Houston, home to NASA has become a stellar part of pop culture related to outer space. For instance, the famous phrase “Houston, we have a problem” was made popular in the 1995 film Apollo 13, which depicted the true events of the Apollo 13 space mission. It is fitting that the Houston Symphony presents the first-ever performance of Apollo 13 with a live orchestra on July 21 at Jones Hall. In preparation for this galactic experience, we’ve curated a list of songs we think are out of this world.
1) “Space Oddity” – David Bowie
One of the songs and music videos that launched Bowie into orbit as a pop-star, “Space Oddity” was used in BBC’s coverage of the 1969 moon landing. It was Bowie’s first No. 1 hit in the United Kingdom and went on to become a part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was even recorded from space by Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield while he was aboard the International Space Station.
2) “The Planets” – Gustav Holst
The seven-movement orchestral suite was written over 100 years ago and was inspired by the astrological characters associated with the planets of the solar system. Each movement was composed with the idea of how a specific planet can affect the human psyche. From Mars, the bringer of war, to Jupiter, the bringer of jollity, Holst’s cosmic score has influenced many musical depictions of space, including John Williams’ music for Star Wars. Check out the Houston Symphony’s HD Film of Holst’s The Planets, complete with imagery of the solar system from NASA.
3) “Walking on the Moon” – The Police
This late 70s classic fused synth-pop with the classic rhythm of reggae into a mesmerizing melody. Written by Sting, the band’s lead vocalist and bassist, it would become their second No. 1 song in the United Kingdom, quickly following “Message in a Bottle.” It reminds of us of the weightlessness associated with falling in love.
4) Claire de Lune – Claude Debussy
The third movement of his Suite bergamasque, Clair de lune is one of Debussy’s most famous works. The name is derived from Verlaine’s poem Clair de lune, which means “moonlight” in French. 2015 Chopin Competition winner Seong-Jin Cho brings the lunar melody into the light in his interpretation of the piece.
5) “Drops of Jupiter” – Train
Released in 2001, “Drops of Jupiter” won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) in collaboration with arranger Paul Buckmaster. Patrick Monahan, lead singer for Train, wrote the song as a tribute to his late mother. Buckmaster’s talents combined with the stellar lyrics of a journey through the stars are sure to give you goosebumps.
6) “Moon River” – Frank Ocean
Originally performed by Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s, it won the Academy Award for Best Original Song and Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the 1962 Grammy Awards. Singer-songwriter and rapper Frank Ocean covered the song for a special release on Valentine’s Day 2018 that captured the beauty of drifting into love.
7) Also sprach Zarathustra – Richard Strauss
This epic tone poem became the epitome of space travel when the opening Sunrise fanfare was used in the 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The music from the tone poem invites the listener to experience a journey unlike any other, matching perfectly with the mystery of outer space. Also sprach Zarathustra is also the soundtrack of the Houston Symphony’s sequel to The Planets, The Earth, which features stunning visuals of our planet from outer space.
8) “Fireflies” – Owl City
The song served as the debut single for the band and not only topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two non-consecutive weeks in 2009, but also became a global phenomenon in the years to come. Ever open to reinterpretation, it often reappears in a variety of ways on the internet, and its highly recognizable melody is nostalgia-inducing for young adults across the nation. The futuristic vibes and lyrics give one the feeling of being in another galaxy.
9) “Eclipse” – Kim Lip
This urban R&B / Dance track mixes electronic synths with the soothing vocals of Kim Lip, member of the Korean musical group LOOΠΔ (coming from the Spanish “luna” meaning “moon”). The band has been featured in articles from Billboard and Forbes, as well as other major outlets citing their unique approach to music and the formation of the group. “Eclipse” brings to life the power of two paths crossing into something stronger and is able to transport the listener to a nocturnal dreamscape.
10) Short Ride in a Fast Machine – John Adams
This action-packed orchestral showpiece is influenced by the late 20th century musical movement of minimalism. The piece incorporates the driving pulse of rock ‘n’ roll and generates a feeling like that of exploring a new world. The Houston Symphony used this music for the opening rocket launch sequence of its film, The Earth.
Don’t miss Apollo 13 – Film with Live Orchestra on July 21, 2018 at Jones Hall! Get tickets and more information at houstonsymphony.org.