A little night music

Do you listen to music while doing astronomical observations? In the June 2011 issue of Astronomy Glenn Chaple has a fun article titled “Songs of the Night” in which he explores the connections between music and the heavens, touches on some astronomer/musicians and musician/astronomers, and ponders what makes good astro-music. Chaple allows that the answer is in the ear of the listener, though he shows a preference for classical and spends a bit of ink discussing Gustav Holst and The Planets.

At Seattle Astronomy our iPod is loaded up with an astronomy playlist. It’s currently at 80 tracks and mostly is a mix of rock, blues, jazz, R&B, and big band music. The music itself isn’t necessarily cosmic. Mostly each song has either a celestial reference in its title or in the lyrics. Here are some of the tunes:

  • After Midnight, Eric Clapton
  • Ain’t But The One, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin
  • All Night Long, Aretha Franklin
  • Black Night, Muddy Waters
  • Blue Skies, Dr. John
  • Blueberry Hill, Louis Armstrong
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stevie Wonder
  • Darkness, Tab Benoit
  • East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon, Diane Schuur
  • Europa (Earth’s Cry, Heaven’s Smile), Santana
  • Farther Stars, John Hiatt
  • Fly me to The Moon, Frank Sinatra
  • Half Moon, Janis Joplin
  • Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Stevie Wonder
  • How High The Moon, Diane Schuur
  • I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, Bob Dylan
  • I’ll Try Something New, versions by  Diana Ross & The Supremes and Smokey Robinson And The Miracles
  • I’m Beginning To See The Light, versions by Diane Schuur, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington
  • In The Chapel In The Moonlight, Dean Martin
  • In The Heat Of The Night, Ray Charles
  • It Was Written in the Stars, Ella Fitzgerald
  • Midnight Sun, versions by Diane Schuur and Ella Fitzgerald
  • Moon Dreams, Miles Davis
  • Moonglow, Louis Prima and Keely Smith
  • Night Life, Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis
  • Planet Of Women, ZZ Top
  • Quiet Night Of Quiet Stars, Queen Latifah
  • Rocket Man, Elton John
  • Round Midnight, versions by Diane Schuur, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk
  • Star Eyes, Charlie Parker
  • Star Love, The Playmates
  • Stardust, Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis
  • Stars Fell On Alabama, versions by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra
  • That Lucky Old Sun, versions by Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles
  • That’s Amore, Dean Martin
  • Things are Looking Up, Ella Fitzgerald And Louis Armstrong
  • Walkin’ After Midnight, Patsy Cline
  • Walking On The Moon, The Police

This being Seattle and the weather being what it is, I also have a “no astronomy” list. Some of the selections:

  • Bright Lights Big City, Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis 
  • Feels Like Rain, John Hiatt
  • Blues Before Sunrise, Muddy Waters
  • Blues At Sunrise, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
  • Buckets of Rain, Bob Dylan
  • Cloud Nine, The Temptations
  • Come Rain Or Come Shine, versions by Bill Evans Trio, Diane Schuur, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra
  • A Foggy Day, Ella Fitzgerald And Louis Armstrong
  • Keeps On A  Rainin’, Billie Holiday
  • Kentucky Rain, Elvis Presley
  • Let It Rain, Eric Clapton
  • Not Dark Yet, Bob Dylan
  • Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
  • Rainy Day Women #12 & 35, Bob Dylan
  • Shelter from the Storm, Bob Dylan
  • Spirits in the Night, Bruce Springsteen
  • Stormy Monday Blues, Diane Schuur
  • Stormy Weather, Billie Holiday
  • We Didn’t See A Thing, Ray Charles with George Jones and Chet Atkins
  • Couldn’t Stand The Weather, Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
  • I Wish It Would Rain, The Temptations

Truth be told, I usually don’t listen to music while observing. Better to hear the raccoons sneaking up on me in my back yard! But occasionally I will put on the tunes. What is your astronomy soundtrack?


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