In space, no one can hear country music

If ‘in space, no one can hear you scream’, as the publicity for the film Alien says, then certainly no one can hear Country music. Except, that is, if they are in a spaceship.

Apollo Ten, 1969 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Outer space is a vacuum and – like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, the Apollo 11 crew – you can travel through it in a private capsule of sound. Each of the astronauts was allowed to take one tape on the mission, and Country music was the preference of two of them. Cowboy music. Music for opening-up a new frontier.

During the Apollo concert, July 2009 (Gaetan Lee)

Last year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landings, the Science Museum, with new music promoters Sound & Music, staged the first live performances of Apollo, the score to Al Reinert’s film For All Mankind. The arrangement was by Wujun Lee, and performed by Icebreaker with BJ Cole on pedal steel guitar – and that’s where the Country music comes in. Brian Eno - who created the music with his brother Roger and Daniel Lanois – was very tickled by the astronaut’s choice, and so incorporated slide guitar into the sound.

BJ Cole (BJ Cole)

Apollo 10 Command Module, 1969

Apollo 10 Command Module, 1969 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Afterwards, excited punters paused in our Making the Modern World looking with renewed interest at our Apollo 10 capsule.

Now the Apollo concerts have broken free of the Science Museum’s gravity and have begun to appear in new orbits. Last weekend saw new performances at the Brighton Festival. Apollo will be performed at Camp Bestival (30 July) and Aldeburgh (23 Aug), before going on tour throughout the UK in the autumn.

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