Thursday, October 9, 2008

Michael Stearns-Planetary Unfolding,LP,1981,USA

Grown in Tucson, Arizona, Michael Stearns started practicing guitar at 13. At 16, he played in a surf music band, sometimes backing artists such as The Lovin' Spoonful and Paul Revere & the Raiders. Evolving to acid rock, he began composing music on multiple instruments in 1968 and, while in university and in the Air Force, spent a few years studying electronic music synthesis, the physics of musical instruments, and accumulating equipment (musical instruments, tape recorders...) for his first studio.
The studio opened in Tucson, Arizona in 1972 where he produced jingles and commercials for local radio and television, and nationally released jingles for Schlitz Beer and Greyhound Bus Lines. Michael's interest in experimental "space" music let him though unsatisfied, as he found no audience to play his musical ideas, which could be at this time only related to the drug experience. After three years, Michael Stearns underwent a spiritual crisis and thought about stopping music.
In 1975, Michael Stearns met Emily Conrad and Gary "Da'oud" David. Emily Conrad ran meditation classes in a workshop named Continuum, with Gary David performing on a Minimoog and looped tapes during the classes. Michael Stearns and his girlfriend Susan Harper moved in Los Angeles, California, to join Emily Conrad and Michael Stearns became a resident musician and composer till 1981. He developed then on synthesizers musical ideas that would feed his first solo albums.
By 1977, Michael Stearns had formed a small independent record label (Continuum Montage) with Susan Harper and a close friend and investor, David Breuer. The same year came the first releases on tape, Desert Moon Walk and Sustaining Cylinders, followed by Ancient Leaves, his first album released on LP, in 1978.
In the same years, Stearns started out playing with Fred Stofflet a percussionist, then with Don Preston, the former keyboardist for The Mothers of Invention. Both of them were playing for Emily David's classes. After that, Stearns, Stofflet and Craig Hundley, a friend of Gary David's, started a free jazz group called "Alivity". Kevin Braheny came to one of their concerts and became friend with Michael Stearns. Braheny joined later Stearns to play live for Continuum. He brought there his Serge synthesizer, on which Michael Stearns would record his album Morning Jewel in 1979, before building his own Serge synthesizer. In the same period, Stearns began also to work with Craig Huxley scoring movies, and developed a friendship with Stephen Hill.
In 1981, Continuum moved to a new location and Michael Stearns began a solo career as musician. He put together some ideas he performed live during the workshops on his Serge and came to his masterpiece Planetary Unfolding. Ideas of the same kind were put together to form the album Light Play in 1983 and the track Return on the album Lyra.
Michael signed on the label Sonic Atmospheres in 1984, on which some of his earlier works would be re-released (Light Play became M'ocean in 1984, Morning Jewel became Jewel in 1985 and Planetary Unfolding was given a new release in 1985). In 1984, Chronos was the first film music done entirely by Stearns after years of collaboration with Huxley or Maurice Jarre. After two more releases for Sonic Atmospheres, Plunge (1986) and Floating Whispers (1987), Michael Stearns signed to Stephen Hill's new label Hearts of Space Records and released another great album, Encounter.
In the next years, Michael Stearns worked again with Ron Fricke, scoring Baraka, his best known composition and released several albums, working with Steve Roach, Kevin Braheny and/or Ron Sunsinger (1989 : Desert Solitaire, 1994 : Singing Stones and Kiva) or alone (1993 : Sacred Sites, 1995 : The Lost World).
In 2000 and 2001, Michael Stearns, now established in Santa Fe, New Mexico, released several albums on his own label Earth Turtle : Within, The Middle of Time, Spirits of the Voyage, The Storm and Sorcerer. He is still scoring movies and documentaries today. He's involved in the IMAX movie Te Vaka which should be filmed in 2007.
From Wikipedia
This is pure head-swim synth pulse euphoria. Much like the title suggests, this is a galaxy sized affair - the imaginary soundtrack to some mind-blowing IMAX outer space documentary screened only at a planetarium, circa 1980. There's something very womb-like about its sparkling, percolating analog sequencer rhythms and melodic sense hiding under all the dense layers. That little recurring two-note hook is so infectious.Like a more lush and romantic Klaus Schulze, and without much ego, actually. Yes, it's all very simplistic (no grandiose Berlin school theatrics here!). There is repetitive rhythm, but the period of the rhythm varies very much, from one extreme to another! So it can be very slow and it can be very fast too. The keyboards depth is unbelievable! The keyboards sounds reach a maximum intensity through a fast backgroud beat, until it progressively decreases and give room to a more relaxing keyboards background.. Then is starts again... It is APOCALYPTIC! The power released is unbelievable! This music can hardly be zapped: listening it creates a trip that must take all its time to happen. When you are in the music, you're out of reality!! Tune in and wave planet Earth good-bye.

