Michael Stearns has been composing ambient electronic music since around 1975, when he met Emily Conrad and Gary “Da’oud” David, who were running meditation workshops with live music composed on a Minimoog synthesizer during each class. Stearns moved to California and became the resident composer at these Continuum workshops. He began releasing solo records on his own Continuum Montage imprint. This track comes from his fourth record, Planetary Unfolding, released in 1981. Around that time he became friends with Kevin Braheny, who had a talent for creating modular synthesizers, which inspired Stearns to create his own soon after. In addition to these electronic instruments he was introduced to an instrument ominously called The Beam, which he explains the construction of in this video. Essentially it has a large aluminum body with pickups underneath 24 piano strings, and is played by moving a large metal cylinder, similar to a guitar slide, up and down the strings while striking the cylinder, among other methods.
He used his modular synths and The Beam to create the score for Ron Fricke’s documentary films. Fricke worked as a cinematographer on Koyaanisqatsi and would go on to direct his own series of abstract documentary features: Chronos (Full movie), Baraka (Trailer), and Samsara (Trailer). All three are absolutely stunning and feature beautiful original soundtracks composed by Michael Stearns. These works were shown in IMAX, which is as expansive in audio capabilities (in many cases) as it is visually. He subsequently established Michael Stearns Productions, which works on sound installations and producing soundtracks for IMAX films. Some of his credits include the Back to the Future Ride at Universal Studios, Star Trek The Experience for Paramount, and sound installations at various planetaria around the country. As the Earth Kissed the Moon appeared in excerpted form on the 2013 Light in the Attic compilation I Am The Center (Private Issue New Age Music In America, 1950-1990), which I highly recommend. Those interested in purchasing digital files will find them on Stearns’ Bandcamp. As for physical releases, Discogs is your best bet although you might have to pay through the nose for the LPs.