these are the greatest sci-fi movie scores of all time (according to one expert)
Experimental composer Ben Frost talks space sounds. The very, very best space sounds.
Dissatisfied composers / sci-fi nerds Daníel Bjarnason and Ben Frost decided that the soundtrack to their favourite sci-fi film, Solaris, just wasn't good enough and that they'd re-score it. Solaris, Andrei Tarovsky's 1973 emotional Soviet rollercoaster, is widely considered to be one of the best sci-fi movies in the history of cinema. Not seen it? Introducing psychology, emotion and depth to the previously face value genre, as the space station hung in orbit of the planet Solaris, the crew began to lose themselves, ever delaying their collective mission. The film was premiered at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, where its Russian director — known for his dreamlike reflections of real life -- won the Grand Prix Special du Jury and was nominated for the Palme d'Or.
Not satisfied with the original soundtrack sampling the work of Bach, Icelandic Daníel Bjarnason and Reykjavik-based Aussie Ben Frost decided to give it a go themselves. Sort of like in Netflix's Love where Gus and his mates hang out making theme songs for films that don't have them, but sort of not because these guys are professionals. Like, professionals to the extent that Daniel has had his orchestral works commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, is currently artist in residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, and has worked on various Sigur Ros albums (of course he has). Ben Frost, meanwhile, is a composer of classical minimalism/black metal-inspired experimental music and scored choreographer Wayne McGregor's CBE project for the Royal Opera House.
Rather fittingly, their project Music For Solaris was created by feeding initial improvisations through a software that attempted to fix their disturbing distorted alien landscape of a production. The result? A hybrid of typical sci-fi synth sounds with the organic humanity of an orchestra. Coinciding with The Barbican's Into The Unknown exhibition — a treasure trove of sci-fi comic books, film props, and documented ideas of utopia/dystopia (on until 1 September, full of alien heads) — the duo are bringing the project to the brutalist venue next Saturday 29 July. The performance will be accompanied by visuals by their friend Brian Eno. Using fraction of a second clips from the film, Eno has manipulated them, assigning new meanings and feelings to the film entirely. It's pretty out of this world.
We called on Ben Frost to share his favourite sci-fi soundscapes.
Mica Levi, Lipstick to Void (Under The Skin, 2015)
"This score is in a league of its own. It's music written with the idea that it's a kind of alien interpretation of 'human' music. Mica went all the way with this one and really nails the sound of what they call the 'uncanny valley' -- where our human brains reject something that tries too hard to be human."
Edward Artemiev, Meditation (Stalker, 1979)
"I love this score. I like to listen to it when I'm cooking."
Jerry Goldsmith, Hypersleep, (Alien, 1979)
"I've gone over in my head so many times why this music works so well in this context, because when you listen to it in isolation it doesn't necessarily say 'space movie'. In fact there's barely anything about this music that says 'science fiction'. Woodwinds anyone? In isolation it sounds not far removed from his score for Chinatown, another score which forever changed my game."
Brad Fiedel, It's Over Goodbye (Terminator II, 1991)
"There are entire chat rooms dedicated to dissections of the meter in this music; it's a twisted Juilliard graduate rabbit hole. Also, I'm not crying, you are."
Get lost in space with Music For Sólaris at the Barbican on Saturday 29 July.
Text Frankie Dunn