Flick Myerscough is a Music student who does not anticipate a career in performance, thus making future opportunities to write a pretentious description of herself in the third person unlikely. Dystopia seems to feature heavy in her literary leanings, whilst some of her other interests can be gathered from the article she has written for this magazine. Flick also enjoys travelling, with her photo here being the token one of herself from a recent holiday in Vienna.
Hi, I'm Emma, the IFIS librarian for this year and a third year physics student. My favourite sci-fi/fantasy books are The Old Kingdom Trilogy by Garth Nix and His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. In the past year I have discovered Neil Gaiman. My favourite film is the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I am more than a little bit obsessed with it.
I'm Mohamed, your secretary for 2010-2011. I did the same job last year too, so I should have some inkling of what's going on this year. I've been a Doctor Who fan since the age of 3, and a sci-fi head since about then as well. Probably. The last two years at IFIS and access to the IFIS library have opened my eyes to the wealth of written SF out there, and I've become a keen Iain (M.) Banks fan (in between History texts, naturally.) In my free time, I am an avid collector of human centipedes.
I'm Mahin, not to be confused with Martin, who is the President of Gamesoc this year. My favourite IFIS moments have included the Jurassic Park marathon and the time I shaved Optimus Prime into my hair. I love Dinosaurs
Scott felt elated as he piloted his glidercar through London that evening. Sunset was approaching and the sky was a fiery orange and the skyscrapers cast long shadows into the distance. London had kept expanding over the last century until it covered most of the south east of England. Scott always felt on a high after pulling off a job but he had just pulled off the biggest job of his life. He was so entranced by this feeling he almost glided into the next lane and collided with another car. The car screeched its horn as it sped past but was drowned out by a shout from a fog horn like voice in the back seat.
"Keep your eyes on the fucking sky".
The voice belonged to Scott's friend. Fred. Fred was a bus driver during the day so liked to think he knew everything about flying a glidercar. He had also been an amateur boxer ever since he was growing up so Scott liked to have him around when he was on a job.
"We've still got company, you know" drawled Fred from the back.
They had been being followed for about 5 sectors now and their pursuers were getting closer. Although he should have expected this as the Institute was well known for its tough security. That was why Scott was so elated, he had beaten their security. Granted they didn't have the velociraptors anymore but it was still a tough building to break into. The Institute itself was the Institute for Impure Science, which had grown with London over the last 100 years until it played a part in the running of every section of society. There were rumours that everyone in the government was a member.
Scott was brought back to reality by the glidercar behind him crashing into him. He soon realised he had a long way to go before this job was finished. The glider car was piloted by two Mechanised Anti Human Investigatory Nemeses (MAHIN). They had replaced human guards several years previously as they were more efficient. "I thought we lost them at the stairs" shouted Fred. Everybody knew MAHINs had trouble going down stairs.
"Bastards must have used the lift" Scott bellowed back.
"They must really love that head" said Fred.
The head in question was the item Scott and Fred had stolen. It was the head of a previous president of the institute apparently, preserved in a jar. Although Scott couldn't see why it was so valuable, with his long hair and beard, Scott thought he looked like a hobbit, not a president. It was also missing an ear from his fight with a sabre-toothed lizard in 2016, which only added to the strange look of this preserved head.
"It's time we said goodbye to our friends" said Scott.
"Right" said Fred.
Scott pressed some buttons and activated his afterburners. His sleek glidercar burst into life and Scott was pushed back into his seat as the car sped off into the darkening city. This didn't buy him much time as the MAHINs had soon caught up in their high powered glidercars. They continued to weave between the traffic, Scott trying to concentrate in spite of Fred's back seat driving. Fred started shooting out of the back. Copper green bullets sparkled as they shot through the air and Fred guided his shots onto the target. The port side engine of the first glidercar exploded spectacularly, ripping the wing from the body. The rest of the car spiralled down the 2000 meters to the ground below. Scott and Fred didn't see the impressive crash as car met ground as they were already around the next corner and dealing with the second car. The driver of this car was much more experienced and easily dodged all of Fred's shots.
"Shit, put your foot down Scott" growled Fred.
Scott was getting desperate and more reckless in his flying. He dived towards the ground and then pulled up again just before he thought he was going to pass out. The MAHIN car behind kept up with him all the way.
"Fuck" swore Scott.
The sun had dipped below the horizon now and London was dark. All Scott could see were lights marking the positions of other glidercars, streetlights, and lights in windows. London had turned into a giant lighted dot to dot. Scott had lost his bearings and had no clue where they were, so he dived down towards the nearest building, hoping to lose them on foot. He almost missed the entrance so swung his vehicle in at the last second, this took Fred by surprise as he was leaning out to get a better shot. He fell out of the car and disappeared into the darkness. Scott landed the glidercar, jumped out and looked at his surroundings. He was in a car park. He was about to go and look for Fred when he heard their pursuers enter the car park as well. He hadn't lost them. He ran to the stair case and started to climb.
He found out he had entered a department store. He dashed through cooking appliances when he saw the MAHINs searching for him. He ducked into electronics, passing between holoboxes and plasma radios. He breathed a sigh of relief as he found the emergency exit and started to climb the fire escape. The door to the level above was locked and so was the one after that. He reached the third door and ran towards it.
The door swung open into his face. For a moment Scott forgot who he was and where he was and could only think of the fact that his face now felt like it was 2D. He dropped the former president's head and it rolled into a corner and rested face down. Scott recovered just in time to see a MAHIN walk through the door towards him. Scott jumped to his feet and swung at the MAHIN who easily parried the blow. Scott kicked at the robots shin but his foot only found metal and he swore in pain. The MAHIN smacked Scott in the face and his world went back before it came back into focus. Scott tried in vain to block the next blow but the robots foot swung into his crotch with shattering force. Scott collapsed to the floor as thing went black again.
"Not fair" he whispered.
He could just make out the MAHIN looming above him about to strike a deadly blow. Next thing he knew a blur that was Fred hurled into the menacing robot. The robot was good but was no match for Fred's expertise. After repeated strikes to its head, the robot crumpled to the floor in a heap of sparks and whirring noises.
"I should start charging for saving your arse" said Fred with a smile. "I would make a fortune".
"Well I don't think much of your timing" said Scott with some discomfort as Fred helped him to his feet.
Scott retrieved the president's head and placed it back in its jar, remembering to screw the lid on tight this time. He didn't want to lose the head again before he could get it to his buyer.
"C'mon, let's get out of here" Scott said to his friend as they started to walk back down the fire escape.
To be continued.......
Alexander Courage composed the Star Trek opening titles music for the 1964 pilot. The monologue was not present in either of the pilots, but was added for the first season, aired 1966. Star Wars, of course, is a later franchise, with the first film released in 1977. John Williams' main theme exemplifies the style associated both with this film and composer, the opening fifth heard in the theme also found in his music for E.T. The third and fourth examples will come from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War Of The Worlds: this 1978 concept album should prove an interesting comparison as, unlike the other two it is firstly an adaption from a pre-existing text, secondly is not considered under the genre of space opera and finally is conceived as a musical work, rather than as part of a film or television series. Of course, The War of the Worlds may still be considered multimedia because of its use of text, and even more so when its more recent stagings are considered, but its genre and interaction with other media are still entirely different to those of the other two examples under consideration.
Fanfare-like music can be found in all three of the examples under consideration. Whilst the Star Wars theme could be said to be similar to a fanfare in its entirety due to its grand march style, the part most fitting of the labelling as an actual fanfare is at the very opening, before the main theme begins. The use of a fanfare, as well as the slow tempo of the march, complies with conventions for the representation of nobility, an attribute that is meant to be attached to the main characters of the films. Likewise, the fanfares in the Star Trek opening titles belong to the first section, accompanying the monologue. Again, this transfers attributes of nobility onto the crew of the Enterprise, and also gives them importance. Furthermore, the grandiosity of the brass fanfares transfers this attribute onto the vastness of space, which could be heard in the hazy, slow-moving, parallel harmonies. To represent the immensity of space in this way is far simpler than attempting to convey it on a television screen, perhaps reflecting the connotative properties of music, compared to the denotative and definite properties of image. The connotative representation of the idea in the music also lends itself to reinterpretation following new advances in science, and also avoids issues surrounding the use of special effects, so accusations of inaccuracy or poor representation in hindsight are less of an issue.
