Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Infinity of Space blog 4 – hooked to the silver screen

While there still remains a countless number of classic science fiction novels just waiting to be turned into breathtaking films, in recent years, science fiction in cinema has undergone a long overdue healthy revival – and has finally started to regain some credibility. Granted, while ever we have big, gushing Hollywood endings, us literary SF fans will always be left groaning and preferring to stick to our books – but there’s no denying the fact that we are also seeing more contemporary adaptations and original ideas hitting the big screen, such as The Martian, Arrival and Passengers along with all the creativity and work that goes into making these visual feasts.

With the welcome return of the Star Wars franchise and successful rebooting of Star Trek in recent years as well as films like Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, space travel on the silver screen has never looked more epic and exciting. Taking the crowning glory, was Christopher Nolan’s masterful Interstellar, which perhaps remains the most impressive and believable SF film in a long, long time.

The spacecraft designs on Interstellar were superb and credible, both to the mind and the eye – Nolan abandoned the commonplace CGI onslaught, favouring scale models and impressive sets – and the whole thing was utterly believable. But for me, what made Interstellar such an emotional watch, was Hans Zimmer’s wonderful soundtrack.

Hans Zimmer knows how to pull off a perfect soundtrack and his work on Interstellar was no exception, proving that sometimes, simplicity is the most effective. Zimmer’s score was also very different to the typical orchestral or electro-symphonic soundtracks associated with modern SF films. I never imagined just a few simple church organ notes would have such a profound effect.

With the likes of the new Star Wars and Star Trek films, there was also that warm sense of nostalgia – in some ways looking back in order to look forward. But certainly for my generation, these films do a great job of reaching in to your inner child and reprising that sense of wonder and amazement that we all felt when we saw them at the cinema or home video the first time round.

I continually applaud director J.J.Abrams’ faithfulness to original designs and ideas – with The Force Awakens and Star Trek, today’s filmmaking technology has realised brilliant new visions, but Abrams deliberately chose to remain true to all those crucial elements and design aesthetics that made the original counterparts so successful. In short, these films, and the starships with which we’re all so familiar have transported us beyond the stars from the comfort of the cinema seating in the most impressive ways seen to date.

In the 1990s, the only space-based SF film that caught my attention was Event Horizon, and even looking back to the 1980s, the only strong contender after the Star Wars films was perhaps Disney’s The Black Hole. We’ve finally reached an era when once again science fiction film has taken its rightful place, providing fantastic adventure, escapism and inspiration.

Of course the music always plays such a huge role in the cinematic experience of these films, and this is of course, another inspiration to my own work, especially when composing an album that is designed to evoke images of space and space travel.

When composing Infinity of Space, the imagery of many of these films (and more) was often in my mind – or in many cases, sitting on my bookshelf in lovely books of concept art. But what a rich source of inspiration! When I’m watching a film, there’s nearly always a part of my brain that’s listening to the music and assessing it, while another part of me is trying to imagine what kind of music I would make for a certain scene. So while the fantasy of scoring your own cinematic soundtrack may appear rather grandiose, when working on an album with a specific theme, it really is an ideal influence.

Infinity of Space will be my fifth release in support of the Initiative for Interstellar Studies, and another interpretation of the Initiative’s ethos and mission as well incorporating the decades of space travel and science fiction influence that still drive its members’ passion today.

Below is an excerpt from Construct, one of the album’s darker and more dramatic tracks. The title comes from the idea of a huge spaceship under construction out in space – huge and dark, just hanging in the air, thunderously being assembled by man and machine, like a floating hive of industry.

Infinity of Space is out now via Bandcamp:

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