Michael Stearns is one of the originators of a new genre of music that emerged in the 1970's. This music has been described as space music, contemporary instrumental music, new age music, electronic music, and so on. Its' primary instrument is the synthesizer. Or, the human as synthesizer. Michael weaves into his music instruments and sounds from other cultures, newly developed instruments, the human voice, and the sounds of nature.
Michael began playing classical guitar in the early 1960's. He performed in bands playing rock and jazz, and at the age of 16 played concerts before audiences of over 7000 people, backing up artists such as The Lovin Spoonful and Paul Revere and the Raiders. In 1968 he created and performed his first electronic, musique concrete piece while studying at the University of the Pacific. He spent the next four years studying electronic music synthesis, the physics of musical instruments, and accumulating equipment for his first studio.
The studio opened in Tucson, Arizona in 1972 where he produced his own music along with jingles and commercials for local radio and television, and nationally released jingles for Schlitz Beer and Greyhound Bus Lines.
In 1975 Michael moved to Los Angeles to become a resident musician/composer at Emily Conrad's Continuum Studio. He also co-founded the innovative free jazz trio Alivity with Fred Stofflet and Craig Hundley and over the next two years played clubs and performed concerts.
In 1977 he recorded his first solo album Ancient Leaves on the Continuum Montage label which he and his former wife, dancer/ choreographer Susan Harper, co-founded. Solo albums Sustaining Cylinders 1978, Morning Jewel 1979, Planetary Unfolding 1981, Light Play 1983, all followed on the Continuum Montage label.
In 1982 both NASA and Laserium began featuring Michael's music in their productions. Michael built his version of The Beam, a 12 foot long instrument strung with 24 piano strings, that he has since used in many of his solo albums, live performances, and in his film scores.
1983 found Michael working with composer Maurice Jarre on the films Fire Fox and Dreamscape. Then, with Craig Hundley, working on Motel Hell, Schizoid, Alligator, The Disappearance, and other genre films. He also co-scored the World of Explorers television series with Hundley for ABC TV. Michael released his 5th solo album, Lyra, composed and performed on George Landry's gigantic Lyra Sound Constellation. Lyra consisted of 156 strings tuned micro tonally and stretching up to 20 feet in length from ceiling to floor. One of Michael's concert performances with the instrument was filmed and featured on ABC's Ripley's Believe It or Not.
1984 began with Michael being selected from entrants representing 25 countries as both grand prize and first place winner of an international music composition competition. Later in the year he scored the IMAX film Chronos for Ron Fricke, and he founded his multi-track and multi-monitoring format M'Ocean studio in Santa Monica. He also signed with the Sonic Atmospheres label.
Chronos opened in May of 1985 and on opening night the soundtrack was beamed via satellite to over 200 radio stations nationwide on Stephen Hill's program Music From the Hearts of Space. Michael's M'Ocean album was released in 1985 and his music was choreographed by the Berkshire Ballet.
In 1986 Michael scored Ron Fricke's film Sacre Site, an astronomical short subject, filmed in time lapse cinematography, of the apparition of Haley's Comet over Ayer's Rock in Australia. He also released a new solo album, Plunge.
In 1987 Michael released his album Floating Whispers and also created the soundtrack for Academy Award winning director Ben Shedd's IMAX feature Seasons. He also scored and produced the soundtrack to MacGillivray Freeman Films Time Concerto, another IMAX film. In the media, he received feature articles in Music Technology, Keyboard, and Electronic Musician magazines.
1988 found him producing the soundtrack to MacGillivray Freeman's To The Limit and finishing another solo album, Encounter, on the Hearts of Space label.
In 1989 Michael produced the soundtrack to MacGillivray Freeman's IMAX film Race the Wind . He then traveled to Japan to record the Taiko Drum troop The Fire Drummers of Sakurajima and flew to Indonesia traveling across Java and Bali recording indigenous music and the sounds of erupting volcanoes. This was for the IMAX film Ring of Fire, which he was scoring and producing the soundtrack. He also performed a solo feature concert at the Harmonia Mundi festival in celebration of the Dalai Lama's receiving the Nobel Peace prize. And, he recorded an album with Steve Roach and Kevin Braheny titled Desert Solitaire, dedicated to Edward Abbey who had just passed away.
