HOW MEDIA COMPOSERS ARE LIKE ASTRONAUTS

This past weekend was the most emotional weekend for me, and I wept standing in front of the new building for “Heroes and Legends” thinking about the long road I’ve traveled, about the traumas and the triumphs. The entire KSC complex is fantastic (the Atlantis building was breath-taking). All cinematics, buildings, music, installations are stunning.

What touched me the most in the new exhibit “Heroes and Legends” featuring US Astronaut Hall of Fame was the capsule for Gemini 8. The two astronauts, Neil Armstrong and David Scott, are sitting in super-tiny cramped seats and they cannot get up + move for 3 days (take a close look at the pics). They work, sleep, make decisions, eat, pee, stretch their ankles in these seats. I was trying to imagine what would have been like to experience it …. thinking about the discipline, leadership, willpower, knowledge, skills, team work, grueling training for decades, collaboration, and precision that it took … knowing that their lives depended upon each other, and upon their decisions.

The Gemini 8 mission (1966) was the first time two spacecrafts attempted docking while in orbit. The mission was meant to be 3 days, but there was malfunction in the control systems and the manned capsule began to spin out of control, putting the lives of the two astronauts in grave danger. After 11 hours in space the mission was aborted.

In my music for the 3D movie for Gemini 8 you will first hear the awe of space, then realizing the malfunction, then ever-increasing danger and peril. The Agena (the un-manned long spacecraft) sends the manned capsule in uncontrollable spinning (the spinning synth, then the music gets jagged). Eventually, the astronauts gained control but had to return to Earth.

The two most amazing memories from our day at KSC are: that all stories about science, space and technological progress were emotional, personal, fun and relatable. Storytelling at its very best!! And also that the music for all installations and movies throughout the park was fantastic – emotional, awe-inspiring, masterful, full of drama, action, heroism, personal journeys and sometimes even tragedy. Kennedy Space Center is visited by 1.5 million people annually, age 3 to 93, and the Astronaut Hall of Fame will live on for decades. (I probably get the cake as “the visitor who wept the most.”)

And one more thing. The cockpit inside the capsules is TINY and cramped as hell. In the early decades of space travel, astronauts could not be taller than 5’11”!! (Training women to be astronauts made sense because they weigh less.) The classical kids’ drawing of a rocket is, in fact, its fuel tanks (+ cargo, + systems) !! I knew that before, but the magnitude of the fuel tanks IN COMPARISON to the tiny capsules where the astronauts live just stunned me. It’s VERY different from the lavish and spacious cockpits that we see in SciFi movies, TV and games !! 90% of the rocket is its fuel tanks. More trivia: A rocket contains 2 million systems!!

I could make an analogy with our careers as media composers — so much of our career is devoted to gaining skills, building a community, learning collaborative skills, score revisions skills, building a network of collaborators for years and decades. Tenacity, growth as artists, focus on the path, community, and perseverance. (These are our fuel tanks). The actual job comes and goes fast, I work 17-hour days sitting on a chair, often eating my lunch on the keyboard to meet the looming deadlines. (that would be the mission itself)
And speaking of teamwork — my boundless and enormous thanks go to my A-list team: John Rodd (mixing engineer extraordinaire), Christopher Lord (custom synths out of this world), Dave Lawrence (ProTools ninja), Victor Rodriguez (manager and musical sherpa), Alexander Vangelos (agent), Jeremy Borum (orchestrator and music prep). And to my family who endured three months of my 17-hour workdays, but then got a trip to Florida as a gift for their kindness and support.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gemini_8
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Lovell

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