“If you want to know what it’s like to play guitar in space…” says famed Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, “You go into a nice room in your house, put the guitar on the ground, stand on your head for about 2 to 3 hours, and then pick up the guitar and play while standing on your head. That’s what it’ll feel like.”
Hadfield was the first astronaut to walk on the Bella Concert Hall stage this past week. What’s more… he brought his guitar.
As an observation of subtle genius, his guitar strap was populated with pixalized forms from the early video game Space Invaders. His presentation was filled with anecdotes from his arctic explorations, personal family history and stories from space. But, this wasn’t a typical PowerPoint presentation, he told these stories through music.
As the foremost innovator of music in space, he’s not always used to being so grounded when he plays. “For the guitar,” he explains that in the weightlessness of space, “there’s no point in having a strap. I’m pinching it underneath my bicep.” For everything there is a logical scientific explanation. “If you’re trying to bar-chord up and down the fret board, you don’t have any weight to your arm. Your cues are wrong, so your muscle memory’s wrong. Therefore, you miss chords all the time.” The specificity of the observation leads him to a calculated course of action to overcome the challenge. To conclude, he identifies, “You have to relearn.”
Learning is key for this engineer/fighter pilot/astronaut/space station commander. He has more ‘firsts’ on his list of accomplishments than Wayne Gretzky has hockey records. All of it has come from the need to innovate to accomplish his chosen mission.
The first human to record an album in space, Hadfield released Space Sessions: Songs from a Tin Can on Oct. 31, 2015. It’s a compilation of fifteen songs written about and from his space adventures. He notes, “I flew in space 3 times and served as an astronaut for 21 years. So, a lot of the inspiration comes from the legacy of the things I did in the past.” He flashes forward, “A couple of the tunes I recorded had been partially written beforehand. Some of them were completely from scratch.”
Just how did he accomplish this on such a limited schedule while commanding the International Space Station in its continuous orbit? He admits, “There’s not much free time on a spaceship, but just before bed every night when the big schedule said ‘sleep’, I would play guitar for a while.”
While he played, the whole world listened. Hadfield was the first person ever to have the entire globe as his engaged audience on social media. “We had slow internet up there,” he confesses, “Twitter was perfect because it takes such little bandwidth, so I could communicate using social media like we never done before. And the reaction was amazing.”
For all the scientific breakthroughs, it seemed that the best way to explain the almost unexplainable, the feeling of weightlessness or the boundless eternal darkness was through art. It’s what humans do. “Space flight is a wildly different and richly stimulating environment, a very new one for humanity. You can start to get a feel for what it means to you and then hope to explain it to other people and use technology to show them.”
In the closing question period to the sold out audience at the Bella Concert Hall, he emphasized his positive and progressive outlook on striving. Using audience members’ questions to frame his scenarios, his message was one of overcoming challenges, pushing boundaries and lifelong learning.
It wasn’t a technical presentation. As he notes, “Machinery enables, but people are interesting.” Expressing that his followers on social media have more than doubled since he landed back on his home planet, he outlines, “It’s not just the space flight that was interesting to other people. It was the human observation and impact of it and perspective that interests people… self included.”
Chris Hadfield remained in the lobby signing books and taking photos with his devoted co-earthlings until 11:30pm, a true testament to how much he values and commits to personal connection.
– by JLove