Astronaut lullabies: music for the metaquizzical

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Photo courtesy of jimoceanmusic.com

Musician-and-composer duo Jim and Kathy Ocean share their love for the stars through performing science-filled music for students and the community at the Santa Rosa Junior College planetarium.

Haley Elizabeth Bollinger, Staff Writer

A melodic concert under a planetarium’s star projector conveying facts and entertaining thoughts of space travel is sure to free the mind and create wonder about Earth’s place in this massive mystery that is the universe.

Jim and Kathy Ocean, a husband and wife composer-duo from Sonoma County, performed “Astronaut Lullabies” to a crowd at 3 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Santa Rosa Junior College planetarium. The audience ranged from students and professors to community members including families with young children.

Ed Megill, programming director for the SRJC planetarium, invited the Oceans to the planetarium to add diversity. “I want to add a little bit of different types of programming: still science and astronomy-oriented, but different than the lecture series,” Megill said. He also wishes to incorporate local talent, music and the metaphysical aspect while keeping it educational.

The lights turned off and the star projector shot pointed beams of light that reflected off the dome, which arranged to show exact positions of stars. As the stars swirled above, Jim began playing guitar and Kathy announced each song as they progressed.

Before they started a few songs, she quoted philosophical thinkers of astronomy like Plato and Carl Sagan. The Oceans covered facts about the moon, shared awe at the beauty and wonder of Earth from an astronaut’s view, discussed how one of Jupiter’s moons has the same amount of water as Earth and shared their anticipation for traveling to other planets in the future – their ideas intertwined with the music they compose.

Jim Ocean aspired to create music inspired by science and astronomy due to a great sense of personal redemption. Math wasn’t his strongest subject during school, so he decided to mix science with his passion for music.

“The way that the educational system is set up is you can’t go into science if you are bad at math,” Ocean said. “I remember I was very crestfallen around my junior and senior years in high school and I looked at my college years coming and realizing ‘There is no way I can do this, I have to do something different,’ so I went into music instead, which is another form of math.”

Composing his music gives him the opportunity to come back around to science through music. “They tell you that you can be really good at music but not necessarily math, so there is this two-fold nature: one goes intuitive; one goes linear,” Jim said.

Kathy Ocean is a big fan of Jim’s music and enjoys the content they create. “It’s really rewarding, especially when we are writing in a niche to be able to give these amazing songs life and then to bring in the different quotes and philosophy, different ideas and weave them together. Putting it in a planetarium, we’re able to get people out of their normal perception,” she said.

Jim and Kathy Ocean perform all original music during the show. One song is named “2049ers” and predicts mining in space in the future, like how humans mined gold on Earth. They closed the show with this song.

The Oceans use their lyric-driven original songs as a way to explore the world, ask questions and start conversation. They call it “music for the metaquizzical.”

Mark Phillips, 62, attended the show to enjoy the music and facts. “What I’m still chewing on is if it weren’t for the moon we wouldn’t be here,” Phillips said. “Also, the Voyager passed out of our solar system and into interstellar space.” 

Celia Lamantia, a probation instructor at the Sonoma County Office of Education, was impressed by the show. “What I found interesting is that the moon is moving away from us at an inch and a half rate every year. Good facts and music in the show, great fun!” she said.

The Oceans’ final performance of “Astronaut Lullabies” is at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in the SRJC planetarium. More information about the duo, including their music, can be found at www.jimoceanmusic.com.

Enjoy a live concert that explores our reality and goes into the deep conversation of why we are here, what is this space we exist in and where the future of the human race is headed. “Astronaut Lullabies” provides an outlet to these questions and also provides us with awe at the universe we live in.