How did a piece I played and recorded myself end up on NASA’s website?
Short version: I played and recorded Clair de Lune myself nine years ago, put it on my SoundCloud for everyone to listen and got contacted by NASA requesting the use of my recording on their website.
So about nine years ago (2011), I was studying at the Utrecht School of Arts for my Music Technology degree. For one of the assignments, we had to record a musical instrument in a specific way. I decided to play and record one of my favourite piano pieces, Clair de Lune by Debussy, on a beautiful Yamaha C3 in a church hall. I decided to place the microphones very close to the piano strings, as to minimise the reverberant hall sound.
The recording came alive when I posted it on my Soundcloud page. A lot of people loved the performance and the sound of the recording, and wanted to use it for their film, animation, YouTube tutorials, you name it. I even got credit for all uses, ending up with credits for American documentaries, made by people I have never met. Unbelievable. Somehow, in recording and performing the piece at that exact moment, it all came together perfectly. While not being the most technically accurate performance of this piece ever, a lot of people connected with it on an emotional level. Something I now hope for with every job I do as a film composer!
Then, on Thursday December 10th, I get a contact form submission from my website by a gentleman who tells me he’s working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory from NASA. The Perseverance Rover is headed to Mars and expected to land in February. The Perseverance rover is equipped with two microphones and will record sound from the landing.
To give the public an idea of how you would experience sound on Mars, NASA is creating a website with audio examples from everyday sound, but also music. First, the website will let you hear the sounds how we experience them here, on earth. Then, by applying edits based on estimations by NASA’s scientists and engineers, you can hear how this would sound on Mars.
NASA came to me with the question if they could use my performance and recording of Clair de Lune to use in their interactive listening experience. How could I say no?! I can’t even begin to tell you how honoured I am that this recording has gotten a place on NASA’s website. I certainly couldn’t have thought this would happen when I was playing and recording it nine years ago. So, without further ado, here is NASA’s website with my humble contribution.