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Friday, 14 September 2012

Music and Science Fiction

I am a lover of music.  But I love no specific type.  I basically listen to everything- pop, blues, metal, classical, country, but the song does have t be about something.  I especially appreciate music with unusual themes.  Some of the music I like has science fiction themes, and certainly the reason I'm first attracted to the song is because of this simple fact.  For today's brief discussion, I'll have to get my SF geek to guest post... excuse me...

"OI!" Bang. Bang. Bang.

"Whatcha want now?  I'm watching Babylon 5."

"Again?  You've seen that, what, about a thousand times.."

"Go away."

"But you said you'd do the guest post for music and SF."

"Is that now?"

"Yes, its now."

"Shit!  Okay.. I'll be out..."  Sounds of shuffling, muttering, and a really loud belch, and then the door opens...

Okay, I'd like to introduce my inner scifi geek...

Hey,  just a sec while I get used to the light.  He doesn't let me out often...

Right,  music and SF.  There are some artists and bands that have been rather prolific in this area.  Some of the artists that are well known for it include Peter Schilling and Rush.  There are also others with which you may not be so familiar, like Kate Bush or Mister Mister.  And no I'm not going to lower myself to the standards of Timbaland's The Morning After, a song made popular by the Eclipse franchise, a video at least that popularises vampires- totally making them uncool.  Being a vampire was cool 20 years ago- with shows like Forever Night.  Its been done to death.  The blood has been sucked out of it now.  A stake has been driven through the heart of the genre.  Its body parts have been cut off, scattered, burned in separate locations and the ashes buried. Nuff said...

Peter Schilling.  A German artist and one hit wonder with his Major Tom Coming Home- about an astronaut who suffers an accident in space and decides to return to earth knowing that reentry will kill him.  This song is unofficially related to David Bowie's song "Space Oddity" (I don't mention Bowie's music because while it may be indeed that he is from space, more importantly because his music predates me, and I am not familiar with it enough to comment).  The song is on his Error in the System album, which also features a song called "The Noah Plan"- mankind leaving Earth before it is destroyed on massive starships.

Kate Bush.  She wrote a SF song?  Well....  Cloudbusting.  It's based on the memoir of one Peter Reich, whose father built a Cloudbuster, a machine that could make it rain.  The father's name was Wilhelm, and he was arrested and imprisoned as he was "a threat to the men in power."  I don't know the truth to the story, but, if the memoir is not true, then the song qualifies.  Plus its rare that a pop song's dominant beat is actually a march.  I love the song.  I love the beat, and Kate Bush's voice is haunting.

Mister Mister.  A pop band, true, but they did a really cool song, Silent Running, about an invasion and the "High Command" retreating, and people being forced to live under occupation.   It is well written, with dangerous advice "Teach the children quietly, for someday sons and daughters will rise up and fight while we stood still."  The song is SFish, and a warning.  Remember this was written before the end of the cold war.

Rush. As a band they have gone to great lengths to include SF lyrical themes in their music. A triumph of music is their 2112 album. The whole album tells the story of a dictatorship in the future that has banned music, but a lone man discovers a guitar, and this discovery, naturally, has a great effect. It is a classic, and is even honoured in Guitar Hero has being tracks you can unlock. The music is complex, and it is a masterwork.

On the album Moving Pictures, they did a track called Red Barchetta- a song about a guy who, after the implementation of "Motor Law" sneaks off to his uncle's farm to reveal a car, a red Barchetta, that he takes, quite illegally, for a drive every week. It even describes a chase through the countryside by futuristic hover cars, ad is based on a short story written by Richard Foster written in 1973 called "A Nice Morning Drive."

On their album Grace Under Pressure, there are two songs of note. "The Body Electric" describes the urgency of an android gaining self awareness, and ends with it praying to "the mother of all machines." And my personal favourite, Red Sector A- a song with imagery so potent I actually had nightmares. Based upon actual experiences in Nazi Death camps- particularly Bergen-Belsen. and the verse,

I hear sound the gunfire at the prison gate,
Are the liberators here, do I hope or do I fear..

Is frightening in depth and psychology of the camps. Instead of referring to the Nazi camps, the song is set in some kind of post-apocalyptic future. The song is disturbing.

While I'm sure there are far more, these are the ones that caught my attention and stuck in my head.  I'm going back to Babylon 5 now.  Cheers.

Well, I'm glad he's gone.  He has a problem with lecturing.  Aww hell.  I could watch some B5.  When I next talk music, I mght deal with unusual themes...


  1. A pity you don't actually include David Bowie's "Space Oddity". Also notable for him was his first starring role as the alien (possibly a natural role for him). The song is a haunting reminder of the "dark" side of space exploration and one of the few of his that I liked.

  2. True. But the truth of it is, I'm not familiar enough with his music- the song predates my my own musical listening awakening by about 12 years. Iknow the song, and I have heard it, but Space Oddity, I believe was written to enhance his music persoa as anything else.

    The song I definitely should have included is Mr. Roboto by Styx. Definitely a product of the eighties, but awesome in imagery and music.