Public domain recordings of "classical ambient space music"?
February 1, 2017 6:46 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for music to use in the background of videos for a star-trek like space game with lots of scenic space vistas. I'd like classical music that is not too bombastic or dynamic, primarily strings or soft French horns, music for viewing the rings of Saturn by.

Some examples of the type of thing I've used before (from

* Brahms Tragic Overture
* 1st movement of Mahler's 5th symphony
* Holst's Mars, Bringer of War (a bit bombastic, but kind of works anyway)

For some reason piano music doesn't really work for me -- too percussive maybe.

If I type "epic space music" or "orchestral space music", "ambient space orchestra" etc. into youtube, I get some things which are more or less the right sort of thing (but generally not public domain).

I'm thinking there may be some other lesser known pieces that may fit the bill.
posted by smcameron to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried looking on Free Music Archive?
posted by latkes at 7:12 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would not have described any of those three pieces as "not too bombastic", so perhaps my suggestions will be off the mark, but:
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:31 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Give a listen to Sibelius, lots of strings, often slow. Makes me think of cold Scandinavian forests, so might work for the cold expanses of outer space. His 6th and 4th symphonies, for example. The 4th has a reputation for being desolate; I'd listen through it first.
posted by bertran at 12:49 AM on February 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

Check out Kevin Macleod at The dude produces ENDLESS free music, both original and versions of classic composition, and you can search by genre, length and mood. I used a lot of his music in my old Xtranormal web series, and even made a rock opera based on it! (In hindsight the hubris of it kind of astonishes me. It's my The Nightman Cometh.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:44 AM on February 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Eric Satie had ideas about music that were avant garde at the time, and are now looking like a dead end musically. However they are mostly pretty calm and not too emotionally engaging. I think the might serve well.
posted by SemiSalt at 5:38 AM on February 2, 2017

Sibelius for sure -- Finlandia was made for this.

And if you liked the Tragic Overture, why not try the Academic Festival Overture?
posted by batter_my_heart at 7:48 AM on February 2, 2017

I was checking Musopen and looked at the Public Domain tag they're using.

"The work may not be free of known copyright restrictions in all jurisdictions."

My translation: this sound recording is not in the US public domain. The composition, sure, but not the recording. PD in Europe, sure, but almost certainly not in the US, not until 2067 anyway. They list European Archive as the "performer" without mentioning an actual orchestra or conductor. Likely this was dubbed from an LP record that is indeed in the European public domain, but still protected in the US by state laws (this is true even for European recordings!)

For many uses you can safely fly under the radar, but if this is a commercial use and you're in the US, beware. The same caution should be used with other sources, e.g. Internet Archive, Wikimedia Commons. Anyone who claims that a sound recording has fallen into the US public domain because of its age is, sadly, wrong.
posted by in278s at 10:17 AM on February 3, 2017

By the way, what I was looking for at Musopen was Bruckner's Ninth Symphony. They didn't have it, but there are parts of it that I think have the qualities you're looking for. Best of luck!
posted by in278s at 10:20 AM on February 3, 2017

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