Music of the Cosmos
Does the universe have a soundtrack? You bet it does! And I know the guy who composes the best cosmic soundtrack music around. I’m married to him. His name is Mark C. Petersen, and he composes under the nom de plume GEODESIUM. Mark has spent much of his career creating music that evokes and teaches about the cosmos. He also founded the company that we both work for, Loch Ness Productions (we specialize in cosmically creative content).
If you’ve ever visited a planetarium or listened to Music from the Hearts of Space, or seen some of the productions on Space.com, you may have heard some of Mark’s music. It gives listeners an idea of what it’s like to be exploring the planets, drifting through nebulae, gallivanting through galaxies, and simply enjoying the glittering loveliness of a clear dark night here on Earth.
Mark got started many years ago doing music for soundtracks at the Fiske planetarium at the University of Colorado (we got married under the dome at Fiske). People would come up after the shows and ask where they could get the music they heard, and so he pressed his first album, called “Geodesium”, which is also the name he composes under.
Now he’s got eleven albums of GEODESIUM space music available through our own Web site, as well as CDBaby, iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Spotify, and many other online retailers. I like them all, but I do have my favorates, including A Gentle Rain of Starlight, Stella Novus, West of the Galaxy, and Fourth Universe. A more recent album is an exploration into the rockin’ side of space music for a video-game type show called SpacePark360. He’s also got one called ‘Tis the Season that evokes the timeless traditions that many people celebrate at this time of the year. It’s a space music journey through holiday traditions. So, whether you’re looking to give music that is especially spacey or you want something a little bit rockin’ or even something to enjoy while sipping a warm holiday drink, check out Mark’s music!
Books, Books, Books
People often ask me what astronomy books they should give as holiday gifts. I’ll start here with a couple of stargazing books that are by far my favorites for beginners. The first is H.A. Rey’s Find the Constellations (Houghton Mifflin), a beginner’s book for little (and even not-so-little) stargazers. It’s a great way to get the youngest observers out there and looking up!
Rey also has a book for older stargazers called The Stars: A New Way to See Them. He takes the ideas he introduced in Find the Constellations and expands on them, adding more constellations in, plus discussions about how the seasons work, and distant objects such as supernovae. Both of the H.A. Rey books introduce a system of easy-to-recognize stick figures for constellation. They’re the figures I grew up seeing in the sky and you (or whoever you give the book to) will learn to love them, too.
Another favorite is Nightwatch: A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe (Firefly Books). This one gets a lot of use when I’m doing shows or, as I’m doing now, writing an astronomy book. It’s a great reference when I want to look up when something is in the sky, and I often use it just before running outside to look at the stars. It’s spiral-bound, which is a big plus in my mind because that means if you take it outside to consult during stargazing, it lies FLAT.
If you’re interested in exploring at how other cultures view the sky, I just ran across a lovely book called Sharing the Skies (Rio Nuevo Publishers) It’s written by David Begay and Nancy C. Maryboy, who both bring their cultural viewpoint and their science backgrounds to their work. I first got interested in other astronomies when I did a show for the St. Louis Science Center and we used the Collinsville Mounds as a steppingstone to the stars.
My reference work at that time included a great book by Ray Williamson called Living the Sky: The Cosmos of the American Indian (University of Oklahoma Press). It was published in 1987, but remains a wonderful resource to learn about how other cultures view the sky. And, it’s still in print!
Further along the road of exploring cultural interpretations in astronomy, you can’t go wrong with any of the books on the subject by Dr. E.C. Krupp, director of Griffith Observatory. I have SkyWatchers, Shamans & Kings and Echoes of the Ancient Skies (which is available through Griffith’s online gift shop) and both are first-rate. All these books are available at your favorite bookstores and online retailers (Amazon, Barnes and Noble), and as well as Tattered Cover, Powell’s, and maybe your local bookstores, too!