Friday, 18 September 2009

Tunes to observe by

A lot of amateur astronomers like to have a few tunes on the go, to observe by. Personally, most of the time I don't - I like the night sounds such as barking dogs and foxes, owls, snuffling badgers, the odd distant car or motorbike (not sure why, but I find the sound of distant traffic at night very evocative - where are they going? It gives me itchy feet even if, as in all likelihood it is, it's just someone returning from work or going to visit friends) and even the odd squeaking rat or mouse. Living in a rural spot makes me lucky because there's not a lot of irritating human noise such as shouting, loud music or tvs.
Also the lack of music enables you to hear that (imagined) psychotic murderer or mugger creeping up on you; not likely in the fenced-in back garden, though - I hope!

However a nearby music festival the other night had me going indoors to fetch my iPod to listen to something I want to listen to and not some crap foisted on me by an event a couple of miles away.

You see threads on Cloudy Nights and other forums, asking what music people like to observe by and, for a lot of people, it tends to be classical music. Some people like the synthesiser 'space music', some like trance. I have to admit I don't like any of those forms of music; most classical music just does not 'do it' for me, it goes in one ear and out of the other, while I was put right off 'space music' when I worked in the local planetarium during the summer of 1999 (the job was great, but I got really sick during the course of that summer and ended up in hospital for two months and, even now, as a reminder of a really bad time in my life, space music makes me want to run a mile). Trance, drum 'n' bass and all that sort of stuff just makes me want to stick screwdrivers in my eardrums.

No, the music of choice for when I observe, and fancy a few toons as company, is metal and rock. Some metal and rock is very evocative and lends itself to scoping the cosmos. Not just any old rock and metal, as punk and thrash, much as I love these forms, don't quite cut it in an observing session. No, what you want is a good rocking tune, but coupled with a 'space vibe' to suit the magic of the cosmos.

Here are some of the tracks I like, which have a space or science fiction vibe to them, even the tracks listed that don't have a space or sci-fi vibe still lend themselves to observing. It's the feeling invoked by the music, rather than the content of the lyrics that matters.

Metallica - 'Orion'
Metallica - 'The Call of Ktulu'
Metallica - 'The Thing That Should Not Be'
VoiVod - 'Astronomy Domine' (cover of a Pink Floyd song)
VoiVod - 'Cosmic Drama'
VoiVod - 'Psychic Vacuum'
VoiVod - 'The Unknown Knows'
VoiVod - 'Panorama'
Muse - 'Starlight'
Muse - 'Supermassive Black Hole'
Muse - 'Plug in Baby'
Muse - 'Knights of Cydonia'
Muse - 'Space Dementia'
Muse - 'Dark Shines'
Muse - 'Dead Star'
Blue Oyster Cult - 'Astronomy' (also covered by Metallica)
Hawkwind - 'Silver Machine'
Accept - 'Midnight Highway'
Judas Priest - 'Blood Red Skies'
Motorhead - 'Capricorn'
Motorhead - 'Metropolis'
Rammstein - 'Spiel Mit Mir'
Manowar - 'Spirit Horse of the Cherokee'

...I could go on, there are so many good rock and metal tunes out there, but only some lend themselves to observing.

Obviously music for observing is entirely down to personal taste but it isn't just the realm of classical, trance, drum 'n' bass or synthesiser 'space music'.