The idea of fanfare in The War of the Worlds is perhaps more complex. To explore how the concept is relevant, the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary definition will be considered: it describes a fanfare as `a loud short piece of music played usually on a trumpet and to introduce the arrival of someone important'. If a fanfare is considered thus, then the first musical motif heard (following `and slowly, and surely, they drew their plans against us' in the narration) can be labelled as one: this leitmotif (do I want to use the word leitmotif or shall I just call it a motif?)/it is short, loud and is continuously used to announce the arrival of the aliens (a related motif is also used, in a fanfare-like way in the song `Brave New World', after the artillery man announces `I'VE GOT A PLAN!! ').
Whilst concepts of fanfare can be said to appear in all three examples, the same is not true of the use of electronics, including instruments and effects. The use of both is clear in The War of the Worlds, where Electric Guitar, Bass and keyboard are used, as well an audible use of effects and engineering both on the instruments themselves, and on the sounds representative of the action in the story. An even greater use of electronics could be cited if the touring production is considered, bearing in mind the video backgrounds and animatronics, as well as the equivalents of the amplification, effects and mixing on the original concept album. Use of electronics is also clear in the music under consideration from Star Trek: the background harmony in the first section (backgrounding the brass fanfares) sounds at least partially synthesised, this relationship is then seemingly reversed in the second section, when the brass is mostly in an accompanying role, alongside an electric bass. Whilst the precise instrumentation varies throughout the theme in its various versions, it is in the second section that this is most obvious, with the inclusion of the vocal line in the first pilot and (mixed to a different volume) in the second and third season, or the use of a synthesised or orchestral melody in the first season. Technologically it is most interesting when the vocal line is used, due to the precise mixing employed. The voice as unmediated by any form of technology and therefore regarded by some as the most human of instruments, is engineered so as to sound rather like a theremin, an instrument only viable because of technology. (Of course, another layer to the juxtaposition is that the theremin can be seen from the idea that there are fewer layers of technology between the player and the sound than in other electronic instruments, and some might even say than some acoustic instruments.) The electronic, synthesised melody used for the initial ten episodes has also been known to be mistaken for a theremin. In contrast, John Williams' main theme from Star Wars uses no electronic instruments or effects. Parallels could possibly be drawn with the fact that the characters around which the story revolves are all human. Indeed, the setting of space has little input to the events of the film and is thus extrinsic to the storyline, even if it does contribute to genre identification. It seems that it is the story rather than the setting that Williams has chosen to interact with during his composition. Another motivation could, of course, be the wish to differentiate Star Wars from Star Trek and a request that this be partially attained through the music. However, this point could be refuted by pointing out that Williams' music for E.T. does not use electronics either. Whether this argument can be used against the argument of the extrinsic nature of the setting to Star Wars depends on whether E.T.'s alien biology is viewed as important to his character and role in the story, or whether the same basic narrative could be maintained with a non-alien.
Spoken word appears, once again, in the music under consideration from Star Trek and in Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, but not Star Wars. Perhaps, here, a reflection on the nature of each example is worthwhile, as this may cause the use of spoken word to be deemed more or less appropriate by the composer. Firstly, in its original form as a concept album, The War of the Worlds had no images, unlike the other two examples under consideration. In fact, the full title, Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds, somewhat gives away the intended nature, that is a musical version of a pre-existing text. So, why the speech, rather than singing? This question can easily be dealt with by considering other concept albums of the time, as well as stage musicals, both of which can involve spoken word. For an example of the former, indeed an example released the year before The War of the Worlds, see Consequences, by Godley and Creme. The use of spoken word is equally not unheard of in television opening sequences, with other examples including Gerry Anderson's Stingray (1964-65, "Stand by for action! We are about to launch Stingray! Anything can happen in the next half hour!"). As a title sequence is repeated with each show, and does not contribute to the drama of each episode, the use of spoken word cannot be said to undermine traditional Hollywood underscoring, with music as a servant art to the film. The spoken word can set the scene in a more denotative and exact way whilst the music sets the mood. In a way, the role of the spoken word in these two examples has some similarities to the rolling text at the opening of Star Wars, detailing the story so far, which is onscreen at the time the music under consideration is heard. To hear the text spoken, in this context, would lessen the grandeur of the music, meaning it could not interact in the same way with the iconic on screen word setting, resulting in an entirely different sequence.
