Eno's 1983 "Apollo" album/soundtrack for "space ambient" music, or further back to Tangerine Dream in the 1970s, and maybe Pink Floyd.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo...nd_Soundtracks
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcWw...oIBpiPCfzk-Fro

    Pink Floyd, "A Saucerful of Secrets"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oWOConfUV8
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2021-Jan-09 at 08:13 PM.
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    Space music as a subgenre is described here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_music

    Read the section on use in film and television for famous examples, like Brian Eno's "Apollo", Vangelis's soundtrack for "Blade Runner", and so on.
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    Starting with 1974's "Phaedra", Tangerine Dream created music strongly resembling space music. I am a huge fan of their music.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phaedra_(album)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhQpXD2Z9WQ
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    You cannot get much more "space music"-y than Vangelis's 1976 "Mare Tranquilitatus" from "Albedo 0.39", which features cuts of Apollo astronauts talking on the Moon ("Hello, Mom!").

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmgYxtfFBqI
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    But isn't this thread about some specific ambient space sound, rather than music that has been chosen to represent space over the years?
    I confess I'm still puzzled by the OP question, because I don't understand what it refers to.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    But isn't this thread about some specific ambient space sound, rather than music that has been chosen to represent space over the years?
    I confess I'm still puzzled by the OP question, because I don't understand what it refers to.
    I've never heard it in reference to a particular sound in space, though several albums intercut astronaut dialogue into the music. I agree space has no sound, but the idea of "space ambient" or "space music" mostly refers to the imagined experience of being in space, being weightless, seeing strange sights, being "unearthly". IMHO

    Must include:

    Brian Eno - An Ending (Ascent) (Remastered 2019) - view from the ISS, from the "Apollo" soundtrack
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlaTeXX3uH8
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    But isn't this thread about some specific ambient space sound, rather than music that has been chosen to represent space over the years?
    I confess I'm still puzzled by the OP question, because I don't understand what it refers to.

    Grant Hutchison
    If it were in a science thread, sure. But it makes sense in context; it's in SMAL.
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    If we're just talking "floaty, ethereal", then presumably the treble passages in the Allegri Miserere (17th Century) would fall into that category. For me, that's a kind of music that evokes a sort of peaceful and accepting mournfulness: Miserere mei, Deus. Modern composers use it to conjure up sunsets, calm seas, snowscapes, people enjoying peace after coming through hard times, etc, etc. So I think we hear it also for particular emotional interpretations of space, emphasizing a combination of serenity and threat.
    Magnificent! Thank you! Yes, this would to me be a kind of religious "space music".
    Do good work. —Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    If it were in a science thread, sure. But it makes sense in context; it's in SMAL.
    Being in SMAL doesn't help me, I'm afraid. Despite all the varied suggestions and examples given here, I still don't know what specific "sound" the OP is asking about.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Being in SMAL doesn't help me, I'm afraid. Despite all the varied suggestions and examples given here, I still don't know what specific "sound" the OP is asking about.
    To be fair, there is some variety in the subgenre, each piece aiming to produce a slightly different effect (I think). Here is one I think of as "Hawaiian space music" that gives the impression of floating, not so much threat or strangeness.

    Brain Eno's "Weightless"
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R3Tu_c0AbLQ

    Alien worlds in space music: Brian Eno's "Ambient 4: On Land", "Lizard Point" (eerie, alien landscape)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambient_4:_On_Land
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRiNpVslI_c
    Last edited by Roger E. Moore; 2021-Jan-10 at 02:14 AM.
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    Not really space music, but definitely space music: "The Blue Danube Waltz" from "2001: A Space Odyssey"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZoSYsNADtY
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger E. Moore View Post
    To be fair, there is some variety in the subgenre, each piece aiming to produce a slightly different effect (I think). Here is one I think of as "Hawaiian space music" that gives the impression of floating, not so much threat or strangeness.
    My problem is that I think there's a lot of variation, but parallaxicality seems to have something specific in mind. The music of Stellaris (referenced in the OP) doesn't help me figure out what's required, because it's pretty varied. And the Wikipedia definition of "space music" is so expansive that it seems to cut across genres, rather than define one.
    Shrug. No big deal, in the grand scheme of things--I'm just curious.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    My problem is that I think there's a lot of variation, but parallaxicality seems to have something specific in mind. The music of Stellaris (referenced in the OP) doesn't help me figure out what's required, because it's pretty varied. And the Wikipedia definition of "space music" is so expansive that it seems to cut across genres, rather than define one.
    Shrug. No big deal, in the grand scheme of things--I'm just curious.
    It seems the clues we have are here:

    Quote Originally Posted by parallaxicality View Post
    You know, think Vangelis's opening to Blade Runner or pretty much everything in Stellaris. Lots of sustain, usually accopanied by a "waaw" sound that resembles an autotuned meow?
    I have to say I'm also a bit perplexed. The two seem really different to me. The Stellaris stuff (which I just listened to for the first time) is just an orchestral sound, with lots of strings. But the Vangelis stuff from Bladerunner is what I thought parallaxicality meant. It's a lot of reverb/echo (like the, I think, Gran Casa at the beginning), and then there are string-type synth sounds with very slow attack, and I think a mix of oscillators, with one coming in after the other, which is what parallaxicality interprets as an autotuned meow. But I think a lot of the sound is the reverb.
    As above, so below

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