Stories from our Sol is a two time international award-winning, theater of the mind space odyssey, based on 10 historic missions from NASA, ESA, and the Soviet Union.
Stories from our Sol features a cast of performers and storytellers all from the city of Orlando.
This album is available on all major music platforms
This is an independent project not endorsed or affiliated with any space agencies.
01 - PRELUDE
Narrated by Joshua Colwell
When you ask people what was our greatest triumph in early space exploration, often they say landing on the moon. While the moon landing was a monumental first, in the minds of many space fans there are other revered explorers to mention as well, such as Venera, Viking, Pioneer, and Voyager. While these early explorers were not human, they were built with human hands, programmed by human minds, and were operated by extraordinary teams from many nations who shared the essence of all great explorers. These are the “Stories from our Sol”, a tribute to mankind's first steps to the stars. These stories remind us how far we have come and hopefully, inspire the next generation of space explorers to go even further.
I Primarily composed this with layers of Spitfire Audio’s BBC Symphony Orchestra to create an epic space adventure feel. The other synths used here are Native Instruments Absynth and Arturia Pigments.
02 - LUNA 3
Narrated by Anzhelika Arbatskaya
Luna 3 was a mission launched in 1959 by the Soviet Union. It would become the first spacecraft to photograph the far side of the moon.
02 - Luna 3:
Luna 3 is a very fascinating mission, especially considering when it took place.
Stateside there isn't a lot of attention on these early missions. Years ago while researching another space project I came across this story. I was blown away that this probe shot standard camera film, mechanically developed it, and scanned it in 1959! I knew when I started this project I wanted to tell this story as one of the great firsts in mankind’s journey to the stars. Consider we all grow up seeing the moon, as all generations did, suddenly there was a perspective no one had ever seen before of something so familiar. I can’t imagine how that team felt when that image came back.
For this track, I wanted to give Luna 3 a bold theatrical sound, reminiscent of old newsreels everyone in the era showed before movies; It just had to have a certain ceremonial feel about it.
Luna 3 was primarily orchestrated with the UVI Falcon 2, but also features the Arturia Arp 2600 & Oberheim Matrix 12. I also used Native Instruments UNA Corda that I used a bunch on the prior album and the Analog Dreams collection. The Olympus Symphonic Men's Choir by Soundiron provided the vocals via phonic programming. Splash Sound Epic Percussion 2 was used for the drums.
03 - MARINER 10
Narrated by Bernice Chaberier
Mariner 10 was a mission launched in 1973 by NASA to explore the planet, Mercury. It was also the first to use a gravitational assist from another world (Venus).
Mercury, much like the surface of our own moon, is a place of magnificent desolation. It is also a lonely world without a moon. A little known fact about Mariner 10, most probes in this era were built as twins like Pioneer 10 & 11, Voyager 1 & 2. Mariner 10 had no partner probe so this track was written to have a lonely, yet thoughtful feel to it to convey the parallels of the planet and probe.
Primarily I orchestrated with the Spitfire Audio Lab’s libraries for their lo-fi feel as well as the BBC orchestra but used the Native Instruments “Grandeur” piano as the heart of the opening movement.
In the second part, I raise the intensity starting with telemetry sounds from the HG Fortune Altair, drums made from Native Instruments Reaktor, Heavyocity mutations, and operatic vocals from Ghost Hack. This movement is to represent the feel of this lonely world drifting in front of our magnificent sun.
04 - PIONEER 10
Narrated by Paul Austin Sanders
Pioneer 10 was launched in 1972 by NASA to be the first to reach Jupiter. Pioneer 10 was also the first spacecraft to navigate the asteroid belt.
Continuing with the lo-fi, new age feel this track’s first movement is largely to support the narrative of Pioneer but also illustrate the probe coming out of the vast emptiness of the asteroid belt and seeing the magnificent Jupiter in the distance. Those who are fans of my prior album will recognize the sounds and theme from “Winter at Jupiter” as they represent this version of Jupiter as well, kind of a prelude of sorts to the Galileo mission on this album along with the Cassini mission on the prior album.
The bombastic horn sounds used to represent Jupiter were created with Native Instruments Absynth. Heavyocity Vocalise and Mosaic Voices also play a big part in this track to create a sense of suspense. Other synths used are the Arturia Casio CZ, MiniMoog, and the air technology Hybrid. The percussion was built with East-West Stormdrum.
05 - VENERA 9
Narrated by Anzhelika Arbatskaya
Venera 9 was a mission launched in 1975 by the Soviet Union to explore Venus. It would become the first spacecraft to photograph the surface of another world.
