Violinist and composer Anna Phoebe will be performing a very special brand new set during Session 2: Space Lab at this year’s Space Rocks London. Titled Between Worlds: There Is No Planet B, the piece was inspired by the keynote speech given by ESA’s Senior Advisor for Science & Exploration, Mark McCaughrean, at Space Rocks 2018. 



When did you first fall in love with science and space exploration?
I was never really into space and science at school. Weirdly, by moving down to the coast in Kent and having my studio by the sea, I’ve become so much more connected to the nature, the stars, the idea of worlds which exist beyond our own.
Earlier this year I started my Between Worlds project. I was working with BioScience research and writing a piece to the imagery generated by the research.  The scientists I worked with are funded by cancer research and I was marvelling at how these destructive processes within our own bodies generate such beautiful imagery.  What goes on inside us almost looks galactic and other-worldly – but on the molecular level.  My Between Worlds project with ESA is a similar concept – but instead of looking within our bodies, we are looking at our own planet Earth from outer space.


Why do you think people find outer space so fascinating?
It embodies so much we connect with as humans – the idea of being connected to space and time and seeing stars which exist 300 million years away. There’s a romanticism and an ethereal quality of the unknown.  And then the danger and conquest of unknown worlds. However, my project for Space Rocks subverts this notion that space technology is all to do with ‘out there’.  Instead of looking ‘out’ I want to look back ‘in’ – celebrate the planet Earth and how ESA’s technology is helping us observe and understand our planet better, especially regarding climate change.


What are your favourite space/sci-fi movie soundtracks?
The most recent one which I absolutely fell in love with was Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score for Arrival.


What inspires and influences your music?
Feeling connected and inspired by the sea – processing my own experiences, thoughts and emotions through music.  Even more inspiring for me is when the catalyst is other people’s knowledge and experience. Being curious and learning from others and then trying to connect to that by responding musically.  I see writing/performing music as a platform to communicate – but it can be other people’s narrative, whether I’m writing for dance, film, BioScience, or in this case, ESA’s Earth Observation Data.


What can we expect from your set at Space Rocks?
It’s a 10 minute performance celebrating planet Earth and our role as its guardians.  I’ve edited a 10 minute film from the ESA Earth Observation archives, which show the beauty of our planet and the role of space and satellite technology.  I’ll be showing this together with the music I’ve scored, and then performing live on violin alongside it.


We have been enjoying your pics from your visit to ESA’s ESTEC facility in the Netherlands on Twitter. Can you tell us a little about your time there and the Hertz Blue room?
The Hertz Blue room was an incredible space to be in. In fact there was a scientist in there testing out a satellite. It’s aimed to detect and monitor water molecules in ice formations. When he was discussing his research and the satellites he’s built, he exclaimed, “All this focus on conquering new worlds!! Let’s focus on looking after THIS planet first.” It was this and Mark McCaughrean’s phrase “There Is No Planet B” which inspired the piece I’ve written.

I’m heading back to ESA’s ESTEC facility in January to record violin and vocals, and I’m in discussions to expand the 10 minute piece into a work for choir which will be premiered at York Minster – along with the ESA Earth Observation visuals. I’m super excited that Space Rocks will mark the first performance of this collaboration!


• Anna Phoebe will be performing her new composition Between Worlds: There Is No Planet B during Session 2: Space Lab. Get your tickets HERE!