What are some good scifi songs
Good films also need rousing background music. Bernd Perplies introduces you to ten outstanding examples of successful science fiction soundtracks.
I love soundtracks, I don't want to hide it. Almost nothing else is running in my CD player or on my PC. Soundtracks - and I write soundtracks, although I know that this is just the slang term (score or, in good German, film music would be correct) - arouse direct emotions without the need for a text to convey their message. They relax me, motivate me, pull me out of my lunchtime slump and lift my mood. They encourage you to listen carefully, because in most cases they are much more complex than the average pop song on the radio. Above all, however, they help me as an author to get into a certain mood when writing novels, because just like in a film, they immediately create an intense atmosphere at my desk.
The following list is of course not exhaustive. It can't even be with hundreds of soundtracks. But it represents (in alphabetical order) the works that run more than average in my player. And that are just damn good. By the way, you should see to me that I do not underpin my evaluations with musical technical terms. I'm not a musician, just an avid listener. That means, I hit pure enjoyment ratings. But at least those that are based on more than 30 years of collecting passion.
I thought for a while whether I should present the soundtrack to Ridley Scott's original science fiction horror work "Alien" or its successor "Aliens". Both are really good in their own way, there's no doubt about that. But somehow I associate more with James Horner's “Aliens” score (for which, by the way, he received his first Oscar nomination). It was one of the first soundtrack CDs I bought a good 30 years ago, and I listened to it up and down. The ominous wailing of the violins at the beginning, the martial drums that announce the self-confident appearance of the Marines, the acoustic slide into horror when the alien threat becomes apparent, and the driving crashing sequences, carried by brass and metallic-sounding beats when the Action really starts - all of this makes "Aliens" a soundtrack for me, which one can probably only enjoy to a limited extent without knowledge of the film, but which immediately and impressively revives the atmosphere of the work in the connoisseur - without any pictures. By the way, if you can, you should get the (pleasantly cheap) "Deluxe Edition", which has much more to offer than the classic album.
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It wasn't on purpose, but thanks to the alphabetical order, James Horner is the focus again. (The man also composed a lot of genre soundtracks!) Nevertheless, the "Avatar" soundtrack, created more than 20 years later, feels completely different. The spectrum of instruments is even more extensive, he works much more with singing voices and in some places the music is “onomatopoeic” in an exciting way, so that you can literally run through exotic forests with the natives of the alien planet Pandora. The overall very epic, expansive soundtrack was devised by Horner together with a music ethnologist who helped him to find his own musical language for the blue-skinned Na’vi. A soundtrack whose complexity one can discover with pleasure. In addition to the almost 80-minute standard CD, there is also a digital “Deluxe Edition” that offers 20 minutes more music.
Battlestar Galactica (TV Reboot Series)
Compared to film soundtracks, TV soundtracks always have a harder time, even with fans. On the one hand, they are often more extensive (and then only available on CD in a very general way or in extremely expensive collector's boxes). On the other hand, many tracks feel random, because as a fan you might be able to memorize a two-hour film, but not a whole series of series whose episodes feed into such a TV music album. You can hear a “Star Trek TNG” soundtrack, but apart from the snappy intro, a lot is playing in the background. A real exception to this is Bear McCreary's soundtrack for the reboot of “Battlestar Galactica”. What the man has created over four seasons is simply awesome! Arabic-like sounds alternate with driving drums, hymns with a piano solo, a sad lament with a crashing electric guitar version of Bob Dylan's “All Along the Watchtower”. It's not easy for the inexperienced ear to digest, but it conveys an incredible amount of mood. Personally, I like the CD for “Season 3” best, but basically all of them are worth listening to.
What a sound painting! When I was sitting in the cinema back then (not in 1982, of course, but as a student in the late 1990s during a late-night performance in Mainz) and after the intro text the screen lit up for the spectacular sight of gloomy Los Angeles in 2019, it was as if the sound was turning on Curtain up - and suddenly you were right in the middle of the future, a future full of plaintive, wistful synthesizer sounds, echoing hammer blows, shimmering bells and strange singing. Seldom have image and sound come together so congenially into such a coherent total work of art. To be out and about in the nightly, rainy, neon-lit street canyons that Ridley Scott created for his film, while listening to the music of Vangelis, that is something of a cinematic revelation. The history of the release of the soundtrack on CD is characterized by many ups and downs (and numerous bootleg copies). For those who are curious, I definitely recommend the 3-CD Special Edition, which is absolutely top price and offers a lot of bonus material in addition to the classic album from 1994.