I have long been fascinated with the Venera 9 story and had a field day making this score for it. I based the feel off the images that were sent back from this probe that can easily be found online. There is also an audio recording from one of the later Venera that I listened to as a reference for the all-original sound design of the landing heard in this story, though I designed my version more from a 3rd person perspective.
The opening feel of this track was orchestrated primarily with the Native Instruments Absynth, if you haven’t noticed a trend with the other tracks, Absynth is for sure one of my favorite synthesizers. The lower register was built with the Heaviocity Mosaic Voices.
The drums are the Water Filled Taikos from the Impact Soundworks “Sonic Ocean” instrument that was also used on the “Enceladus” track for the Cassini Album.
As the listener gets further into this track the Soundiron Venus Choir sings a progression that is reflective of the “Rendezvous With Venus” theme from Cassini: A Musical Tribute. Since Viking arrived Decades before Cassini, this version has a more orchestral arrangement about it using the Spitfire BBC orchestra as a foundation.
That beautiful synth sound at the end is a heavily processed Native Instrument’s Analog Dreams sound that is running through an IK Comprexxor and Audio Damage EOS reverb. Supported again by the NI Absynth. That is to represent the wonder of the Venusian surface.
06 - VIKING 1
Narrated by Joshua Colwell
Viking 1 was a mission launched in 1975 by NASA and it would be the first spacecraft to successfully send back images from the surface of Mars.
This was one of the first tracks I composed for the “Stories from our Sol” Album. Viking 1 has a more ‘70s electronic rock music vibe about it to fit with the era of the mission. A lot is going on here with synths. The sounds of the opening are done with the Arturia replica of the (New England Digital) Synclavier. The Synclavier was once the world's most powerful sampler costing around $100,000 back in the ’80s but beyond its ability to sample sound, the Synclavier has a powerful synthesis engine to modulate “partials” or layers of sounds. Prior to this track, I hadn’t really dug into the power of the Synclavier and now understand why they were such sought-after machines.
To support the more digital tones of the Synclavier is the more modern sampling workstation the UVI Falcon 2, which has become my weapon of choice for creating massive cinematic sounds.
The Tibetan chant voice heard during the heavy percussion is actually yours truly.
Those with a keen ear will hear an electric bass supporting the track provided by the Native Instruments Scarbee Bass sample library for Kontakt. Also used is the Korg DSS1 from the UVI Synth Anthology, NI Masive and Air Hybrid. Drums by Native Instruments Battery 4.
The ending anthem was orchestrated with a combination of the IK Multimedia DCO-X (Super JX), Arturia Pigments, and Air Vacuum Pro analog synth.
07 - GIOTTO
Narrated by Andy Painter
Giotto was a mission launched by the European Space Agency in 1985 to study and photograph Halley's comet. It became the first spacecraft to reach Halley's Nucleus.
This wonderful story is about the European Space Agency and its mission to chase down Halley's comet. I remember seeing the Comet in 1986 from the top of Mt Evans, Colorado as a teenager and it was a majestic, unforgettable sight.
Under that narrative, I wanted to create music that was more era-specific for the 1303 backstory of Giotto di Bondone. You might think something like a harpsichord would be a good choice but that instrument wasn’t invented until the 16th century. So the harp was the appropriate instrument.
In the main score, the powerful synth that kicks the whole thing off was NI Reaktor Rounds, a synth that before this album I hadn’t really experimented with much. I really loved the texture of this bass sound. The real-time dynamic control of rounds made it a lot of fun to program with.
The lead line that happens before everything kicks off with the orchestra was done with the Arturia Matrix 12 and the IK 1984 Polysynth (OB-Xa)
East-West Stromdrum provides the percussion support on this track.
Beyond this, as the track progresses I use the CM Genisis synth, Arp 2600, Solina, Casio CZ, Matrix 12, and the Project SAM Strings.
The ominous choir sounds were derived from the Sound Iron Venus Choir and the 8dio Supercluster.
08 - VOYAGER 2
Narrated by Jesse James Allen
Voyager 2 was a mission launched in 1977 by NASA to study the outer planets. It was the first spacecraft to reach Neptune.
Of all the historic missions, Voyager really holds a special place in my heart as it was going on for the entire duration of my childhood. Mr. Carl Sagan was of course a big part of that mission and someone who was a big hero of mine as he inspired an entire generation of astronomers through his TV show Cosmos.
The core sounds for this score are made with NI Massive X and of my favorite synthesizers the Korg Wavestation. The UVI Falcon 2 provides the bass and piano FX support.
