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Brian Eno’s Soundtrack for the Apollo 11 Moon Landing

by Ahmed Kabil on July 12th, 02019

50 years ago, the Apollo 11 moon landing was televised live to some 600 million viewers back on planet Earth. One of them was future Long Now co-founder Brian Eno, then 21. He found himself underwhelmed by what he saw. 

Footage from the television transmission of the moon landing.

Surely, there was more gravitas to the experience than the grainy, black and white footage suggested. In the months that followed, the same few seconds of Neil Armstrong’s small steps played on an endless loop on TV as anchors and journalists offered their analysis and patriotic platitudes as a soundtrack. The experts, he later wrote, “[obscured] the grandeur and strangeness of the event with a patina of down-to-earth chatter.”

In 01983, Eno decided to add his own soundtrack to the momentous event. His ninth solo album, Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks was produced to accompany a documentary, Apollo, that consisted solely of 35mm footage from the Apollo 11 mission, with no narration. The first iteration of the film was too experimental for most audiences; it was recut with commentary from Apollo astronauts when it was eventually re-released as For All Mankind in 01989. 

The remastered and extended edition of Brian Eno’s Apollo album will be released on July 19.

This year, on the occasion of the moon landing’s 50th anniversary, Eno has revisited the Apollo project. He reunited with original producers Daniel Lanois and Roger Eno to remaster the album and record 11 new instrumental compositions. The album, Apollo: Extended Edition, will be released on July 19. A new music video for the album’s most well-known track, “An Ending (Ascent)” has also been released with visuals from a 02016 Earth overview.

A new music video for Brian Eno’s “An Ending (Ascent).”

To celebrate the album’s release and the moon landing anniversary, Long Now will be hosting a Brian Eno album listening event at The Interval on the evenings of July 23, 24, 30, and 31. 

The album will be played on our Meyer Sound System, accompanied by footage of the Apollo missions as well as a special mini menu of cocktails inspired by the album. Tickets are $20 and are expected to go quickly. 

The Apollo missions have always been a point of inspiration for Long Now over the years, both for the Big Here perspective they provided as well as for the long-term thinking they utilized. Below are links to some of our Apollo-related blog posts and articles: