By Kenji Williams – Director, Composer
This spring, a nine-year old dream came true. To direct a live musical collaboration with an orbiting astronaut on the International Space Station. This ‘StarJAM’ was an improvised musical performance between BELLA GAIA Director Kenji Williams and International Space Station Commander Koichi Wakata.
The idea was born in conjunction with the inception of BELLA GAIA (Beautiful Earth), now a world-renown earth-from-space multimedia immersive theatrical experience that simulates space flight, with live music and dance, and stunning earth data imagery from NASA. BELLA GAIA was conceived by a conversation I had with NASA astronaut Mike Finke – who spoke to me of the life changing experience he had, the first time he saw the earth from space from the Space Station. Many astronauts refer to this transformation as the “Overview Effect”.
Since then, many astronauts have seen BELLA GAIA and they all say it is an accurate simulation of space flight, and successfully replicates this transformative effect. In the process, many astronauts have contributed their poetic words of their feelings of being in space, to be included in BELLA GAIA as voice samples guiding along the experience.
One of these astronauts who contributed to BELLA GAIA was Koichi Wakata – who at the time when I met him, was about to launch to space as Japan’s first Commander of the Space Station. It was a natural fit to do a live musical collaboration live, between earth and space.
Because Koichi was not a musician, I began designing/conceptualizing the project with the selection of an instrument that is uniquely Japanese, that does not require a lifetime of practice, and that could be transported in the small confines of a rocket module. The ‘Sho’ instrument was selected – a 2000 year-old Japanese wind instrument, and is traditionally performed for the purpose of tuning the cosmos.
The Sho was transported to the Space Station by a SpaceX Dragon rocket, and the fact that Koichi was playing this instrument, literally in space, was a profound act – and in my conversation live during the NASA TV broadcast with Koichi during the StarJAM, I dedicated this live collaboration for the healing of all beings – healing of the Earth, healing of our friends and family.
When Koichi started playing the Sho live from space, as I was at NASA JSC’s studio with my violin – I literally got chills, and I was deeply moved as I improvised and played along with this beautiful sound transmitted from 200miles above.
With the interweaving of my musical compositions, theatrical direction of live musicians, dancers, edited film imagery of not only Earth from space but scientific data visualizations created by NASA supercomputers – the experience of BELLA GAIA is a live multimedia journey through time and space – exploring the relationship between humans and nature. One view of the trailer can describe in an instant what words cannot. Please watch! https://vimeo.com/46343461
The “Overview Effect” transformation is no doubt – a process of the spirit, heart, and mind, experiencing our home planet as a profoundly beautiful blue bubble of life floating in the blackness of space – our spirit is awakened as if a switch were turned on, breaking through all constructs of religion, culture, ego, and truly engaging (and reminding) our role as human beings on planet earth.
When I compose music for BELLA GAIA, this is the inspiration and motivation I feel while writing – how can I evoke that spirit and emotion? I must evoke it within myself, and communicate it through tones, rhythms, and melodies. I feel most human when I create music, and to share it with the world feels like celebrating together, the beauty of the human spirit.
We have upcoming live shows; get your tickets now!
October 11th, 2014 – SF Bay Area (Marin Civic Center Auditorium)
November 11th, 2014 – Bella Gaia CD Album release date
November 28th, 2014 – Washington DC Area (Strathmore, Bethesda)
Home Page: http://www.bellagaia.com/
Putumayo World Music
Total Time: 60:15
Released October, 2012
World Yoga is a CD that will find a home in almost every music library, whether yoga is a part of your daily routine or not. This excellent compilation of fifteen pieces of soothing and relaxing music carries the listener around the globe, providing spacious enjoyment.
Putumayo has crafted a beautiful mix of songs that can be used as a companion to yoga, morning stretches, or meditation. Or, let the songs create a backdrop of restful and calm energy, carrying you where they will.
Drawing on international musicians who understand the importance of music as being therapeutic, this CD offers listeners a global treat, while maintaining a flow between each piece.
Beginning with Sona Jobarteh’s ‘Reflections’, the listener is invited to relax, center, and be present to the next fourteen cuts, including a 2nd piece, ‘Saya’ by Jorbateh. Each succeeding song weaves beautifully from one to the next, drawing the listener deeper into the tapestry of this compilation and preparing a space to be fully present to your practice, whether it is yoga, meditation, journaling, or reflecting on the day.
World Yoga has become an enjoyable part of my morning routine. It is timeless music, crafted in an exquisite unfolding that draws the listener in and through each song on a sixty-minute journey that can be a breath of fresh air each day.
Putumayo World Music’s twenty years of introducing listeners to music of the world’s cultures is highly evident in this new CD. Their tag line ‘Guaranteed to make you feel good!’ is true through and through on World Yoga. This is an absolute two-thumbs up CD that is now on my gifting list, for year-round giving!
