Space age pop is a subgenre of pop and easy listening music associated with Mexican and American composers and songwriters in the Space Age of the 1950s and 1960s. Also known as bachelor pad music or lounge music,[1] it was inspired by the spirit of those times, an optimism based on the strong post-war economy and technology boom, and excitement about humanity's early forays into space.[2][3] Although there is no exact album, date, or year when the genre was born, producer Irwin Chusid identifies its heyday as "roughly 1954 to 1963—from the dawn of high-fidelity (hi-fi) to the arrival of the Beatles."[4]

The music is not limited to a single style, and it is not always easily categorized. There are several styles that can be recognized as an influence: classical composers like Ravel and Debussy; the big bands of the 1940s; and different exotic styles, such as samba, Latin, and Calypso music. It is also related to its genres of lounge music, exotica, or beautiful music/easy listening,[2] and may be regarded as a precursor to the musical genre of space music. Albums often have album covers related to science fiction—those include rockets, moonscapes, or modernism.[5]

Genre and style

Space age pop brought innovation to popular music in several ways—these albums in the early 1950s attend to include some of the earliest examples of concept albums,[6] and embraced the earliest form of four-track recordings introduced in 1957.[7]

Even though the genre takes on a variety of approaches in style, rhythm, composition, and arrangement, it also shows some similarities. For instance, many of the composers associated with the genre used a string orchestra for applying warmth and color to the sound, often combined with a Latin percussion section. A variety of keyboard instruments—from piano to marimbas to organ—are frequently used, and occasionally even the theremin for that out-of-this-world sound. The arrangements of the instruments tend to be highly original, conveying a sense of humor and playful charm—though album covers often have a science fiction or modernist theme.

It is also common for composers to use well-known jazz standards as a basis for their own work and recordings, such as Harlem Nocturne, Caravan, and Autumn Leaves. Classical pieces are also popular among space age composers, but almost always arranged in a lighter way than the original.

Resurgence

Space age pop, largely forgotten after the late 1960s, underwent an enormous surge in popularity in the early 1990s, leading to the release in 1994 of the signature CD compilation of the space age pop music of Juan García Esquivel, Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music, which sold over 70,000 copies.[1] Underground pop band Stereolab, in 1993, released Space Age Batchelor Pad Music [sic], an EP which is said to have factored significantly in raising awareness of the band. In the 2010s, one can hear the resurgence of the style through the tribute Jazz Vocal Ensemble Randy Van Horne Singers.

CD compilations

Notable 1950s and 1960s recordings

References

  1. ^ a b Pulse (Monthly music digest of Tower Records/Video) #164 October 1997 Page 57 Article: "Catalog Rolling: How Record Labels Decide What Titles to Re-Release" (article begins on page 42)
  2. ^ a b "the 1950s and 1960s - an era obsessed with technological advancements and new frontiers. The covers depict happy families, comfortable homes, and cocktail parties. Space Age Pop is the musical interpretation of these dreams. It comprises the eerie, mesmerizing sounds of Mood music, the Polynesian, Hawaiian, Caribbean, and jungle melodies of Exotica; the hi-fidelity and stereo-inspired sounds of bachelor pad music; and the dream, seductive rhapsodies of cocktail tunes." Page 1, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8
  3. ^ "Space Age Pop developed out of America's insatiable appetite for the new and improved, providing grown-ups with the music they wanted: seductive moods, primitive beats, and fantastic effects.", Page 6, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8
  4. ^ "The History of Space Age Pop" liner notes by Irwin Chusid, Space Age Pop Vol 1: Melodies and Mischief, RCA Records 1995
  5. ^ Borgerson, Janet (2017). Designed for hi-fi living : the vinyl LP in midcentury America. Schroeder, Jonathan E., 1962-. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262036238. OCLC 958205262.
  6. ^ "The Beatles 1967 Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is often cited as the first concept album. But Space Age Pop artists were recording them as soon as the LP came out in the late 1940s.", Page 10, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8
  7. ^ "Between 1957 and the introduction of quadraphonic (four-channel) recordings in the 1970s, Space Age Pop artists made stereo an essential factor in choosing instruments and composing their music.", Page 10, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8