In the later parts of the score, I use the 8dio-Supercluster, HG Fortune Avatar ST, The IK (Yamaha) SY99, and Arturia Solina as the orchestration.
09 - GALILEO
Narrated by Lori Katz
Galileo was a mission launched by NASA in 1989 to provide in-depth information about Jupiter. In 1995 the spacecraft dropped an atmospheric probe into the heart of Jupiter.
Galileo is by far the most complex score on the album. The idea here is to represent the descent of the Galileo atmospheric probe into the heart of Jupiter. The session turned into a 58 channel mega-session to represent all the layers of the Jovian atmosphere.
Spitfire Audio Labs, 8dio Supercluster, and IK sample tank cinematic drums provide the opening percussion.
As with the Pioneer 10 Track, this one also echos the “Winter at Jupiter” theme from Cassini: A Musical Tribute. A theme that is largely built with the Native Instruments Absynth and Arturia Minimoog.
The lower atmosphere movement was created with the NI Reaktor modular synthesizer and the Riged Audio AQUIVER.
The heart of the Jupiter section was created with the Mars Symphonic Men's Choir by Soundiron, the NI Absynth & Monark, Spitfire Labs, and UVI Falcon
The massive leadline synth solo from this track was created with the Arturia (Oberheim) Matrix 12, stacked with the IK 1984 Polysynth (OB-Xa)
The ending was actually added months later when I was exploring the UVI Falcon’s new sequencer update.
10 - DAWN
Narrated by Jordan Allen Christenot
Dawn was a mission launched by NASA in 2007 to explore the enigmatic dwarf planet Ceres that resides in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
This track exploring the little-known dwarf planet Ceres starts off with a simple orchestration of the Spitfire Labs and NI Absynth.
The Project SAM strings build out the main body of the piece supported greatly by Orlando Violist Daniel Cortes who played two layers of this piece to make it so beautifully human.
The Choirs are programmed from the Soundiron Olympus library.
The pad break that happens ¾ through the score was created with Arturia Pigments, Oberheim Matrix 12, and Rigid Audio Perception.
The ending brings all these elements together for a cinematic conclusion.
11 - NEW HORIZONS
Narrated by Bobby Wesley
New Horizons was a mission launched by NASA in 2006 to explore Pluto, a dwarf planet discovered in 1930 by US astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.
As the tribute to Carl Sagan on the Cassini album, I use a simple piano from the UVI Keysuite. This is to represent the humble beginnings of astronomer Clyde Tombaugh and his infinite curiosity.
The track proceeds to build on beautiful string work performed by Orlando Violist Daniel Cortes and evolves further with vocals by Paul Austin Sanders.
“Elizabeth said it's among the stars
Wanderers of the night, there are 8 so far
It’s there and I still believe
That this one is yet to be seen”
In the song the name Elizabeth is mentioned, referring to Elizabeth Langdon Williams who was a brilliant mathematician, a human-computer, and an astronomer. Her theory and calculations were the foundation for Clyde Tombaugh's physical discovery of Pluto by helping him know what region of space to search in.
Pluto was long considered the 9th planet until 2006 when it was demoted to a dwarf planet like Ceres.
The original Greek definition of a planet is Wanderer. They believed planets were simply wandering stars.
My goal was to create a score that embodied the spirit of curiosity and wonder that Clyde had. His story is an inspirational one on many levels. This piece has many human elements to it to make it grounded in more traditional music. I explained to the performers Clyde's theme is like a sea shanty, starting with an instrument melody, then one voice than many. We as humans are really just setting sail into the uncharted waters of the universe. By coming together in unison we will continue to discover lands beyond our wildest dreams.
Synths used on this track:
Cherry Audio (ARP) Quadra, UVI Model D Keysuite for Falcon 2, IK Multimedia Miroslav Philharmonik 2, East West Symphonic Choirs, Spitfire Audio BBC Orchestra & Labs.
THE STORYTELLERS & MUSICIANS
Jesse James Allen
Jesse James Allen is an Orlando based composer. Jesse has had a 30-year history as a professional creative, from working on 53 AAA video games to media creation for theme parks and museums around the world. He has been a part of 11 internationally award-winning projects and a Billboard #1 remix album.
Anzhelika is an architectural designer with a deep passion for master planning and urban design. In 2014, Anzhelika moved from Russia after finishing her Master in Architecture, to Gainsville Florida to study at the University of Florida for a Master of Science in Architectural Studies. She now calls Orlando home.
