‘Monumental’ Modular Synth Classic, Planetary Unfolding, Reissued

Projekt Records has kicked off a reissue series of 13 influential works from American electronic ambient composer Michael Stearns.

Stearns is a composer, sound designer, and soundtrack producer. His credits include music for television, feature films, planetariums, twenty-two IMAX films and seventeen solo albums. His scores for Ron Fricke’s non-verbal global film masterpieces Chronos, Sacred Site, Baraka and Samsara have been heard by audiences around the world.

On April 1, 2022, Projekt will be releasing Stearns’ long out-of-print Planetary Unfolding (1981). The album features the sound of the Serge Modular Synthesizer. In 6 movements, the slowly evolving atmospheric swirls of this early space music classic are described as “a journey within inner and outer space”.

Here’s what the label has to say about the release:

“His essential masterpiece tells the story of the cosmos not with words but with mighty, emotional sonics. The pieces have aged gracefully, as powerful today as 41 years ago. From our subatomic origins to our intergalactic destiny, the universe is made of sound held together through resonance where atoms, cells, oceans, plants, animals and humans are all part of a complex orchestration.

Planetary Unfolding exhibits both a compositional immediacy and a studied grasp of synthesizer mechanics. Stearns is one of the first Americans to tune his synthesizers to the “key of space,” adding a Californian earth-sensitivity to the mix.

“In the Beginning” births the album within primordial ambience that brightens with a blossoming mix of electronic space rock and cinematic swells. The serene and graceful “As the Earth Kissed the Moon” opens with the song of a mockingbird, the first song of spring, and in musical waves leads us to a point in the celestial firmament. It builds rhythmically as if representing the orbits of planets with choreographed movements in a star-flung ballet.”

“Michael Stearns’ Planetary Unfolding defines the word breathtaking. He doesn’t just take you somewhere, he makes you hear music differently, taking you deep into the vibration of sound,” notes Echoes radio host John Diliberto. “It’s a monumental work of ambient music.”

Planetary Unfolding is available now via Bandcamp. You can preview it via the embed below:

3 thoughts on “‘Monumental’ Modular Synth Classic, Planetary Unfolding, Reissued

  1. Stearns has always been interesting. He used a custom-made instrument called “The Beam” to generate many of the sounds he required. The Beam was 12 feet long, made of extruded aluminum with 24 piano strings of gauge 19-22. Definitely not a Polysix environment. At one point, he was (wisely) sampling a lot of his Serge and Beam sounds with a Roland S-50, for treatment and use elsewhere. I don’t live on his planet, but I like to visit.

  2. Stearns has done a lot of amazing work over the years, from his Imax scores to his collaborations with Steve Roach and others.

    But Planetary Unfolding holds up amazing well, even after 40 years, because it creates a complete sonic world that just gets more and more detailed, the closer that you listen.

    I’ve been listening to this since I got it on vinyl in the 80s!

  3. Great release, not really long out of print though, Emotional Rescue released the album on vinyl and digital download in 2019.

    I still listen to it regularly, I think it’s the best piece of music created by a Serge synthesiser I have heard.

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