11:03am

Sun September 23, 2012
Why Music Matters

Scrolling Spaceways With Steely Dan And Shonen Knife

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 10:36 am

Weekends on All Things Considered continues its "Why Music Matters" series with music from the heavens, as chosen by astronaut Stan Love.

"In space, every day is an important day of work," Love says. But when he was sent up to the space station to drop off and pick up crew members, the returning station crew member asked, "Dudes, where are the tunes?"

Suddenly, the shuttle mid-deck is filled with Steely Dan and "some other kind of old-guy music, since we're largely old guys here," Love says. All the lights were turned off in the cabin as the shuttle flew across "the cloud tops at 17,000 miles per hour, so [the Earth is] always spinning underneath you, scrolling past.

"People tend to portray scientists as being dry, being only interested in numbers, not interested in arts or the emotions that art brings out in us," Love says. "That is just not true. I actually made a special playlist for space: David Bowie's 'Space Oddity,' XTC's 'Another Satellite,' and I've got Shonen Knife's 'Riding on a Rocket.' To me, it makes the experience more complete if you can be working with the numbers and the science and the physics and the engineering, but also have an artistic, emotional side to the activity, as well."

"Why Music Matters" is produced by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, in collaboration with the Association of Independents in Radio and KEXP-FM in Seattle.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

Now to another installment in our series called Why Music Matters, the stories of music fans in their own words about how songs or bands have changed their lives. With this past week's concluding journey of the space shuttle Endeavor, today's story features, what else, music from the heavens.

STAN LOVE: We were working like demons, 16 hours a day. In space, every day is a day of important work. My name is Stan Love. I'm an astronaut.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAJOR TOM (COMING HOME)")

PETER SCHILLING: (Singing) Ground control to Major Tom...

LOVE: Part of our mission was to bring up to the space station a new crew member who was going to stay for months and bring home a crew member who had spent four months up on space station. Well, as soon as we got this returning station crew back onto shuttle, we closed the hatches, we undocked from the station, we're getting ready to go home, within minutes of undocking, our station crew member was like, dudes, where's the tunes?

And we said, huh? And he said, don't you have speakers? No. We didn't think to bring them. Then he pulls out his speakers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIKKI DON'T LOSE THAT NUMBER")

STEELY DAN: (Singing) Rikki, don't lose that number. It's the only one you want...

LOVE: And suddenly, the shuttle mid-deck is filled with Steely Dan and some other kind of old-guy music that - since we're largely old guys here.

(LAUGHTER)

LOVE: Having completed our main goals for the mission, we were feeling like we could relax just a little bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIKKI DON'T LOSE THAT NUMBER")

STEELY DAN: (Singing) I have a friend in town. He's heard your name.

LOVE: We also took some time to turn off all of the lights in the cabin. You're flying across the cloud tops there at 17,000 miles per hour, so it's always spinning underneath you, scrolling past. The view of the Earth is absolutely amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO EARTH")

KATE BUSH: (Singing) Hello, Earth.

LOVE: The Earth is huge. It's bright. It's colorful. For 45 minutes at a time, you're going over the night part of the Earth, and the Earth is between you and the sun. And you can look down and see thunderstorms and city lights. You can see the aurora. The shuttle flies through the northern lights.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO EARTH")

BUSH: (Singing) Peekaboo, little Earth.

LOVE: And you can also get a chance to look at the stars.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO EARTH)

BUSH: (Singing) With just my heart and my mind I can be driving, driving home.

LOVE: People tend to portray scientists as being dry, interested only in numbers, not interested in arts or in the emotions that art brings out in us. That is just not true. I actually made a special playlist for space.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIDING ON A ROCKET")

SHONEN KNIFE: (Singing) ...marshmallow, asparagus, ice cream...

LOVE: David Bowie's "Space Oddity," XTC's "Another Satellite." And I got Shonen Knife's "Riding on a Rocket." To me, it makes the experience more complete if you can be working with the numbers and the science and the physics and the engineering but also have an artistic, emotional side to the activity as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIDING ON A ROCKET")

LYDEN: That's Stan Love with Why Music Matters. And our series is produced by Anna Boiko-Weyrauch. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.