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Space without time

Century Seasons is a seamless essay in the tradition of the cult film Star Wars

Century Seasons
Miramar Recordings

Jonn Serrie composes music for planetariums. Hayden Platetarium in New York plays his music. For this institution, he created an interactive show using characters from Star Wars, that cult film and television serial.

The music of Star Wars also defined space sounds for an entire generation. Space sounds need to be imagined, since we can't ordinarily hear "the multitudes of sounds out there".

Serrie's vision of space music on these two CDs adheres to the same tradition as Star Wars. But what you hear on these 18 tracks is mood music that is not as flamboyant as the melodies that the film's titles may bring back to your mind.

Serrie uses the keyboard to pluck lone lingering sounds which seem to pierce the dark veil of silence. Deep resonances and trumpets herald the wonder of it all. Except for a few pieces, all the rest are unmarked by vigourous time or beat, and float in quietude and peace. There are no harsh elements, since taken in its awesome entirety, space has no malevolence or evil.

Serrie's mother played the piano, and his father was a nuclear engineer with the US Navy. At age six, he was awestruck to see the Sputnik satellite dart across the sky. His odyssey as a music buff with an abiding interest in space began then. He turned a fulltime musician when he was 20.

It would be pointless to try to separate the 18 tracks on Century Seasons. The titles are mysterious and full of mythical references -- Tachyon directive, Starport Indra, The Straits of Madigann and Tingri Maiden , to name a few. What Serrie creates is a seamless listening experience of two hours.

Tingri maiden evokes solitary winds that mingle with tinkling sounds. The legacy has a beat on it and sounds of huge objects bumping into each other dot the background. Things zoom out of course, there is chaos and a final setting right and settling down. The instruments sampled are mostly soft, like the dulcimer, marimba and synth violins. Even the trumpet, and the rare flute, sound subdued.

The 49-year-old Serrie does not overdo this vast visionscape. With what can be called classical restraint, he tries to reach out for different hues of the same colour. Abstract as music can be, this is a freewheeling voyage that discovers order, form, movement, tempo and life in space.

S Suchitra Lata

Visit the record label Miramar

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