Rock band soundtracks are far from the norm, but they do happen. One should remember the intensive collaboration of Queen on “Highlander” or the idiosyncratic tangerine dream score for “Legend”. The band Toto and Brian Eno signed up for David Lynch to realize the material “Dune” (“The Desert Planet”), which is actually considered unfilmable. One might argue about the quality of the film - I like its inappropriate narrative style and the sometimes bizarre look - the music, on the other hand, is clearly a real listening experience, the spoken prologue and the main theme, which tells of vastness and secrets, about insane organ music for Baron Harkonnen and mystical sounds on the first visit from Arrakis to the epic finale tells a story like hardly any other soundtrack album heard in isolation. Unfortunately, there is not much to say about the CD. As far as I know, it has never been more than a relatively short album - fans are waiting for the “Deluxe Edition” as well as for the “Director’s Cut” of the film.
“Epic, my friend. Give me an epic! ”That was what Paul Verhoeven's instructions to the composer Basil Poledouris said when he started composing“ Starship Troopers ”. Drums, trumpets, all that dramatic fuss: that's why fans know and love this soundtrack. Funnily enough, it also has a lot of quieter parts (even more in the 2-CD deluxe edition). But let's all remember primarily the hyperkinetic battle music of "Klendathu Drop" (not by chance track 2 on the classic album). Or the weird pop song "Into It" by Poledouris ’daughter Zoe, which may seem really bizarre at first, until you realize at some point that you have stuck to it. Unfortunately, the soundtrack is currently only available second-hand. And annoyingly, you have to put down half a fortune for the great “Deluxe Edition”.
Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country
Completely untypical for “Star Trek”, this soundtrack begins darkly and threateningly, with a dark string passage that slowly swells and gains in power and instruments until it reaches a force that is second to none. The rest of the soundtrack is also much darker and more mysterious than the sound used in the popular utopia. That fits with the political thriller theme of "Star Trek VI" - and of course with the Klingons, who reached a whole new level of martial power and theatricality in the film in the form of General Chang. The whole thing was composed by the unknown Cliff Eidelman, who was hired mainly for financial reasons (James Horner was now too expensive, not to mention Jerry Goldsmith). It was a real stroke of luck for the producers. For himself, the film should probably remain his greatest success. This one really stands out among the “Star Trek” soundtracks - and it stands out on its own. Unfortunately, it is only needed these days. (Unless you really want to indulge yourself: Then you import the 2-CD edition from Music Box Records for 30 euros.)
Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back
No list of the best soundtracks would be complete without Star Wars. What John Williams made on the big screen in 1977 was practically an instant classic. Large orchestra, strong themes, intense emotions: George Lucas 'film would have been a lot poorer without Williams' composition. With “The Empire Strikes Back”, Williams went a step further. The “imperial march”, the Yoda theme, the love theme of Han and Leia and the dramatic hunt through the asteroid field are just four examples of music that goes straight from the ear to the heart. The RSO CD from the 1980s (with the Vader helmet in front of a starry background) was one of my very first CDs - and I still love every minute of it today! If you only want to buy one CD from this 10-part list, take this one! (And if you would like a little more, you should look for the “Special Edition” comprising 2 CDs.)
Even with “Transformers” I wasn't quite sure which soundtrack of the (five) films to choose. Except for the fourth film, which somehow doesn't stay in my memory, I somehow like to listen to them all. Music connoisseurs would probably have a lot to complain about, I like the sheer heroic underlying the Autobots theme, including horns, vocals and drumbeats. And otherwise the soundtrack doesn’t let anything go wrong, but emotionally reaches out to the full. You can tell that Steve Jablonsky learned Remote Control Productions from Hans Zimmer and his film music maker. Anyone who is not afraid of orchestral music that has been whipped up on the computer and is looking for music that can be played really loud out of the speakers is well advised with this action score. Unfortunately, the CD is only available used today and is hardly affordable - but as a digital download you can still find the soundtrack at an absolutely fair price.
The last title is something of an insider tip. The video game series "Wing Commander" by Chris Roberts is known to every nerd around 40, because it was the hot shit in terms of digital space fighter battles during the first half of the 1990s. The film for the games not only came too late in 1999, it was also more of a B-movie product story-wise, and the fact that Freddie Prinze Jr. and Matthew Lillard two "milk boys" played the leading roles didn't make things any better. The soundtrack stands out positively, the snappy driving main theme of which was composed by David Arnold. Kevin Kiner did the rest. The soundtrack is somewhat reminiscent of a mixture of "Starship Troopers" and the "Star Trek" movies, with elegiac string passages and epic trumpets. Very audible in itself! Unfortunately, this CD also calls for real collector prices today. Fortunately, there are digital versions.
One more tip at the end
You can actually get most of the featured soundtracks on Amazon. However, if you are looking for real pearls, you should look elsewhere. Great deluxe editions of many science fiction soundtracks can be found, for example, in Germany at soundtrackcorner.de, in France at musicbox-records.com or directly in the USA at store.intrada.com. But don't be surprised at the collector's prices! Unfortunately, they are normal in this segment.
And? What do you think of my favorites list? Did i hit the mark? Or missed a few essential soundtracks? Then write to me in the comments. I am always happy to receive suggestions to add to your collection.
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