In 1990 Michael traveled to Costa Rica to record location sounds for Shedd productions IMAX film Tropical Rain Forest, which he was scoring, sound designing, and producing the track to. He then produced the soundtrack for Universal Studio Tours' attraction Earthquake. He was also selected as one of the composers to bring to life through music a Salvador Dali painting on the compilation album Dali, The Endless Enigma. Later in the year, he produced the soundtrack to and mixed on location Universal Studio Tour's Back to the Future, The Ride. This ride/film features motion controlled DeLorean ride vehicles mounted inside an OMNIMAX theater and incorporates 12 channel surround sound.
1991 began with the completion of Graphic Films' Ring of Fire, followed by an extended trip to the Galapagos Islands and Brazil to record backgrounds and indigenous music for Ron Fricke's Baraka. The soundtrack to Tropical Rain Forest was completed in 1991 also.
1992 saw the completion of Fricke's Baraka and another IMAX film for MacGillivray Freeman Eureka!. Baraka won the Prix Du Fest, the highest award, at the Montreal Film Festival and Eureka! was the feature film in the main pavilion at the 1992 Worlds Fair/Expo in Seville, Spain. In late '92 Michael moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and created Earth Turtle Studio.
1993, the move to New Mexico and the new studio began with an award winning video produced and scored for Lynette Kessler and an album produced for Canadian composer Donovan Reimer, titled A Matter of Heart.. In addition, Michael scored and produced both the soundtrack to Journey to Technopia, the 70 mm ride/show for the main pavilion at the Korea '93 Worlds Fair/Expo, and an HBO television special that has now won many awards titled Paha Sapa, Seven Generations. This is the story of how the Lakota Indians lost their sacred land in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Two new albums were released, Sacred Site and Baraka.
1994 saw the completion of a collaborative album with Ron Sunsinger titled The Singing Stones. This album features the musical sounds of sacred "ringing rocks" found at Native American sacred sites in the Southwestern United States, as well as Native American ceremonial songs. Michael also completed the score to Paramount's feature film Dark Goddess and a new CGI ride film soundtrack for Taito's Boss D3 ride, Scuba Dog. In the summer of '94 Michael created the soundtrack to Intermagic's CD-Rom release, Comic Creator. In the fall of the year, he traveled to the "Lost World" area of Venezuela and spent a month there exploring and collecting source material for his solo album, The Lost World. When he returned, he scored Power Gen for the English commercial agency, Great Guns. This was a non-verbal commercial using many out-takes from the film Baraka.
Spring of 1995 found Michael composing the music for his Lost World album and producing the soundtrack to a 3D destination film Ahead of Time for the Goldstar Science Center in Seoul, Korea. He traveled to Seoul in March, recorded a collaboration album with Steve Roach and Ron Sunsinger titled Kiva in April, and his Lost World album was released on May 1st. In June, he traveled to Reno, Nevada to produce the soundtrack for the themed attraction at the new Silver Legacy Casino. In the fall he completed work on his two CD retrospective compilation of early works from 1977 to 1987.
In January 1996 Michael completed a mini CD for the label amplexus titled "The Light in the Trees". He also completed an extended piece for the Sombient compilation "Storm of Drones". In February he returned to Bali, Indonesia to collect material for a forthcoming release. He returned to score the documentary Spirits of the Voyage for Triton Films and then scored six commercials for Isuzu for their Summer Olympics ad campaign. His two retrospective CDs were released in July, Collected Ambient and Textural Works and Collected Thematic Works. The rest of the year he worked on Roland Films feature, A Passion in the Dessert.
In January 1997 Michael scored three commercials for Umbro Soccer and traveled to the island of Roatan in Honduras to record dolphins and underwater sounds for the IMAX ride film Dolphin Dive. In March he traveled to Equador and Chiapas, Mexico, to record location ambiance for the destination film at the new Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In April he mixed Star Trek, The Experience at his studio in Santa Fe. In May he scored the IMAX film Thrill Ride with his friend Chris Hoag. June found him supervising the Thrill Ride mix in Brussels. July, scoring Dolphin Dive withChris. August found him scoring the Catalyst ride film Top Secret, again with Chris Hoag, and producing/mixing the entire Circle Vision soundtrack. In the fall of '97, Michael set out traveling to Europe to perform at music festivals, performed a live Web Cast from Studio X in Santa Fe, a concert at Santa Fe's Armory for the Arts, and then traveling to Belize to record ambiances both underwater and of the rainforest. In 1997 his music was also featured in James Cameron's epic Titanic and the movie 187.
January 1998 began with producing the soundtrack to Kong productions 3D destination film Time Out Cafe. Then he scored Mountainair Film's Doe in the Headlights and he scored and sound designed the feature film Sound Man. In July, his music was used for the trailer to John Carpenter's film Vampires. Michael was comissioned to write an hour of music for Barbara Hand Clow's The Pleidian Agenda in August and September. November was spent scoring a commercial for Spec Savers in the UK.
1999 began with a new commercial scored for Spec Savers in the UK and completion of a major redesign of Michael's web site. In the spring he supervised the soundtrack and sound design for the 3D IMAX film Siegfried & Roy, The Magic Box. During the summer he scored the trailor to Ron Fricke's IMAX film Infinity. In the Fall, Michael scored the PBS documentary The Mystery of Chaco Canyon.
The year 2000 began with Michael co-scoring and supervising the soundtracks to two ride films, Beyond Chaos and Panorama Tour. Both films are showing at Volkswagen's Autostadt complex in Wolfsburg, Germany. Between May and September Michael released four new CDís, three on his own label, Earth Turtle Music. Within, his new solo album, is classic Stearns. It was done originally as a commission for Barbara Hand Clow of Bear and Co. Spirits of the Voyage is the soundtrack to a documentary by Triton Films about the magical initiation rites of Micronesian navigators. On some of the pieces Michael wove into the music location recordings of songs and chants made on the island of Lamotrek, where the filming took place. The Middle of Time is his score to the PBS documentary "The Mystery of Chaco Canyon", narrated by Robert Redford. Sorcerer is Ron Sunsinger and Michael's tribute to the late Carlos Castaneda, released on the Spotted Peccary label.
As 2000 ended Michael scored a 3-D web presentation for DDD (Dynamic Digital Depth, www.DDD.com). 2001 began with him scoring two planetarium shows. Cosmic Journey and Wonders of the Universe were both created for the Lodestar Planetarium. Wonders of the Universe utilizes a new technology incorporating six high definition video projectors to create one seamless image on the dome. February was greeted with a six page interview with Michael in Audio Media, a trade magazine. He then co-scored Candlelight Pictures feature film Sheer Bliss with Christopher Hoag. Acoustic guitar was used to score the entire film. This is a return to Michael's roots, so to speak. Two new guided visualization CD's have been added to the Michael Stearns collection. Sacred Pool and Vision Quest were a collaboration with Carolyn Conger, Ph.D. Michael was again interviewed, gracing the cover of New Age Voice in September. In October, The Storm, Michael's latest CD, was released on the Spotted Peccary label. Expanding on a shorter work The Storm incorporates other elements representing a body of work and thought several years in the making.
In 2002 Michael scored Ron Frickeís Listen, a commissioned piece for Nokia. This non-verbal masterpiece was shot in 24P and scored in full 5.1. He also produced the soundtrack to Busch Gardensí new 4-D attraction Haunted Lighthouse. Haunted Lighthouse features a 3-D 70mm film staring Christopher Lloyd, with 4-D effects utilizing air jets and water cannons. In the fall, Michael began work on National Geographicís IMAX film Roar, Lions of the Kalahari.
2003 started with the re-mastering of the soundtrack for Chronos. Michael supervised the transfer of the old analogue masters to digital 24/96 for a new DVD release. In August, Michael traveled to George Lucasí Skywalker Ranch to mix National Geographicís IMAX film Roar, Lions of the Kalahari. In September he traveled to the Netherlands to headline the Elive music festival in Eindhoven. He traveled to Philadelphia in October to perform at The Gathering. Upon returning he began breaking down his Earth Turtle Studio and started work on a new studio. In February 2004, his new studio The Guesthouse opened. The Guesthouse is equipped for music production, multi-channel surround soundtrack production/mixing and both HD and 35mm film projection.