The International Space Orchestra (ISO) is composed uniquely of space scientists from NASA Ames Research Center, the SETI Institute, Singularity University, and the International Space University. Together they play musical performances inspired by spatial missions.
The International Space Orchestra is the world’s first orchestra of space scientists. Blending space exploration and bassoons; planet-poking and bluegrass-playing spacecraft operators – the International Space Orchestra’s members are individuals drawn from NASA Ames Research Center, SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, Singularity University and the International Space University. The ISO has performed on some of the largest Californian stages (San Francisco Symphony Hall, the Fillmore Theater) with artists such as Bobby Womack, Damon Albarn and Beck, and with lyrics written by authors such as science fiction author Bruce Sterling. ISO is an experiential and hybrid research laboratory, where space scientists are implementing, deconstructing, performing, singing, mixing, modifying, and designing musical acts. It is a provocation to action: a call to imagine and disrupt future human relations to space science; to adapt space science to our creative need.
The International Space Orchestra was created in the summer 2012. It was assembled at NASA Ames Research Center and is currently directed by SETI Institute designer of experiences, Wired Innovation Fellow and International Astronautical Federation, Space Education and Outreach committee member Nelly Ben Hayoun. Ben Hayoun says: “It is inspired by our desire to understand the universe, and to rocket-propel our souls to further galaxies, rocking up the universe above and beyond.” The musical director of ISO is the two-time Grammy award winner, violinist and composer, Evan Price. Members of the International Space Orchestra include LCROSS/LADEE NASA Flight Director Rusty Hunt, NASA Ames chief scientist Dr. Jacob Cohen, NASA SSERVI Deputy Director Greg Schmidt and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle.
The International Space Orchestra has been the subject matter of a feature documentary which was selected at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam in 2013 and which is currently on Amazon. The ISO did their first record at Skywalker Ranch and have their record inside the International Space Station.
The ISO participates actively in the making of:
- A space culture across the American territory and it has gained supporters, interest, creative and scientific recognition worldwide (e.g. Royal Geographical Society, Guardian, Space.com, BBC etc…).
- Unique relationships and collaboration between science, technology, music and design.
It achieves this by:
- Proposing a unique and stimulating environment, generating questions, debates and interest in interdisciplinary collaboration.
- Designing musical performance which actively utilize space unique resources (e.g. mission-related content, technical workforce etc.) as a context for activities.
- Grounding each performance to contemporary and historical NASA and SETI Institute research
- Supporting cross disciplinarity in the making of each performance, when Music, Design, Technology and Space Science collide.
- Showcasing the people behind the institution, sharing the human aspect of each mission as experienced by space operators.
The International Space Orchestra is at the forefront of Innovation in the field of Space Science Outreach. By proposing an experiential practice to the field of Education and outreach, it is actively framing new ways to engage the public with space education. Over the past four years it has developed a track record of successful musical outcomes and demonstrated that it has allowed space scientists to capture new and younger audiences.
In the summer of 2012 in California, ISO performed Ground Control: An Opera in Space, a 27-minute long performance part scripted and based on the reenactment of the Apollo 11’s mission control and part musical. Ground Control: An Opera in Space was composed by an international team including Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Bobby Womack, Richard Russell, Mike Smith (Music Director of Gorillaz), Arthur Jeffes of Penguin Café, Maywa Denki (inventor of Otamatone), and Evan Price, with a libretto by american science-fiction author Bruce Sterling.
ISO’s first performance took place in front of the 80 by 120 foot wind tunnel (world’s largest) located at NASA Ames Research Center and its second in San Jose, California during the ZERO1 Biennial (North America’s most significant showcase of work at the nexus of art and technology).
In addition, public talks by leading NASA and SETI Institute scientists were curated by Nelly Ben Hayoun, giving insight into missions that inspired the musical composition. These included presentations by SETI Institute Director of Research Gerry Harp, NASA Ames Research Center Chief Scientist Jacob Cohen, Kepler Mission Manager Roger Hunter and LCROSS/ LADEE NASA Flight Director Rusty Hunt.
The International Space Orchestra feature documentary premiered at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam where it was critically acclaimed and hailed as a ‘masterpiece’ (ICO Website, 2013) a ‘real achievement’ (Domus Website, 2013), and considered ‘as thrilling as watching a rocket launch’ and ‘Spine Tingling’ (Guardian Website, 2013).
In May 2013, the International Space Orchestra performed at the Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco in front of 2,700 people with grammy award winner, american singer Beck.
While, on the 4th of August 2013, two Ardusat satellites – small sized satellites – launched carrying the ISO recordings aboard the H-IIB Launch Vehicle, HTV-4 from Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the Tanegashima Space Centre. In November 2013, the satellites were released from the International Space Station by the six-member expedition crew. One of the satellites broadcast the performance in its entirety, while the other was transmitting the libretto in Morse code.
