International Space Station to stream NYU Abu Dhabi students’ music

NYUAD students space music contest
The contest offers students a chance to have their musical compositions launched into space aboard a SpaceX rocket
Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Two students are all set for a literally “out-of-the-world” launch of their musical compositions after winning a space music competition organised by the NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

Summer Reid

American student Summer Reid, who is visiting NYUAD in Spring 2024, and NYUAD Emirati alumnus Nadine Kabbani, have been named the winners of the ‘ASTROBEAT – Music from Space’ competition, organised by NYUAD in collaboration with the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology (MCAST).

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The inaugural event offers students a rare opportunity to have their musical compositions launched into space aboard a SpaceX rocket.

Nadine Kabbani

Kabbani, a recent graduate from NYUAD’s Legal Studies and Music programme and Reid, a senior pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Music Business at NYU Steinhardt, both submitted original compositions, which will be streamed from the International Space Station (ISS) in a special event this September.

The competition represents the first time NYUAD has participated in such a unique initiative, marking a significant milestone in the University’s engagement with interdisciplinary and innovative projects.

Winning submissions

Reid’s winning submission was an evocative piece titled “Little Brooks,” which was inspired by a deeply meaningful family reunion. The composition captures the essence of family bonds and the importance of returning to one’s roots and uplifting those who do not have the strength to pick themselves up. “I’m so incredibly proud of this song and so grateful for this opportunity. As a child, my dream was to be an astronaut, so having my voice floating around the ISS is literally a dream come true. I’m so excited for this opportunity,” said Reid.

Additionally, Kabbani will have her experimental composition, “No Gravity” streamed from space. Merging celestial-inspired synthesisers with classical instruments, Kabbani’s piece aims to create a futuristic and timeless soundscape. “It is an incredible honour to have my music streamed to space as part of the ASTROBEAT project, and the experience feels truly surreal,” said Kabbani.

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How it happened

ASTROBEAT (SUP-2023-09), is a project financed by the Malta Council for Science and Technology through the Space Upstream Programme. The ISS payload opportunity is made available by Nanoracks, through its Space Act Agreement with NASA’s US National Lab. The project is led by Leonardo Barilaro, Senior Lecturer in Aerospace Engineering at MCAST. The collaboration with NYUAD was initiated and supported by Andrea Macciò, director of the Centre for Astrophysics and Space Science.

Associate Professor of Music at NYUAD Carlos Guedes, who, along with Barilaro, co-chaired the board that selected the winners, said: “We are proud to host the ASTROBEAT – Music from Space competition for the first time. This collaboration with MCAST not only highlights the incredible talents of our students but also showcases NYUAD’s commitment to promoting art through innovative projects. Seeing our students’ compositions being launched into space is a remarkable milestone, and we are excited to contribute to this unique fusion of music and space exploration.”

Big space league

Leonardo Barilaro, also known as the Space Pianist, added: This collaboration with ASTROBEAT brings the development of space art to the next level. It was fantastic to listen to so many outstanding submissions. For the students, this is a truly unique opportunity. Their compositions will be streamed from space alongside my music, in collaboration with the Grammy-nominated cellist Tina Guo and world-renowned producer Steve Mazzaro, as well as the music of Carlos Guedes. Notably, the compositions were recorded at NYUAD by Gazelien Records, the student-run label led by Matteo Marciano. Tina Guo and Steve Mazzaro, who also were judges on the student selection panel, contributed to further elevating the experience for these young artists.”

NYUAD has a track record of contributing to space exploration. In 2022, research scientist Dimitra Atri produced the world’s first ever Mars Atlas in Arabic. The atlas uses data exclusively created from the UAE’s Emirates Mars Mission (EMM), also known as Hope or Al-Amal, in an aim to make the Hope Probe’s findings more accessible to both the UAE’s Arabic-speaking population and that of the world.