Review by Colleen Adair. Learn more about Colleen’s work at: http://www.holydoodle.net/
If you’re at all into the New Age Music scene, then the names George Winston and David Lanz are already well known. But now there’s a new name on the horizon – Edward Weiss.
Hailing from beautiful San Diego in sunny California, this teacher, composer and published
author does the seemingly impossible:
Teaching anyone (and Edward stresses “anyone”) how to play and compose their very own
New Age Style Music on the piano – even if they’ve never touched a musical keyboard in
And what’s more, he does it all from his website http://www.newagepianolessons.com
What’s his secret? Here’s what Edward himself has to say:
“In my 20 years of musical training and instructing, I’ve found a lot of people are actually
yearning to play an instrument – especially the piano. Creating music has always been their hidden desire. They just never had a chance to express it.
“My web course changes all that. Not only can anyone learn how to play the piano online,
they’ll soon be able to compose their own musical scores as well. Since my expertise is in
the small but growing following of New Age Music, that’s what my site teaches.”
How difficult is it to start playing your very own New Age Music?
“Not really difficult at all,” says Edward. “All you need is the desire, the patience – and of
course the keyboard. My step by step online video instructions provide the rest.
“You’ll learn at your own pace, going over each streaming video lesson as many times as
you need. It’s basically “Look, Listen and Learn.”
Now, you may not be ready for the concert hall or signing a recording contract after taking
this course, but you will learn the basics of playing and composing your very own music.
And isn’t that what this New Age is all about… finding innovative and fresh ways in
expressing your own individuality? What better way in doing just that than in creating
mystical, spirit inspired music – the timeless voice of nature itself.
Fear of Music
Why People Get Rothko But Don’t Get Stockhausen
First published by O Books, 2009
144 pages/ $19.95 US
Review by Kate Russell
As the old adage says, “An argument is better than a debate”, though David Stubbs’ Fear of Music (Why People Get Rothko, But Don’t Get Stockhausen) is surprisingly, neither of these. Rather, it is more or less a potted history of avant-garde and experimental music and art and the schism that has continued to exist between them, to varying extents, since their conception. I say surprisingly, as experimental music much as Stubbs acknowledges, still hasn’t reached a point of mainstream acceptance, and scene aficionado as he is, I’d expected a more persuasive, perhaps subjective, read – extolling the virtues of this strange and wonderful noise known as experimental music as opposed to matter-of-fact narration.
Stubbs writes largely in an objective tone, guiding you through the events of the early 20th century through to present day, with the wit of the ‘sometimes comedy writer’ he claims to be very apparent, but also, alas, a high-brow tone to his writing that can make the journey a little arduous at times. I would have hoped for more accessible writing when talking about a music form that is, to many, inaccessible and difficult to comprehend.
I would be hesitant to call this book a ‘light read’ – partly due to its verbosity, partly due to its incredible listing of by-and-large unfamiliar names Stubbs mentions as he takes you through the book. At points in this book, I was swallowed up by words and novelty, having to go back and re-read parts for clarity, which made for a more disjointed read than I would have liked. It was not really until Stubbs’ conclusion where I felt I got a sense of a clear answer to the question the book title evoked (Why indeed do People Get Rothko, But Don’t Get Stockhausen?), having been unable (unfortunately) to figure it out myself before that point.
Unless you are already familiar with experimental artists, you will be in for a few sessions of Google and Youtube searches to get some kind of context on these figureheads of noise Stubbs mentions. Still, if you are willing to put the time in, even absolute beginners to this genre could benefit and enjoy the opportunities for listening to new sounds, and appreciating new art that Stubbs’ journey through his subjects opens up. Speaking only for myself, I had not listened to Stockhausen before, or Sun Ra, for that matter, and actually was pleasantly surprised by the diversity, colour and quirkiness the works of these artists evoked in my mind. Without Stubbs’ ‘passport’ to the world of the alternative, would I have listened to such musical oddities? Possibly not – and perhaps this is where Stubbs, without press-ganging, works his magic on those who otherwise may not listen to such things – he simply shows you where the door is, but doesn’t command you go through it.
I’m not convinced that this book would be enough to convert die-hard objectors to this genre to give it a listen, but for music students, those working in the music scene, or those who simply enjoy furthering their understanding of music as a whole, Stubbs’ book should be a useful and entertaining guide.
Kate Russell is a singer/songwriter and busker from Vancouver, up until recently performing under the stage name Jadis Gloom (www.myspace.com/jadisgloom). Currently she is taking some time out from her solo music projects to write, listen to other styles of music and gain inspiration from other artists and their own creative journeys. Believing that to look into someone’s art is also to look inside their soul, she enjoys the intimate opportunities for understanding others in new ways that being a music critic provides.