***************NEW LINK POSTED SEPTEMBER 2012***************

Get it here  


Anonymous said...

thanku so much!LOVE!Vera

Milton said...

classic album. thanks for posting the original vinyl cover over the CD issue as well. not as prolific or well distributed as steve roach, but this album in particular is a cornerstone of the entire space music genre.

it is criminal that it's out of print, though I ordered a copy directly from michael stearns late last year --the other two I strongly recommend are 'Morning / Jewel' and 'Lyra'.

mezon said...

very nice trip!


Anonymous said...

great,learn so much from u,thanks.

Gianni said...

track 3 is like floating in space.
while track 6 is a magic cosmic electronic journey.: I'd like to play it during opening of a cosmic party, because it has a wonderful spacey atmosphere.
thank you!

Gilgamesh said...

This is truly a magnificent album. I love the Berlin school of electronic music, but this album just puts them to shame.
"As the Earth Kissed the Moon" is the most trascendental piece of electronic music i have ever heard, it´s so moving and rich...GOD i´m getting all emotional just to think about it!!
Cheers from Uruguay!

kundalini said...

Thank you very much!

I search more cosmic sounds to add in our special radio program ("Late Night Session", friday night for now, but it will soon become daily).

Not the most known and classic pieces (like JMJ, Vangelis...) but a bit more obscure. Maybe you could help me giving a few references. Keywords are: synth, space, dream (for examples), 70-80s.

Thanks in advance for your attention.
Contact me on our site or overfitting.disco"at"

Good continuation! (great blog! ;)

3243 said...

Brain music at its finest, and it has a heart to match. And what a warm, expansive heart at that.

kundalini said...

O_O°ooh - my - Gaïa !

this is such a peaceful masterpiece !
Warm, tender, surrounding and I'm loosing myself in a wonderful deepness!

If you have others like this in your collection, please think about us. ;)

Recommanded for all the human kind and even others.

Boetie said...

Guys (and girls),
If you have enjoyed this trip then check out "Encounter" and "Chronos", which are deep space incursions as well. An artist who has been largely inspired by Stearns´ music is Telomere. "Zoetesis" and "Astral Currents" are the albums to look out for. If you want me to up any of the above, just shout !
Cosmic greetings from Belgium

sack lunch said...


you said it! thanks again

Anonymous said...

amazing album, thank you so much for posting this !! !

Glenn said...

forgive my ignorance is the recording and release date 1981 or 1971

Anonymous said...

I have had this album/CD since it was first released. Planetary Unfolding IS a MASTERPIECE!
I think, in time, Planetary Unfolding will take it's place alongside the works of Mahler, Beethoven, Herrmann, Goldsmith, and Bach as being one of the greatest compositions of all time.

... my two-cents worth!

Anonymous said...

Glenn to state when this was recorded would be to state the obvious.

Glenn said...

yep it is now

Tom said...

Thank you so, so much for this post! I absolutely love this record. It's epic. I'll be reviewing it myself soon enough.

stanley said...

thank you for sharing this, appreciated :)