Listen To This Story

amin_bhatia_the_interstellar_suiteOn a regular CD shopping run last week, I picked up a random album.  I didn’t know the artist, much less the album, but the name was intriguing: The Interstellar Suite By Amin Bhatia.  Peeking inside the case, the liner notes stated: “The orchestral textures on this recording are a complex blend of synthesizers.”  Well, consider me sold.

The tracks of the album were named very specifically and initially it somewhat bothered me.  Songs named explicitly like, LAUNCH: Mission Control and Liftoff/Jumping to the Speed of Light. Another one was: BATTLE: Planning the Attack/Return Fire/The Last Missile.  I wasn’t entirely keen on being told what I should be thinking about as the songs are playing.  Despite that, I did review the track names as each song came on.

So let me say first off that this is an amazing album for many reasons.  The music is exquisitely composed and performed.  It is extremely orchestral and melodic and that’s made even more impressive because it’s done on a collection of synthesizers circa 1987.  The first track reminds me strongly of ELP’s Pirates and has a lot of John Williams influence, which isn’t a bad thing.  The thing that makes this album stand out from a Star Wars soundtrack, is the addition of sound effects, including some minor character dialog and atmospheric sounds.  And maybe it’s just the geek in me, but space ship launches and flybys and missiles and lasers and explosions, all rendered by 80’s synthesizers… consider me a fan.

I have probably played this a dozen times on repeat; it does not get old for me.  And that part is what is most interesting to me.  This particular album is what is termed “program music”, which I had not been exposed to before.  With program music, the songs are meant to conjure up specific imagery in your mind as you listen to them.  And this album does that amazingly well.  To carry the example of Star Wars, when you hear the Star Wars themes, you can visualize the scenes in your head, you’ve seen this before.  But there’s no movie with this album, all you have are the song titles, which I originally thought were too much.

Something about me is that I don’t re-read books.  I also don’t re-watch movies (except concert videos).  So, I find it peculiar that this album is very much like a movie or a book in that it tells a story, but unlike books and movies, I can leave it on repeat.  In fact, I’m playing it right now.  It’s a soundtrack for a movie that was never made or a book that was never written.  It’s also theme park music.  If you’ve gone to any Disney or Universal park, there is atmospheric music playing all the time that keeps you in the theme of the sub-park you are currently walking though.  This music would not be out of place in the slightest.

Hearing this music has made me think of a couple things.  I have a project limping slowly forward that involves a musical soundtrack.  Hearing this suite of music has given me serious reservations of calling my music a soundtrack.  Despite that feeling, I also realize that I have done something similar to this before, although nowhere near as grand.  It was a short-lived time where I wrote two multi-track songs I called Spy Song and Airlock.  The first was a short little song that could be considered intro/chase scene/romance scene/intro reprise.  And Airlock was just a short scene of someone trapped in a space ship and eventually ejected into space.  Neither of these little songs would be useable for any projects just because they’re too short – a couple minutes or so.

So I now have a whole other genre of music to explore now.  I used to buy random CDs at pawn shops when I felt my listening habits were getting stale, but I haven’t done anything like that for a long time.  And sometimes you get really lucky when you do that.


  1. I know it’s not really the same, but Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell is this for me. It’s movie they sadly never made (though personally I’m not sure if the songs are in the *right* order on the album, but I gotta trust Steinman knew what he was doing), and I can play it on repeat forever.