The Blaster Beam is a concept electronic musical instrument consisting of a 12 to 18-foot (5.5 m) long metal beam strung with numerous tensed wires under which are mounted electric guitarpickups which can be moved to alter the sound produced. The instrument is played by striking or plucking the strings with fingers, sticks, pipes or even large objects such as artillery shell casings. The instrument produces a very distinctive bass tone, the sound of which is often described as 'dark' or 'sinister'.
The Beam was designed by John Lazelle in the early 1970s, and was first widely used by Francisco Lupica who built several out of iron. American child actor turned musician, Craig Huxley, created his own refined version of the Beam out of aluminum which was brought to fame in the soundtrack for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) in which composer Jerry Goldsmith used the instrument to create the signature V'ger sound. The instrument was also used by composer James Horner for several of his early soundtracks, including Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Michael Stearns for his score to the IMAX film Chronos, and in David Shire's soundtrack to 2010 (1984), which was co-written by Huxley. Huxley also played the instrument on the Quincy Jones song, "Ai No Corrida." Huxley successfully patented his design of the Beam in 1984.
The instrument has since been used to create dark unnatural sounds in other movie soundtracks in the late 1970s and early 1980s including the films The Black Hole, Forbidden World, andMeteor, the latter of which it was used during shots of the giant looming meteorite as it approached Earth. It has also been used by new age artists including Kitaro, Stearns and Huxley. The Blaster Beam was also used for the seismic charge sound used by Jango Fett, in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Some more unexpected attention came in the early nineties when several women attending a music concert in New York's Central Park claimed to have been sexually stimulated by the sound created by a Blaster Beam being used in the performance. This prompted Australian radio station 2SER-FM to conduct an experiment in which they played a continuous loop of a Blaster Beam performance and asked their female listeners to report any stimulation they experienced. On this occasion none of the show's listeners reported any arousal whatsoever.
Francesco’s Cosmic Beam
From multiple rejections, to being on the top ten list of hard to find vinyl in alternative music, and being featured in the score of 3 of Terrence Malick’s films, including:
The Thin Red Line, nominated for 7 academy awards including best Picture, Best
Director and Best Original Dramatic Score,
The New World
The Tree of Life, winner of The Palme d’Or (Best Film) Award at Cannes Film Festival in 2011. Nominated for 3 Oscars, including Best Picture
It all started when my friend Dale Pelton told me about a Cathedral in downtown LA that held afternoon concerts. Dale thought it would be a great place for the Cosmic Beam Experience to perform. The beam is a big instrument, with lots of harmonics and low frequencies, and it really opens up in a large space like that. He suggested that I go there, check it out, and talk with them about performing there.
But before I did that, I had to get ready for two concerts I was giving that weekend at the Westwood Crafts Fair, by UCLA campus. I had the Cosmic Beam Experience set up on the street right in front of the Fox Theater, something that doesn’t happen anymore in Westwood. I performed for well over 30,000 people each day. What a sight it was to play for all those people and to see no cars, just a sea of lovely folks mesmerized by the sound of the Cosmic Beam! You see, the Beam has that effect on people, but you have to hear it, you can’t really describe it. After each performance I would announce that I had a mailing list to sign, to let them know when my LP would be available.
At the end of the day I looked over the mailing list to see how many people signed in. There on one page was a prophetic note, which said: call Francis Ford Coppola Cinema 7 Group. I think your music would be great in this film I am working on – signed, Paul Hensler. “Wow!” I was thinking with excitement.
I called the next day and talked with Paul, who told me a bit about the movie Apocalypse Now, which Francis was beginning to film. He asked if I would set up a private concert so he could bring some production heads to hear The Cosmic Beam live. I said yes, and I thought, “That was perfect timing!”
With all this excitement coming my way, I went to St Paul’s Cathedral to ask if we could use their Cathedral for my showcase presentation. Fortunately they said yes.
So I called a friend, Steven Moffitt, the recording engineer for The Beach Boys, to see if he would come down to St Paul’s and record my performance. He said, “That’s great- let’s do it! I’d love to hear and record the Cosmic Beam in a Grand Cathedral.”
What a moment auditioning for Francis Coppola’s Film was. After the performance Paul ask me to bring the recording to American Zoetrope Studio in Hollywood. He also asked me to be patient, since movies take time to make.
So I went on with my life and really didn’t think about it much more, being busy playing concerts and life stuff. I knew nothing about follow up, didn’t have a manager or agent, and it was 4 years later when the movie was released and I finally saw it. At the time I thought, “Wow. Some parts of the sound track seemed very similar to that live performance I gave 4 years earlier.” Oh well such is life, but at least I felt like I had inspired the score in some way.