Growing up in Russia, Anzhelika and her grandfather Veniamin, used to sit under the night sky, looking at the Milky Way. Her grandfather taught her the names of the constellations and sparked her interest in the magic of the Cosmos.
Bernice Chaberier is a Taino Storyteller from Central Florida who was part of the metaverse project “Borinquen” for FusionFest that won top honors at the 2021 Muse awards. She is an active advocate and business leader for the Latin community in Orlando.
Jordan Christenot is a music educator and singer/songwriter based in Orlando, FL. He currently teaches private guitar and ukulele lessons through his business, Music Lesson Orlando, and releases music under his name on Spotify and Apple Music.
Dr. Joshua Colwell
Dr. Joshua Colwell is Chair and Pegasus Professor of Physics at the University of Central Florida. He hosts “Walkabout the Galaxy”, the fun astronomy podcast. He studies the origin and evolution of the solar system and has flown experiments on the Space Shuttle, the ISS, suborbital rockets, and parabolic flights.
Daniel Cortes is a professional violist, educator, orchestral conductor, and arts administrator. He currently manages a 25-piece ensemble called Symphonic Underground which specializes in performing and recording tributes to beloved video game soundtracks such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. Some of his favorite concert appearances include playing principal viola for Electric Light Orchestra, The Eagles, Weird Al, The Beach Boys, The Who, Mannheim Steamroller, and Roy Orbison’s 3D Hologram (among many others).
Andy is an accomplished veteran of the production industry working for companies such as Passport Productions, Adrenaline Films, and Falcons Treehouse, gaining experience on multiple high-profile series, documentaries, and commercials. He has worn many hats including Producer, Director of Photography, Assistant Director, and even Drone Op, but his most experienced role has been as an editor for TV series and documentaries, but his most favorite role is "voice actor". Andy is a self-declared "Space Nerd" with a deep fascination for all things spaceflight and space history. A born storyteller, Andy also enjoys writing and self-producing independent films under the social media alias "The Vintage Filmmaker" having directed and released several short films including "Picnic Pals" (CENFLO 2021 Finalist) currently screening in festivals. Andy has 2 lovely and amazing daughters who are his inspiration for everything he does
Paul Austin Sanders
Since arriving in Orlando over 30 years ago, Paul Austin Sanders has been involved in a wide diversity of creative arts, from acting in film and theater, to graphic art, to performing and composing music for a variety of groups. He has been part of the prestigious Central Florida composers forum since 2018. He has had a number of premieres of his original compositions at Timucua Arts Foundation and recently performed there. Paul Austin Sanders is literally a RenaissanceArtzMan. You can see and hear the diverse gamut of his creative outpourings on these various sites:
Bobby Wesley is a writer, storyteller and marketing guy who co-hosts the award-winning storytelling competition, Orlando Story Club. Bobby has performed at festivals, corporate events and “The Moth”. He thanks his mother, Margaret, for waking him up super early as a kid on those cold north Georgia mornings to look at the stars.
HOW DID STORIES FROM OUR SOL COME TO BE?
HOW DID STORIES FROM OUR SOL COME TO BE?
In the spring of 2021 I had to make a tough decision: stay a part of my 30-year career as a successful experiential media designer or walk away from it all to support and care for my father in the end-of-life stages of Alzheimer’s Disease? I chose my father. It has been an emotional and arduous journey but one I feel is significantly important to his quality of life. I’m still on that journey.
So what does a creative person do when the hustle of production schedules and deadlines stop and life gets heavy? My vice became returning to my origins as an electronic music composer and finding solace in my lifelong passion for astronomy.
In my career, I have been a part of space museums, interviewed a dozen astronauts, edited tons of real-life stories of space exploration and milestones. I have been left endlessly fascinated and inspired by all mankind has learned in our journey to the stars, much of it profoundly more interesting than science fiction.
I had started “Cassini: A Musical Tribute” back in 2020 when the situation with my father became serious and I could foresee that big life changes were inevitable. That passion project was one I long wanted to do but never had the time to try. I also needed a productive coping mechanism for the heaviness of the pandemic and the realities of becoming a full-time caregiver.
As a teenager, I was blown away the first time I heard MCMXC a.D. by Enigma. On that album composer Michael Cretu made excellent use of narration and sound effects to tell a medieval story of love and mystery: very much a theater of the mind experience. It has been the type of album I had often wanted to attempt.
I attempted to do this with the Cassini project, making it more like a radio play re-enactment of the mission highlights but for a number of reasons, including legal clearances, I couldn’t navigate a way despite months of trying. So the album was released as an instrumental.
