That NASA-TV Music

First of all, congratulations to both our Russian partners and NASA on the safe and successful return of the ISS Expedition 36 crew. About forty minutes ago Pavel Vinogradov, Alexander Misurkin, and Chris Cassidy landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan after spending 166 days in space and they’re all now safely out of the Soyuz and getting reacquainted with our old friend gravity. (It’s gotta suck coming back to that, but if you get to be in space for five months and change in order to set up that suck, it can’t be all bad.)

With the Expedition 36 crew saying goodbye to their Expedition 37 crewmates (who remained on orbit, awaiting the launch of the Expedition 38 crew in about two weeks), getting into their Soyuz, closing the hatches, leaving ISS, firing their retro rockets, and returning to Earth, I’ve has NASA-TV on most of the day. (That’s not so unusual even on routine days which don’t have any spectacular launches, landings, or space walks.) In doing so, I’ve once again become fascinated with the “interstitial” music that NASA-TV uses.

“Interstitial” bits are the small bits of audio and video that are broadcast in between the major segments of programming. These bits can be anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes long and are designed to simply as space holders. The video is usually some sort of NASA logo or a frame showing the upcoming programming schedule. The audio is some sort of instrumental music.

With a “normal” day of programming the segments are planned out in advance to fit together efficiently to fill the time, so there are a minimal number of long interstitial segments. But on a day like today with a lot of live segments of odd and unpredictable lengths, they have to scramble between live segments to get back onto a schedule where things start on the hour and half-hour. Sometimes this leads to long interstitial segments, maybe as long as five minutes or more.

I really like a lot of the music that NASA-TV uses in these long interstitial segments. It’s orchestral and sounds a lot like the music you get on the soundtrack album from a movie. Sometimes you get these long, sweeping themes with horns and violins like if you were watching a western or maybe watching Gandalf race across Middle Earth on Shadowfax with a hobbit in tow. Sometimes it’s staccato and building to a climax, like the music from an action film or something with a superhero facing down the supervillian.

Can anyone identify what these instrumental or orchestral pieces are? I’ve tried to ID them with the SoundHound app on my phone, but it always comes up empty. “No close match found.” Given the size of the SoundHound database and some of the truly obscure stuff that I’ve seen it identify, it’s a bit of a puzzle that there’s no match.

Based on that, I’m guessing that they’re original pieces commissioned by NASA-TV, strictly for use as interstitial audio? Maybe? Not unlike the music soundtrack for a TV drama, where they have to churn out hundreds of hours of music over the course of a long series’ run?

I ask because I really like a couple of the pieces and would like to see if they’re small portions of larger pieces. If so, I am also interested in whether or not the larger pieces or other related works are available as MP3’s or CD’s. But first I have to figure out what the works are and who wrote them.

If NASA-TV commissioned the pieces would they be public domain? After all, our tax dollars pay for NASA. Based on that, I’m pretty sure that all of the NASA pictures, film, audio, and video going back to the 1960’s are all public domain, subject to some pretty liberal usage policies, especially if you’re not using it for profit. Yes? No? Maybe?

Any clues out there? (Does anyone at NASA read this blog? I wish!)


Filed under Music, Space

5 responses to “That NASA-TV Music

  1. I had the same question, so I started doing some digging today.

    For the last few shuttle missions, NASA’s Systems Engineering and Integration team released some spectactular highlights from ascent. These were set to some great music, some of the best (in my opinion) was in the STS-130 video, found here . At the end of that video there are credits for all the pieces used.

    I started searching the artists down the list. Chris Blackwell turned up little, but Lisle Moore returns quite a few hits. His compositions have been fairly widely used including on ESPN. A little further digging and I think his piece ‘Redemption’ was one of the interstitials on NASA TV.

    I’ll keep poking around, but I hope this gives you a new vector into your research.


  2. NASA Social Media Team

    Hi Kevin,

    The “COMING UP NEXT” it is music from “Video Blocks”…. Video File and NASA 2nd Look are original compositions from Wille Lewis… the ID and Promo music either comes from the library from Manhattan Music… or from the library from Video Co-Pilot. Thanks for watching NASA TV.


    -NASA Social Media Team


  3. DB

    Man, did you ever discover what this music was? I did the whole SoundHound thing too, to no avail.


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