Among other things, I was recording the Beam at the historic Record Plant in Sausalito. After hearing the recordings, the people there insisted that I try to get in touch with George Lucas& Steven Spielberg, who were in preproduction on sci-fi films. But before I could even figure out how to call them, I returned home to Venice, CA. Amazingly, I had 2 messages there from Steven Spielberg, asking me to call him right away.
When I called Steven, he said that he was looking for non-synthesized music for his upcoming film project, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” He said that Douglas Trumbull suggested my Cosmic Beam music for the film. Steven bought three limousines with 12 people, including John Williams, to the Beach Boys’ Brothers Studio in Santa Monica where I held the presentation. First I played the St Paul’s Cathedral live recording, then something I recorded the night before, and then I performed live on the Cosmic Beam.
A few days passed, and I called Doug Trumbull to fine out how Steven responded to my presentation, Doug said they love it, be patient movies take time to make. 4 months passed and I called Steven to see how things were going he was glad I called and asked me if I had anymore of that music and would I bring it to him in the Marine Del Rey where they were editing Close Encounters. When I got there we had a meeting in his Bronze color SL500 Mercedes’ car, I gave him more tapes of my music including the Cosmic Beam L P. He then told me, I set up a meeting with Julia Phillips at the Burbank Studios. Steven wanted me to meet her. When I met Julia, she was raving about how perfect my music was for this film and asked me if I had read the script, no, I said, I didn’t know what the film was about. So another 4 months passed and I got a phone call from Steven’s office; and the message was that
John Williams decided to use synthesized music, and said thank you for your time. So once again the Cosmic Beam LP was put on hold.
The next film producers that contacted me were ilya Salkind (for Super Man The Movie), thenWes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes); still no deal.
Along the way, I kept performing, and occasionally playing with other well-known artists, such as Fleetwood Mac, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Zakir Hussein, Ashish Kahn, and many others. But still I wanted the unique sound of the Cosmic Beam to be heard. What was interesting thought, was, I came to LA to get a record deal and release this album and the movie industry was knocking at my door instead. Something I would have never imagined.
So I persisted, the way artists have to in the business world of Hollywood. Finally, Francesco’s Cosmic Beam Experience music made into Star Trek, The Motion Picture (that’s a story for another time), and then 3 of Terrence Malick’s Films - The Thin Red Line, The New World and The Tree of Life.
Someone played The Cosmic Beam LP for Terrence Malick in Colorado. Terrence wrote me a lovely letter, saying that my music was perfect for film, and that he would like to meet with me.
At first I had no idea who Terrence Malick really was. But when we met in L A, I realized what a kind, soft-spoken gentlemen he was (and is). He introduced me to the crew he was putting together at a pre-production meeting for an untitled Terrence Malick Film. In that moment of my life, I was finally experiencing being with my peers. One thing really struck me; there were no egos in that room, just all these amazing creative people.
What an incredible feeling!! And then - Boom! Terrence disappeared for 20
Years. (And what a story about how we reconnected - for another time.)
You know what else was really cool and interesting? When I took the St Paul’s Cathedral LP to Terrence for The Thin Red Line, his production offices were at the Warner Bros studio on Formosa St. in Hollywood. However, 20 years ago that same studio was American Zoetrope Studio, where I brought the same live recording to Francis Coppola’s Apocalypse Nowproduction office. How amazing it is that they are both war movies.
So this is the story (short version) of the journey of the Cosmic Beam Experience LP.
Now that the Beam music is in the score of Terence’s new movie, The Tree of Life, this album will finally have a chance to be heard. We want to make the original recordings available to the public as a Special Edition Issue CD, for the first time in over 25 years. It also includes a bonus of 40 minutes of live Cosmic Beam Music, never before released, remixed at Hans Zimmer's Media Ventures Studio.
Please note that buying Francesco's Cosmic Beam Experience CD will help support The More Love Campaign, which includes The Spiritual Night Club Project and the resurrection of theCosmic Beam Experience for a world tour to bring this amazing sound experience to you live. This is one of the greatest sound experiences since Atlantean Times. Be a part of it.
Please pass this story on to your friends, and order this CD now.
I have researched and developed a very distinctive and unique approach to composing and designing sound and songs called, “VISUAL MUSIC DESIGN”. This has manifested into a powerful music show called the “COSMIC BEAM EXPERIENCE"
The main instrument in the show is a 13 ft. long steel channel beam (450 lbs.) strung with special steel wires utilizing electromagnetic pick-ups that create an indescribable sound sensation. This is also accompanied by an awesome set of drums that I hand made, along with bells, gongs, guitars and other instruments.
Francesco’s music has had tremendous media exposure over the last several years. Here are some of the films that The Cosmic Beam Experience Music is in.
Projects we are preparing to launch are:
Thank You Always Room for More Love………….Francesco