Unlike a number of my muses, I remember my introduction to Celestial Navigations fairly well.
It was several years ago, and I was just chatting with a fellow fantasy-writing friend online. I forget exactly how our conversation came to the subject, but she shared an audio file with me, called “Ice.” It was by this group called Celestial Navigations, whom I’d never heard of, so I had no idea what to expect.
I listened… and became spellbound.
As I listened to “Ice,” and to others, including “The Soothsayer,” “Space Princess,” “The Wall,” and “The Ocean,” among others, I became all the more entranced. Celestial Navigations was a work of storytelling, entwining the narrator’s spoken words together with music, and some musical sound effects. Some stories were straightforward, passing through a simple, gripping narrative. Others took unexpected turns, such as the soothsayer’s unexpected time travel to and back from the future. Still others went in completely unpredictable directions, firmly ignoring the rules of reality. It can be very surreal. And hey, why not?
Perhaps one could say Celestial Navigations is just stories set to music, but that hardly does it justice. I believe I read someone say they’re “a fusion of storytelling and music.”
I emphasize: a fusion of storytelling and music. The narrator, actor Geoffrey Lewis, and his colleagues, electronic musicians Geoff Levin and Chris Many, have managed to create a body of work where words and music are one and the same, without any singing. The music is the story, not just a means to push it forward, and the story is the song. Like mixing milk and chocolate syrup, the result is not the same without either key ingredient.
Now, it is true: after awhile, the general texture of their work may start to feel a little monotonous. There are about ten albums, after all, and ten hours straight, give or take, of the same thing, and something which demands attention, can get a little tiresome. So I don’t really recommend a Celestial Navigations marathon, but I imagine that’s a matter of preference. Certainly, it’s pleasant to listen to one album at a time.
One thing that makes them enjoyable is the variety of what they do. They cover a fairly wide range of themes and subject matter. Some are certainly comedies, making us laugh, while others are profound, heartbreaking tragedies, and still others are just poignant dramas, just encouraging us to think. Between the music and Lewis’ substantial acting props, each of these is driven home, straight into our hearts and souls.
And I love it!
I have exactly one complaint, really, and that is how, without much warning, one can find oneself listening to something decidedly not appropriate for children. It’s all sort of mixed together higgledy-piggledy. This sort of thing applies for things meant for Halloween or Christmas, stories about savage violence, ruminations about religion and government, and everything else. So, while the moods can change quickly within a single story/song, they can change drastically between one story and the next.
It does not happen often, but it does still happen.
Outside that, and with a great majority of more appropriate works, I personally enjoy their work.
Here’s just a few of my favorites:
King of the World
Girl Who Rides Horses