Space concert urges audience to be 'crew members of Station Earth'

International Space Station

Cupola of the International Space Station - Credit: ESA, NASA and Thomas Pesquet

Film composer Ilan Eshkeri is reaching for the stars with a concert which transports audiences to the International Space Station through the eyes of astronauts.

The Kentish Town resident joins astronaut Sir Tim Peake at the Royal Albert Hall on May 15 for a Q&A before Space Station Earth - a multimedia musical experience featuring breath-taking photos and videos taken on board, and a score that blends choir, orchestra and synthesisers.

Ilan Eshkeri and Sir Tim Peake

Ilan Eshkeri and Sir Tim Peake - Credit: Stockholm Kultur Festival

Eshkeri will conduct his emotionally-charged music alongside light projections and footage of our planet and stars across three screens. The 46-year-old, who grew up in West Hampstead and attended Northbridge House School, says the project started in 2015, when Peake asked him to write music to accompany footage of his six month International Space Station mission.

"It's strange how you put music out into the world and people contact you," he says. "I got followed on Twitter by the European Space Agency, I followed them back and a person there put me in touch with Tim who invited me to visit him in Houston at NASA's Johnson Space Centre where he was training on a replica space station.

Tim Peake's space walk on the International Space Station

Tim Peake's International Space Station space walk. He said: "There aren't many words that can describe the beauty of seeing Earth from space, but Space Station Earth attempts to do this, using music and video, to capture the emotion of human spaceflight and exploration." - Credit: ESA/NASA

"I got the tour that you can only get with an astronaut. It was so inspiring - Tim is such an inspiring person - I said why are we making five minutes? Why not something bigger?"

Eshkeri, who has written scores for movies from Stardust to The Young Victoria, says astronauts train to use photographic equipment before going into space, and have to make a "mission video".

"Tim felt lots of the music they use with them isn't great and wanted something more inspiring."

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He was allowed to trawl through ESA's database of footage, given access to film exclusive events, and talk to astronauts.

"They said 'do you want to film this rocket launch or do a zero gravity flight?' Yes I would!"

Eshkeri had a vision of a "big emotional narrative" with images and music.

"I knew quite clearly after meeting astronauts, that wherever they are from, from Yuri Gagarin onwards, they share something called the overview effect. When you physically leave the planet there's a shift in consciousness. You do all this training for years, there's so much scientific and technical information, but you arrive on the ISS and feel overwhelmed with this holistic understanding that if you don't look after your fellow travellers, you are not going to survive the journey. Then they go to the cupola, look back at our planet and think: 'If we don't look after each other and the Earth we won't survive the journey.'

"No one has ever told the emotional journey that astronauts go on, the visceral, poetic experience that has inspired some to fight for world peace and others to focus on climate change. In a way astronauts are superhuman, only 500 people have ever left this planet and all have come back changed."

UK and France from space

UK and France from space - Credit: ESA, NASA and Tim Peake

For his score, Eshkeri drew inspiration from Jean-Michel Jarre to Steve Reich and films 2001 A Space Odyssey and Fantasia. He uses vintage instruments, a Moog, a Roland Juno-6, and a Gibson Flying V guitar which was inspired by the 60s space race, plus choir, strings and brass to deliver the "awe-inspiring epic scale".

"I'm an '80s, kid I grew up with the space shuttle and electronic music by Vangelis, Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre," he says.

"Synthesisers seemed like the future; instruments of outer space. Even though I'm playing an instrument that's 50 years old, in some artistic way it embodies the idea of space travel - organic beings travelling to the most hostile environment can only survive by surrounding ourselves with incredible bits of technology. Organic wooden instruments and voices with technology seemed the right sound world to express that experience."

He adds: "People were sorely disappointed when space exploration fizzled out after the Shuttle, but with Elon Musk and missions planned to Mars and the Moon, it's a very exciting time."

Eshkeri has worked with Sir David Attenborough on documentary series including A Perfect Planet, and hopes audiences will take away a conservation message from the concert.

"I've had a shift of consciousness since my daughter was born to contribute in my own small way - whether working on a David Attenborough programme or on Space Station Earth - to get the message across that we need to focus on our planet.

Space

The sea from space - Credit: ESA, NASA and Thomas Pesquet

"We've been passengers on this planet for way too long, now we really need to be crew members of station Earth."

For tickets, visit, www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2022/space-station-earth