I will assume it was done inside a spacecraft as, in space, there is no sound... or as we all learned from the movie Alien: In space, no one can hear you scream - Star Trek and Star Wars be damned.
On board the Japan's experimental module, Kibo, on February 10, 2012, NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) astronaut Daniel Burbank played two specially designed space instrument while in orbit: an Ellipsoid Bell and Fractal Bell.
The instruments are similar to maracas and handbells (see image above), and the whole experiment was done to create a new sound and style of playing while in microgravity.
Burbank's concert, which was recorded for visual posterity on an HD camcorder, occurred between 8:15PM and 9:55PM.
There is no word if Burbank is a new rock star meteoring to fame above the stratosphere, but we can be sure he didn't play Space Truckin' by Deep Purple.
Should you be wondering, just what the heck is this thing the astronaut was playing an instrument or two in, it is the Kibo, and it is a Japanese Experiment Module.
The module is Japan's first human space facility and enhances the unique research capabilities of the International Space Station.
So what was the purpose of all of this? God help me, but the reasoning is pretty strong-weak-medium-weak... which is how you play four quarter notes in 4/4 time - which is the basis for standard rock and roll. Hey... I used to teach piano and clarinet, and add that to my love of rock and roll, I know my music. Hell, my uncle Harold Joseph was the conductor of the New Delhi Symphony. That's a lot of weak - like JAXA's reason for this, which I still haven't explained.
To be honest, it's stuff like this that actually makes people question the validity of spending money for space exploration and travel.
Okay... here's the reason: through this experiment, creations of new sounds and playing style resulting from a unique physical phenomenon in microgravity is expected, which might be possible to develop into a creation of new musical instruments for space use. Further, it could lead to some new leisure and communication tools in space.
Really. That was it. I love space exploration, as I have done a number of blog entries on the topic, but geez louise... this sounds like a waste of time and effort.
Yes, I know it was done to somehow enhance the unique research capabilities of the Internatinal Space Station - but come on.
Experimentation like this is great once we do have leisure time in space and where musical instruments are a necessity... but it's not that important where we sit in this day and age. I think this experiment is jumping the gun a hell of a lot.
Yes, we now have two new musical instruments, but none that will give the unique space sound down on Earth.
Previously, space missions gave us Tang crystallized orange juice and Gortex for winter wear.
- we got development of kidney dialysis machines;
- development of a medical CAT scanner which searches the human body for tumors or other abnormalities;
- development of a physical therapy and athletic development machine used by football teams, sports clinics and medical rehabilitation centers;
- insulation barriers made of aluminum foil laid over a core of propylene or mylar, which protected astronauts and their spacecraft's delicate instruments from radiation and is used to protect cars and trucks and dampen engine and exhaust noise.
And there's more:
- water purification technology used on the Apollo spacecraft is now employed in several spinoff applications to kill bacteria, viruses and algae in community water supply systems and cooling towers. Filters mounted on faucets can reduce lead in water supplies;
- process for bonding dry lubricant to space metals led to the development of surface enhancement coatings, which are used in applications from pizza making to laser manufacture. Each coating is designed to protect specific metal group or group of metals to solve problems encountered under operating conditions;
- Digital signal-processing techniques, originally developed to enhance pictures of the Moon for the Apollo Program, are an indispensable part of Computer-Aided Tomography (CAT) scan & Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologies used today worldwide.
- Vacuum metallizing techniques led to an extensive line of commercial products, from insulated outer garments to packaging for foods and from reflective blankets to photographic reflectors;
- cordless power tools and appliances are one of the most successful commercial spin-offs of space-based technology;
- cool suits, which kept Apollo astronauts comfortable during moon walks, are today worn by race car drivers, hazardous area workers and people with specific health problems;
- a hollow retro-reflector - a mirror-like instrument that reflects light and other radiation back to the source, is used as a sensor to detect the presence of hazardous gases in oil development, chemical plants, waste storage sites and locations where gases could be released into the environment.
Musical instruments in space? Maybe it will one day prove to aid in astronauts remaining sane over long flights so they don't kill each other in space. "Music hath charms to soothe a savage beast." (William Congreve from the 1697 play The Mourning Bride) . But... I doubt it.
What is it going to do for us mere mortals down on Earth? Boo to JAXA for this experiment.
Files compiled by Andrew Joseph