References

  • NASA, Apollo 11 Technical Earth-to-Ground Transmissions (GOSS NET 1)
  • Albert Glinsky, Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage (2000)
  • James R. Hansen, First Man: The Life of Neil A. Armstrong (2005, quote from p. 423)
  • Andrew Smith, Moondust: In Search of the Men who Fell to Earth (2006)

Presenting

Music out of the Moon

Prospective performance of iconic music for theremin and jazz band, as broadcast by Neil Armstrong returning from the Moon in July 1969, recreated from original recordings to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landings and the centenary of the invention of the space-controlled theremin.

story

Les Baxter and Harry Revel's Music out of the Moon is the best-selling theremin album of all time. Released in 1947 and prophesying a future in space, it contained such titles as "Lunar Rhapsody", "Celestial Nocturne" and "Radar Blues", and featured the otherworldly blend of small orchestra, choir, and space-controlled theremin, the only instrument controlled without contact.

22 years later in July 1969, Neil Armstrong played a cassette of the music as he hurtled back from the actual Moon, along with lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins. The media-shy test-pilot-turned astronaut had regularly listened to the album with his wife Janet at their rustic Juniper Hills cabin back on Earth. In seconds, the unearthly sounds of the theremin and choir had crossed hundreds of thousand miles of empty space, and broken through the crackling static at mission control: "do you copy our music down there?" asked Armstrong. A few seconds later came the response: "Roger. We sure did".

In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon landings, and the centenary of the invention of the theremin, the scores to Music out of the Moon will be meticulously transcribed from original recordings, to be performed live by piano, choir, orchestra and theremin, accompanied by sweeping footage of the lunar missions.

MUSIC

Music out the Moon exists today only as a recording. The orchestral parts must therefore be transcribed directly from the recordings.  The parts will then be engraved and distributed to a scratch orchestra, who will rehearse in time for a unique live performance, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landings (July 1969), and the centenary of the invention of the theremin (1919-1921). Early results of this ongoing process can be heard as digital realisations below:

FILM

The production will be accompanied by IMAX or cinematic footage charting the Space Race and Apollo Program, culminating in the first manned lunar landing in July 1969. The performance will be interspersed with narration.

characters

Les Baxter: American composer famed for the invention of exotica. He worked with Peruvian lyric soprano Yma Sumac and wrote the hit single Unchained Melody.
Harry Revel: British-American composer responsible for College Rhythm, Broadway Loves, and the Ziegfield Follies of 1931. He was inducted to the Songwriters' Hall of Fame in 1970.
Samuel J. Hoffman: theremin player and chiropodist, perhaps the most-heard theremin player in history. He is known from the scores to innumerable Hollywood thrillers, including Spellbound, It Came From Outer Space, The Lost Weekend, One Step Beyond and The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Leon Theremin: Russian-born musician and engineer-turned-spy, inventor of the instrument which bears his name.

TIMINGS / VeNUES / Budget

The first performance is slated for 2019, to cover the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Project (2019-2022) and centenary of the theremin's invention (2019-2021). The production is suitable for any indoor acoustic performance space accommodating at least eight musicians, ideally with raked seating and facilities to display film. The original forces (flexible) are: theremin, piano, hammond organ (/keyboard), harp, trumpet, french horn, cello, double bass, amplified acoustic guitar, drum kit and mixed-voice choir (5 part). Parts can be provided as fully engraved scores or lead sheets, arranged for the desired ensemble.

Houston, do you copy our music? ... that’s an old favorite of mine ... an album made about 20 years ago, called ‘Music Out of the Moon’.
— Neil A. Armstrong, July 1969

Lunar Rhapsody from “Music out of the Moon” (1947)

Revel ... has really hit here with stunt of using theremin ... the harmonies are weird and modern ... intricate modern rhythms-gamuting rhumba, three-quarters, swing and blues ... blends beautifully with the theremin’s ethereality
— Variety Magazine, 1947

Après un Rêve (Charlie Draper, 2017)

During rest periods they did relax to some music. It was played on a small portable tape recorder carried on the flight primarily for the purpose of recording crew comments and observations
— James R. Hansen, 2005