Soundtrack to the Supersonic
October 8, 2012
Humans have always desired to fly. On October 9th, Felix Baumgartner, a member of the Austrian Military and professional Skydiver, will stuff himself into a specially designed space suit, float to 120,000 feet above the earth in a capsule attached to a sky-scraper sized weather balloon, and jump out of it.
He will reach speeds of more than 500 miles per hour. He will break the sound barrier. He will create a sonic boom with his body. No producer on Earth can replicate that sound. Point: Baumgartner.
Felix Baumgartner was not the first to jump from the stratosphere. Fifty two years ago, Joe Kittinger of the United States Air Force jumped from 102,000 feet. He was successful and is now advising Baumgartner on his record setting jump.
So what does this have to do with music?
The purpose of music, the reason for its existence, is to express through sound what cannot be said with words. There are some things in this world that our minds just aren’t equipped to deal with…yet. But that does not mean those things cease to exist. Where our minds fail, art fills the void. When human beings attempt such immense feats of human strength and endurance, they are doing it alone at the edge of the known universe. The sense of isolation is ineffable. Words can not explain it. The average human mind will never be able to understand why Felix Baumgartner is jumping from space, why Edmund Hillary felt compelled to climb the world’s tallest mountain, or how Alex Honnold can climb Half-Dome in Yosemite without any rope for protection. We seek to know, so we create. We do.
The Boards of Canada express this mystery in their music video for “Dayvan Cowboy“. The video uses actual film footage from Kittinger’s jump to accompany their beautifully moving song. The melody is euphoric, isolating, and melancholic. A combination of haunting string and keyboard arrangements resonate with our emotional core. We are with Kittinger as he steps to the edge of the capsule. We are certain of his death, but hopeful for his success. And then he jumps. The song attaches us to the a body falling through space and then, quite literally, splashes us into the ocean where everything all began.
Watching this video, then, becomes a meditative experience. The viewer is asked to contemplate how far we have come as a society that makes possible jumping from a weather balloon suspended in the stratosphere (Just 9 years later, we will have landed on the moon). We are also reminded of our beginnings in the oceanic cesspool. It is a song about us.
Enjoy the video. I hope that afterwards you feel like doing something great yourself.
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