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Claudio Martin: musician to the stars

Giving astronomy a second whirl

Claudio Martin, guitarist, publicity shot.
Claudio Martin, guitarist, publicity shot.

You have to wonder: this past year, how did we all not go stir crazy with the Covid restrictions?

Claudio Martin did it by going as far away as he could. “I travel billions of miles into space, and it has saved my sanity,” he says.

What he means is, six months ago, he set up a mini-observatory in the garden of his Alpine home, and started photographing, well, the universe.

“One day, I’m going, ‘God, I hate Covid,’ but in a strange way it dawned on me that Covid was giving me an opportunity to strike out and do some things that I couldn’t have done before. Like, as a kid, instead of being a musician, I wanted to be an astronomer. That was my first thing. The only problem was I wasn’t very good at math. Astronomy, turns out, is 95 percent math! So I pursued music.”

He created a successful career, teaching, and performing as the lead guitar with Ron’s Garage, one of the most in-demand cover bands in the county, as well as giving solo performances. But that all evaporated with the first lock-down a year ago.

It hit him hard — financially, emotionally. “I’m a musician. Everything is about live sounds, instant interaction, and here I was, no band, no gigs, no up-close audience, no music.”

Which is partly why now, with all this time, he’s giving astronomy a second whirl. Odd though, since astrophotography too is all about far away, lonely, timeless, silent. But Martin, who lives in Alpine, has become obsessed with visually capturing distant phenomena, through his telescope and onto his laptop.

“It’s like treasure-hunting for me. Capturing the universe on my little computer, and even making art of it. I’ve always had a telescope, but astrophotography is a different challenge.

“I needed something to give me a little bit of hope and humbleness. I’m not super-religious or anything, but looking at the sky, looking at the stars, was about as close as I can get to God. Whether you believe it or not, it’s like, ‘Wow! This universe is tremendously huge and vast.’ It humbled me. I would go, ‘These stars are looking at us, and they couldn’t care less whether there was Covid or not, and whether we live here or not. And they have been here for billions and billions of years.’ So I look up there, and I’m humbled. They don’t care whether you live or die, but this is our moment, the moment that we have. So it kept me sane, grounded, I guess. And my wife has been very patient with me as well, through this endeavor.

But how to set up for his new side-hustle? Here’s where another musician-astronomer alliance came to help: Wayne Parker, the Canadian bass player of Glass Tiger fame, is also, turns out, a star-watcher who invented a kind of mini-observatory. He designed and started selling his Sky Shed Pod, big enough for two, and small enough to install in your garden or on your deck.

“These pods are not cheap,” says Martin. “Around $4500 new. But I got a used — or rather, unused — one for $500. My wife Mona liked the idea because it kept me close by, because being a musician, I’m always out on the road, performing.”

Does he long for that again?

He stops to think. “This space gig is great, but yeah, I miss the music, miss the crowds.”

I ask if tracking space inspires him to write music. “Hey, how about this for a song?” he asks. “‘Ground Control to Major Tom.’”

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Claudio Martin, guitarist, publicity shot.
Claudio Martin, guitarist, publicity shot.

You have to wonder: this past year, how did we all not go stir crazy with the Covid restrictions?

Claudio Martin did it by going as far away as he could. “I travel billions of miles into space, and it has saved my sanity,” he says.

What he means is, six months ago, he set up a mini-observatory in the garden of his Alpine home, and started photographing, well, the universe.

“One day, I’m going, ‘God, I hate Covid,’ but in a strange way it dawned on me that Covid was giving me an opportunity to strike out and do some things that I couldn’t have done before. Like, as a kid, instead of being a musician, I wanted to be an astronomer. That was my first thing. The only problem was I wasn’t very good at math. Astronomy, turns out, is 95 percent math! So I pursued music.”

He created a successful career, teaching, and performing as the lead guitar with Ron’s Garage, one of the most in-demand cover bands in the county, as well as giving solo performances. But that all evaporated with the first lock-down a year ago.

It hit him hard — financially, emotionally. “I’m a musician. Everything is about live sounds, instant interaction, and here I was, no band, no gigs, no up-close audience, no music.”

Which is partly why now, with all this time, he’s giving astronomy a second whirl. Odd though, since astrophotography too is all about far away, lonely, timeless, silent. But Martin, who lives in Alpine, has become obsessed with visually capturing distant phenomena, through his telescope and onto his laptop.

“It’s like treasure-hunting for me. Capturing the universe on my little computer, and even making art of it. I’ve always had a telescope, but astrophotography is a different challenge.

“I needed something to give me a little bit of hope and humbleness. I’m not super-religious or anything, but looking at the sky, looking at the stars, was about as close as I can get to God. Whether you believe it or not, it’s like, ‘Wow! This universe is tremendously huge and vast.’ It humbled me. I would go, ‘These stars are looking at us, and they couldn’t care less whether there was Covid or not, and whether we live here or not. And they have been here for billions and billions of years.’ So I look up there, and I’m humbled. They don’t care whether you live or die, but this is our moment, the moment that we have. So it kept me sane, grounded, I guess. And my wife has been very patient with me as well, through this endeavor.

But how to set up for his new side-hustle? Here’s where another musician-astronomer alliance came to help: Wayne Parker, the Canadian bass player of Glass Tiger fame, is also, turns out, a star-watcher who invented a kind of mini-observatory. He designed and started selling his Sky Shed Pod, big enough for two, and small enough to install in your garden or on your deck.

“These pods are not cheap,” says Martin. “Around $4500 new. But I got a used — or rather, unused — one for $500. My wife Mona liked the idea because it kept me close by, because being a musician, I’m always out on the road, performing.”

Does he long for that again?

He stops to think. “This space gig is great, but yeah, I miss the music, miss the crowds.”

I ask if tracking space inspires him to write music. “Hey, how about this for a song?” he asks. “‘Ground Control to Major Tom.’”

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