In Northern California, the musician watched his television monitor and blew into his flute before a microphone.
A Canadian Technology Satellite 23,300 miles away above the Galabagos caught his modest song and sent it on its way.
Before the TV cameras on a lawn in Greenbelt, Md., a group of dancers heard his distant music and - knowing he was watching them - did a little dance.
It was a day like any other, except video history was being made and almost everything went wrong.
First NASA's transmitter started shooting sparks. Then an integrated circuit failed and the fuses blew, and Nathan Stinson, who was dancing, chipped his tooth on his umbrella, and, of course, it rained. Also it was boring.
It is still a neat tea.
Imagine dancing in the dark with a partner who's in sunlight a continent way. Imagine hesitation steps involving 50,000 miles and the speed of light. To think of Nathan's broken tooth produces sympathetic pain, so, instead, imagine playing quiet music for far-off dancers. Don't think about the rain.
The "Satellite Arts Performance Project," which is being billed as an experiment, combines elaborate technology and exploratory play. Also it involves GigaHertz, bird-time, yelling into telephones, and waiting in the rain. The project was conceived by Mobile Image, the four-person California dance troupe, two of whom are here, at the Goddard Space Flight Center, two of whom are there, a satellite-link away, in Menlo Park.
They write that "the objective is: to use dance to investigate the inter-active potential of applying the creative process in live transcontinental satellite-mediated television/video performance."
If children play with telephones ("Do you have Prince Albert in a can? Let him out immediately!", then why can't dancers dance not only on - but with satellite TV?
Money is required. The National Endowment for the Arts and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting put up $15,000. A satellite is needed, too, and NASA arranged "bird-time." Goddard, on the East Coast, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, on the West lent the dancers two transmitters. The project began Sunday, when things went pretty well. It continued Monday, when lots of things went wrong.
"We're having techno-karma problems," said Mitsu, the dancer. She was waiting in the rain. John Chitwood, the NASA engineer, was fixing his machine. The members of the video crew, Steve Christiansen, Gerardine Wurtzburg, and Thomas C. Goodwin, aimed their cameras at one another. Lowell Harman, the engineer, discussed Carla, his raccoon, stroked his beagle named Beagle, and lent a visitor a satellite manual to read.
The manual said: "Initial uplink EIRP should not exceed 70 dBW when switchable attenuator No. 2 is set at 0 dB until it is established that non-ideal operating conditions have attenuated the RB-1." Harman was explaining that Beagle like people crackers, when suddenly it happened.
California was receiving images from Greenbelt, the dancers, with their umbrellas, had begun to dance, to the West Coast's music, and the rain was not too bad. For a moment one could hear the cerie woowoowoowoo that is the satellite's strange echo - it sounded for an instant like the music of the spheres - and then the fuses blew.
"We'll try again on Wednesday," said John Chitwood.
"Should I do my healing chants?" asked Mitsu, the dancer.
Nathan Stinson, his tongue against his tooth, stood among NASAS dish antennae and made peculiar faces. "They're not' he said, "going to send me to the moon."