William Shatner, in an Elton John cover, once said that, “It’s lonely out in space on such a timeless flight.”
Perhaps nothing besides Captain Kirk can so evoke that sentiment than Apollo, a score originally written by Brian Eno, Roger Eno and Daniel Lanois for Al Reinert’s documentary on NASA’s Apollo missions. In the context of Reinert’s film, the score creates an unsettling atmosphere in a land with no atmosphere. Eno originally stated of the project that he felt the Apollo 11 landing in 1969 came across a bit truncated on a small television screen and media buzz and instead wished to examine the event in a more neutral tone.
Such a tone dominates the stasis of Eno’s work. Much like his seminal Music for Airports, there’s an ambient vibe that causes one’s perception of time to slow down as flashing moments are extended into multiple, meditative beats. Eno also calls into use a steel pedal guitar, which makes the final frontier look like the windswept landscape of the American west, replete with a lonesome cowboy.
Nearly 30 years since Apollo first landed on the charts, the music is back in a revitalized and refurbished setting courtesy of Icebreaker and guitarist BJ Cole. The project was born in 2009, forty years after the moon landing, when the British ensemble collaborated with London’s Science Museum to present a live version of the score, accompanying Reinert’s film at the museum’s IMAX cinema. As the documentary underwent significant cuts, the way Icebreaker presents the score for Cantaloupe music varies from the original recording for EG. And in doing so, the work takes on a bit of a new persona.
The vastness is still there, as is the weightlessness of the music as it hangs heavy in the air. The ambitious use of country western idioms still rings poignant. But whereas there is a turbulent underbelly to the original recording of Apollo, here there’s a greater sense of comfort and wonder. Maybe now we’re less lonely and more independent.