Space Forces

Artist's rendering of NASA's Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It's logical that we'd come up with the "Space Force" idea eventually. The space program in many ways has its roots going back to Teddy Roosevelt's forays into the American West. But as Mark Twain eventually discovered--and wrote in his memoir--it was largely anticlimactic. 

Heading west always seems like the cool thing to do if you want to seem cool. I like "heading west" in my music--both as a way to be authentically American, but also to use its connection with the frontiers of space. I did it back in 1999 with with my Miles From Mars album, whose title track was a blues shuffle with a trumpet sound on it as a subtle reference to Miles Davis. If there was a cliché sound for the Mars frontier it would Cool School and post-Cool School jazz (Sun Ra perhaps), and music with pedal steel guitar on it with ambient atmosphere. (Think Eno/Lanois on the Apollo album--a different kind of "Space Force"). 

Atmospheric music, at least for me, is the sound of dreams, "films" of the mind, very often with "soundtracks". Recorded music put music more in our heads. (I know that when I'm involved in visual art, listening to music in the background gives it more "flow"--or the illusion of it). What I like to do for things that are potentially anticlimactic (like colonizing Mars) is to artificially romanticize them by writing music for them--such as the notion of a Martian suburbia which formed when people wanted to flee the decay of the main Colony. The first ideas I had used guitars with plate reverbs and vintage synth sounds. Those are just as cliche as the cowboy mystiques.


The Space era in the 1960s grew out of the cowboy metaphors in many ways. ("I'm a Space Cowboy"). Even Joe Biden conjures this character with his aviator frames--either because he identifies with it or is a projection from society.

Like in this episode of Jay Leno's Garage, where Biden uses "cowboy' several times. It's an embedded cultural colloquialism that gets recycled through each generation. Elon is a Space Cowboy in many ways, but with Teslas and SpaceX instead of an old Elvis-era Corvette.

Car Radios

The American West and the car radio are joined at the hip: We associate the American West with country music by default:

From the book Why We Drive:

"I soon find a radio station it seems well matched to the landscape; classic Western or cowboy music from the 1930s. The songs are beautiful. I have never noticed such music before." (p. 200)

"The American West engenders the idea of social  defiance. Thinking of all the early reverbed guitar sounds, this is where rock and roll gets its vibe." (p. 204)

Think of all the films which were shot in the Mojave, with a Morricone score that had a "reverbed" guitar in it.