Finally, in March 2015; the International Space Orchestra recorded a special orchestration from British punk band The Prodigy’s Breathe with me song for the feature film Disaster Playground (a film which premiered at SXSW, South by South West in 2015).
In May 5th 2015, European Space Agency Italian Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti brought the ISO music Compact Disc to the International Space Station. The pictures show the ISO record orbiting the earth on board the International Space Station, experiencing Zero Gravity inside the Cupola.
In April 20th 2016, the ISO performed with the rock band The Savages in the legendary Fillmore Theater in San Francisco. This stage previously launched the careers of Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Velvet Underground, Janis Joplin, BB King and so many more. The concert was sold out and welcomed 2,200 people.
Founder and Director:Nelly Ben Hayoun
Dubbed the ‘Willy Wonka of Design and Science’, award-winning director and designer of experiences Nelly Ben Hayoun is a critical explorer, a fearless and passionate provocateur. In 2014 Wired magazine awarded her with a WIRED Innovation Fellowship for her work to date and its ‘significant impact on the world’ whilst in 2013, Icon Magazine touted Ben Hayoun as one of the 50 international designers “shaping the future”. In 2015, she was nominated for a Women of the Year Achievement Award. Ben Hayoun’s roles include Designer of Experiences at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute… read more
Musical Director: Evan Price
Violinist and composer, Evan Price, is one of the world’s most confident voices in extra-classical string playing. Since 1988, Price has played with The Hot Club of San Francisco, the nation’s most venerable gypsy jazz ensemble. In addition to his work with the Hot Club, Price is a member of San Francisco’s Teatro ZinZanni Orchestra, the New Century Chamber Orchestra and the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra. He is the recipient of two GRAMMY® awards…. read more
Musical Director Assistant: Gordon Lustig
Gordon Lustig is a guitarist, singer/songwriter, composer, arranger/orchestrator and music teacher. Upon teaching himself guitar Gordon has taught private students and classes since age 12. While still studying at the prestigious Dick Grove Music School in Los Angeles he became the composer of the television sit-com, “Foley Square” on CBS which was created and directed by Diane English. Gordon went on to compose the music for jingles, commercials, and many more tv shows…. read more
Choir master: Jimmy Kansau
Jimmy is Vocal Director for the San Francisco Boys Chorus. He has performed in over 45 operas, including 15 appearances at the San Francisco Opera. He is passionate about singing and education and works with The Venezuelan Music Project an El Sistema style-system (as made world famous by Gustavo Dudamel), for choir singing. He studied at The San Francisco Conservatory and works in both classical and popular music…read more
Choir master: Amanda Hahn
Amanda Hahn is a musician and music educator who has spent the last 18 years in the San Francisco Bay Area. With a master degree in flute performance from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Amanda has freelanced with orchestras and chamber ensembles, and spent the most recent years singing, teaching, and raising her young son. She has studied flute with Christopher Krueger, Trudy Kane, and Timothy Day, voice with tenor Corey Head and soprano Christa Pfeiffer, and led soprano sections and sung in choruses under Ann Howard Jones, John Emory Bush and Alan Petker… read more
Head of Music: Edna Pletchetero
Edna was part of a team directing, shaping and developing artists’ careers. She has worked with many talented musicians, but most notably Sigur Rós and Jónsi whom she has worked with since 2002. She continues to work with them and other Nordic artists and composers for film, tv, advertisement and any moving image projects that need music.Edna offers 14 years experience in the music industry to NBH studio for all its music needs (apart from singing because Edna can’t sing, as she is often told)…. read more
NBH Studios Manager Chloe Mc Clellan
ISO Production Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios Ltd
NBH Studios scientific advisor Dr. Franck Marchis
NBH Studios Social Media Officer Darren Webb
Thank you to the SETI Institute, Montalvo Arts Center, Singularity University, NASA SSERVI, NASA Ames Research Center
Members of the International Space Orchestra include LCROSS/LADEE NASA Flight Director Rusty Hunt, NASA Ames chief scientist Dr. Jacob Cohen, NASA SSERVI Deputy Director Greg Schmidt and NASA astronaut Yvonne Cagle. The International Space Orchestra was created in the summer 2012. It was assembled at NASA Ames Research Center and is currently directed by SETI Institute Designer of Experiences, Wired Innovation Fellow and International Astronautical Federation, Space Education and Outreach committee member Nelly Ben Hayoun. The musical director of ISO is the two-time Grammy award winner, violinist and composer, Evan Price.
Produced by Nelly Ben Hayoun Studios Ltd
Montalvo Arts Center
NASA Ames educational outreach activity (2012)
Endorsed by the SETI Institute, the International Space University and Singularity University
With the kind support of XL Recordings
ISO members wear Ruby Rocks jumpsuits and Converse Shoes