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One Giant Leap For Music: NASA's Sonic History Inspires This Duo

Art historian James Merle Thomas (left) and Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen make up the duo Quindar.
Shawn Brackbill
/
Courtesy of the artist
Art historian James Merle Thomas (left) and Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen make up the duo Quindar.

You probably have a mental image of what NASA's space missions look like — rockets blasting off into the sky, fiery clouds of exhaust after liftoff — but what do they sound like?

That's what inspired Wilco keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen and art historian James Merle Thomas to form the duo Quindar, named after the signal tones used in radio communication during NASA's Apollo space missions. The duo's new album, Hip Mobility, incorporates archival sound recordings from the Apollo and Skylab eras.

"One of the conversations we had early on was maybe we could use this material as — it would sort of take the place of lyrics," Jorgensen says. "It would provide a story: some of the more humanizing, smaller moments of what life in space might be like, [such as] looking out the window as you catch a moment between some rigorous note-taking or scientific duties, and looking down at the earth hundreds of miles below."

Hear Jorgensen and Thomas' conversation with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro at the audio link.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Lulu Garcia-Navarro is the host of Weekend Edition Sunday and one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. She is infamous in the IT department of NPR for losing laptops to bullets, hurricanes, and bomb blasts.
Ned Wharton is a senior producer and music director for Weekend Edition.