As one of film’s most popular genres, science fiction has given us many memorable tunes. While you’re likely to recognize the music at this Saturday’s Sci-Fi Spectacular concert, there are some interesting stores behind the scenes of these popular film scores.
Here’s a few fun facts you may not know about the repertoire for our upcoming concert.
Also Sprach Zarathustra – Richard Strauss
Inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche, Also Sprach Zarathustra is Richard Strauss’s musical adaptation of the philosopher’s novel of the same name. The book chronicles the ascent of man from ape to the ubermensch or “superman” and marks the beginning of Nietzsche’s nihilism philosophy.
Also Sprach Zarathustra became most familiar to the public when it was included in Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science fiction classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. Its beginning, dubbed “sunrise” has become so well known that it has been used by other famous artists. Due to the piece’s cultural impact Also Sprach Zarathustra was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry list of “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important” American sound recordings.
Star Trek: Through the Years – arr. C. Custer
Since premiering for audiences on television in 1966, Star Trek has had a profound influence on science fiction and pop culture. Despite being cancelled after only three seasons due to low ratings, the series would become a cult classic gaining popularity in its syndication run in the 1970s.The franchise has spawned an incredible 12 films, five television series and a countless number of novels, comic books, games and toys. Star Trek: Through the Years features the work of acclaimed composers Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Michael Giacchino and Alexander Courage.
The Hunt from the Planet of the Apes – Jerry Goldsmith
Planet of the Apes is the story of a world turned upside down. Three astronauts find themselves stranded on a strange world where apes rule and humans are hunted. To achieve a sense of otherworldliness, composer Jerry Goldsmith employed the use of several unconventional instruments including a ram’s and Tibetan horn. Percussion instruments are heavily used in the piece in order to reinforce that sense of impending doom and terror.
Where Dreams Are Born from A.I.– John Williams
Released in 2001, A.I. is director Steven Spielberg’s unforgettable story of a robot boy programmed with the ability to love. The movie deals with philosophical themes such as motherhood, self-determination, dehumanization, love and death. Originally conceived by Stanley Kubrick, it was passed along to Spielberg only gaining attention after Kubrick’s death in 1999.
When You Wish Upon a Star from Close Encounters – John Williams
When in pre-production for the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, composer John Williams had already envisioned using the classic 1940 song. The song fits in perfectly with the emotion that Williams wanted to convey to the audience. He believed that meeting aliens for the first time should inspire awe and wonder and the score reflects that. In fact the score for the film was written before the completion of the editing process. This is very unusual in film production however both Williams and Spielberg believed this gave the film a more lyrical feel.
Suite from Star Wars – John Williams
To the surprise of few, the Star Wars soundtrack remains the best selling non-pop record in history. The classic score earned composer John Williams an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, three Grammys and a BAFTA in 1979. Both Williams and the massive success of Star Wars were credited with the re-emergence of grand symphonic soundtracks in film. Williams also revived a piece of musical technique called a leitmotif. This is a short piece associated with a particular character or place used to convey meaning without using dialogue. The most famous example is the menacing theme used to announce Darth Vader’s presence.
Étrange No. 3 and Milieu No. 2 from The Twilight Zone – Marius Constant
The Twilight Zone was an American anthology series that focused primarily on psychological horror, fantasy and science fiction stories that usually shocked the audience with a twist ending. Audience members will immediately recognize these two pieces as the show’s famous opening, created by Romanian born French Composer Marius Constant in 1960.
Mars from The Planets – Gustav Holst
Also known as Mars the Destroyer, this piece by English composer Gustav Holst written in 1916, is part of a larger movement in eight pieces inspired by the solar system. Each piece represents the astrological characteristics of the planets and their influence on our psyches. Mars is by far the most intense piece of the movement and has been called the most devastating piece of music written. It was composed to create an image of war, devastation and hopelessness in the audience that seemed appropriate for the war torn period during which it was written.
Music from Apollo 13 – James Horner
Apollo 13 tells the incredible true story of the doomed Apollo mission to the moon and the three brave astronauts’ struggle to return home. To keep the tone of the harsh realities of space exploration, composer James Horner wanted to avoid a score that would remind the audience of another generic science fiction theme. Horner strived to convey music that created a darker atmosphere consistent with the grim situation unfolding on screen and achieved this through the heavy use of the brass instruments.
Stardust – Hoagy Carmichael
While admittedly not a song inspired by science fiction or space, this piece celebrates love and loss—a theme all too familiar to movie fans. Composed in 1927, Stardust is one of the most recorded pieces of 20th century music. The song has been covered by numerous music legends including Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald and Ringo Starr.
Star Trek: The Original Series – Alexander Courage
One of the most recognizable themes in pop culture, the theme to Star Trek: The Original Series has a very interesting history. Creator Gene Roddenberry originally asked composer Jerry Goldsmith to compose a theme to the new science fiction series. Goldsmith turned down the offer, instead recommending his colleague Alexander Courage. Goldsmith went on to score five Star Trek films, while acclaimed composer James Horner, scored two others.
E.T.: Adventures On Earth – John Williams
The score for E.T. is arguably composer John Williams’ most uplifting soundtrack. Williams has stated that working on E.T. was one of the greatest musical experiences of his life. When he and director Steven Spielberg had difficulty matching the score to the finished film, the latter took the film off the screen. Spielberg then told Williams to conduct the orchestra like he would at a concert. The result was so impressive that the movie was slightly re-edited to match the music.