What does space sound like to you?

20 05 2010

In space, no one can hear… well, anything.  And this raises an interesting question to me: What does space sound like to you?  -Because for a place physically incapable of transmitting sound, there are an awful lot of sounds that come to mind when we think toward the stars.

Laser cannons?  Phasers?  Lightsabers?  The roar of fictional fighter spacecraft or the whoosh-crack as starships rocket to hyperspace or warp speed?  Or how about the musical themes that accompany them?

For instance, anyone who’s seen the movie 2001 has had their association of Strauss’s The Blue Danube permanently altered:

Waltzing (docking) with the Space Station. Credit: MGM

I come from a very musical family.  My parents are both professional musicians and music professors, my dad is also a conductor and composer, and my brother is a good musician and composer in his own right.  Even I, (the black sheep scientist of the family,) managed to gig my way through college with a jazz quintet to give the geology side of my brain a rest… so for me, space has some very specific musical attachments.  -And frankly, I think our journey towards the stars is better for the associations.

Like Aaron Copland established for many what would come to epitomize an “American” sound, so too have John Williams, James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and a bevy of other composers established the anthems for our progress toward the stars.  To top them off for me specifically is a single moment where the U.S.S. Enterprise is revealed for the very first time on the “big screen” in the original Star Trek: The Motion Picture:

Starship Enterprise in spacedock, one of my favorite space musical moments. Credit: Paramount

Composer Jerry Goldsmith made an interesting choice here in scoring the music for this scene.  There are more than a few ways he could have played it.  However, instead of using what may have been the more obvious awe-inspiring low tones or flighty strings, he decided to cater to an even more inspiring emotion we can attach to space:  Triumph.

The music here is a broad, brassy rendition of the movie’s main theme, which invokes feelings of an arrival (of sorts) and a fanfare for the beginning of an adventure.  For me, this is absolutely what space is supposed to sound like.  It’s about rising to our destiny and becoming something greater than we were.

So, that’s me.  What does space sound like to you?

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