I had poured tremendous time and research into the webpage cassinitribute.com but as the album was released most only heard the music on streaming sites and never connected the music with the story it supports. Those who did discover the connection experienced a far grander version of the album than those that did not. I even received a few emails with praise about that. I believe that is why the album not only reviewed well but also went on to become a 3-time internationally award-winning score. However, it never seemed to connect with the space community it was designed for. The music, however, still did better than I expected on its own.
Motivated by the unexpected accolades of Cassini I started piecing together a way to tell the kind of historic space stories I really wanted to tell. During an interview for Puls8 Radio in the UK, I was explaining to listeners the story of the Huygens Probe landing on Saturn’s moon Titan from the Cassini tribute, and then it hit me how to go about this in a way I hadn’t previously thought of. Like the album by Enigma, I decided to set the stage for a theater of the mind experience, telling just enough of the details to leave the listener open to experience the musical representation of the event.
The result was a two-month deep dive into ten of my all-time favorite historic missions. Cross-referencing FAQ sheets, mission overviews, interviews, and mission retrospectives to come up with a fascinating narrative to represent each. It was really hard to narrow it down to 10 because there are so many fantastic missions to choose from but I narrowed it down to missions that were the first to achieve milestones that future missions built on to advance our abilities to explore further.
I felt it was also important that this album was not only about efforts by the United States but rather the world. The stories from the Soviet Union are a great example of that. The former Soviet Union was, in many ways, the catalyst for Mankind’s leap to the stars by essentially creating the space race with Sputnik. Similarly the story about Halley's comet and the European Space Agency's 1st deep space mission. The ESA also has been instrumental in some of Mankind’s greatest achievements such as the Huygens probe landing on Saturn’s moon Titan that I featured in my prior album. I feel strongly as we reach for the stars that we celebrate the effort as one race, one people. Space is our greatest hope for a brighter future.
The other notable thing about “Stories from our Sol'' is it celebrates unmanned missions. While I have nothing against manned missions, as stated in “prelude”, it takes thousands of people to design, launch and operate an unmanned mission. These missions are in every way as credible as their manned counterparts. In many ways, these missions will be essential when mankind does leave this Earth to become a multi-planet species.
The score took me 8-months, in my spare time, to compose and record the album, drawing inspiration from many of the historical photographs and videos captured by the missions. It was a truly beautiful thing to have the time to explore and imagine. Without any production constraints, anything was musically possible. I consciously decided, unlike Cassini, it didn’t need to be a nod to the styles of synthesizer pioneers but rather open to whatever I felt. This is why some tracks on “Stories from our Sol” sound like 70s rock intros, some orchestral and flowing, and some just completely out of this world. I learned how to use my synthesizers and samplers in bold new ways, the whole project was very liberating. Even my father enjoyed laying on my studio couch, listening and traveling to the stars. His favorite thing was when I explained all the details from the historic missions as I wrote the script.
I am very blessed to live in the creative community of Orlando Florida, the people here are so artistically diverse and deep they keep you inspired by all they do. They also compassionately support each other.
When I started reaching out to this community with the wild idea for “Stories from our Sol” they supported me on this journey and brought more to it than I could have ever originally envisioned. From the storytellers to the musical performances, layered with my compositions, the project became far greater than the sum of its parts.
I hope you enjoy this journey that has kept me creatively alive in my hardest year and may this story inspire you to chase whatever dreams you have, no matter what life throws at you.
I hope you enjoyed "Stories from our Sol". This was a wonderful project to work on. If you liked this album you should also check out my previous album Cassini: A Musical Tribute in dedication to the 1997 Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and its moons.
I hope you are also inspired to dig deeper into the many stories about mankind's journey into the stars. Most of them are every bit as interesting as many of the best sci-fi stories but all the better because they are real.
Stay curious and keep looking up!
- Jesse James Allen -
STORIES FROM OUR SOL
Composed, arranged, and produced by Jesse James Allen
Album cover illustration and design by Adam Frank
Web Story images used under license from Envato Elements and Midjourney AI.
Dedicated to & in memory of
beloved father, grandfather & great grandfather
Special Thanks to:
My family for encouraging me to chase a dream.
I would like to thank all of those who work in the space exploration industry for the missions that have not only brought me creative inspiration but also hope that someday we as a human race will set aside our differences and take to the stars. Perhaps one day we will all regain the curiosities and dreams that we had as children and change the course of our future. There is no greater opportunity than the heavens above.
Music Software Support