By Kenji Williams – Director, Composer
This spring, a nine-year old dream came true. To direct a live musical collaboration with an orbiting astronaut on the International Space Station. This ‘StarJAM’ was an improvised musical performance between BELLA GAIA Director Kenji Williams and International Space Station Commander Koichi Wakata.
The idea was born in conjunction with the inception of BELLA GAIA (Beautiful Earth), now a world-renown earth-from-space multimedia immersive theatrical experience that simulates space flight, with live music and dance, and stunning earth data imagery from NASA. BELLA GAIA was conceived by a conversation I had with NASA astronaut Mike Finke – who spoke to me of the life changing experience he had, the first time he saw the earth from space from the Space Station. Many astronauts refer to this transformation as the “Overview Effect”.
Since then, many astronauts have seen BELLA GAIA and they all say it is an accurate simulation of space flight, and successfully replicates this transformative effect. In the process, many astronauts have contributed their poetic words of their feelings of being in space, to be included in BELLA GAIA as voice samples guiding along the experience.
One of these astronauts who contributed to BELLA GAIA was Koichi Wakata – who at the time when I met him, was about to launch to space as Japan’s first Commander of the Space Station. It was a natural fit to do a live musical collaboration live, between earth and space.
Because Koichi was not a musician, I began designing/conceptualizing the project with the selection of an instrument that is uniquely Japanese, that does not require a lifetime of practice, and that could be transported in the small confines of a rocket module. The ‘Sho’ instrument was selected – a 2000 year-old Japanese wind instrument, and is traditionally performed for the purpose of tuning the cosmos.
The Sho was transported to the Space Station by a SpaceX Dragon rocket, and the fact that Koichi was playing this instrument, literally in space, was a profound act – and in my conversation live during the NASA TV broadcast with Koichi during the StarJAM, I dedicated this live collaboration for the healing of all beings – healing of the Earth, healing of our friends and family.
When Koichi started playing the Sho live from space, as I was at NASA JSC’s studio with my violin – I literally got chills, and I was deeply moved as I improvised and played along with this beautiful sound transmitted from 200miles above.
With the interweaving of my musical compositions, theatrical direction of live musicians, dancers, edited film imagery of not only Earth from space but scientific data visualizations created by NASA supercomputers – the experience of BELLA GAIA is a live multimedia journey through time and space – exploring the relationship between humans and nature. One view of the trailer can describe in an instant what words cannot. Please watch! https://vimeo.com/46343461
The “Overview Effect” transformation is no doubt – a process of the spirit, heart, and mind, experiencing our home planet as a profoundly beautiful blue bubble of life floating in the blackness of space – our spirit is awakened as if a switch were turned on, breaking through all constructs of religion, culture, ego, and truly engaging (and reminding) our role as human beings on planet earth.
When I compose music for BELLA GAIA, this is the inspiration and motivation I feel while writing – how can I evoke that spirit and emotion? I must evoke it within myself, and communicate it through tones, rhythms, and melodies. I feel most human when I create music, and to share it with the world feels like celebrating together, the beauty of the human spirit.
We have upcoming live shows; get your tickets now!
October 11th, 2014 – SF Bay Area (Marin Civic Center Auditorium)
November 11th, 2014 – Bella Gaia CD Album release date
November 28th, 2014 – Washington DC Area (Strathmore, Bethesda)
Home Page: http://www.bellagaia.com/