Melodic contours in each of the examples under consideration are an area worth contrasting, and extracts from the music from Star Wars and Star Trek are shown in figures 1 and 2. Both open with aspirational upward leaps, but proceed differently; the Star Trek melody in descending phrases, lending grace and smoothness to the flight of the enterprise as it is seen crossing the screen; the Star Wars theme containing more leaps, sounding more war-like.
As Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of the War of the Worlds is longer than both the other examples, there is not space to note all of its melodic contours. However, melodic shape is used to great effect in a motif that is first heard in `Horsell Common and the Heat Ray'. This is shown in figure 3. The use of semitone lends tension to the opening of this song even before the narration begins.
Finally, consideration can be given to the harmony of each of the examples. Once again, the length of The War of the Worlds makes it impossible to cover its entirity in the space available, so the fanfare like opening will be returned to. The chord progression indicated is regarded as `functional' meaning that each chord sounds like it wants to resolve to the next one, creating a clear sense of the key (listen to the passage, which is easy to find as it is the very beginning, if you want to confirm this to yourself). These harmonies and very progression dominate the opening song, `The Eve of the War', indeed there are no others until 70 seconds in, and recur throughout the album.
The Star Wars harmonies are also functional, and remain so throughout the music composed for the film. The music from Star Trek, however, offers more variety and interest. In its first section, the parallel movement of the harmoies dispells a sense of key, which is only formally established (by a perfect cadence) at the very end of the piece, indeed the only time a B flat chord, the tonic, is heard. However, when the key is finally established, it is done in a highly functional way, with the preceding chord progression, Dm-G-Cm-F-B flat, as a circle of fifths, creating a strong harmonic drive towards the final cadence and formal establishment of key. In this way, the theme from Star Trek can be viewed as an end-based structure as it works towards the final achievement of a clear tonality. The process of finding this tonality, and the gradual move from less to more functional harmony (with the middle contained chromaticisms both in melody and harmony) can also be seen as defining the structure, if one wishes to use a processive, rather than events based model. This consideration of the harmonies in the Star Trek theme again leads to the idea that the functionality of those the the Star Wars theme may be for a deliberate mark of difference. The counterargument employed before, regarding Williams other compositions, particularly E.T. can be once again deployed, but does address the idea that style of compositional was probably a considerationb in the employment of Williams as composer for Star Wars.
Through engaging with these compositions in different ways, I have found levels of correlation and similarity between them, but by no means at a level which suggests to me that there is one set of compositional conventions associated with space or aliens. Furthermore, several of the similarities, at least in the case of the examples from film and television, could be equally ascribed to the conventions employed when composing for these media. I would suggest that to a degree, the differences between the examples can be attributed to how little we know about space and the possibility of alien life, and to the huge variety of thoughts, theories, opinions and ideas surrounding these concepts. In the cases considered, differences can also be attributed to ously, describing it as (to conclude) "marvellous malarkey music.
"Pathetic Earthlings! It is I, Morbo, news monster extraordinaire and dominator of the nine galaxies! It transpires that once again you puny flesh-bags require someone to listen to your miserable mewlings and despatch sage advice on how to deal with your personal problems and/or plans for universal domination.
Let us delve into the sub-ethanet inbox and hear from our first spineless correspondent..."
I am an active man, I eat well, and I have a beautiful partner. However, I've been having some trouble in the downstairs department. I don't know if it's Nixon's third term, or the threat of nuclear war or whatever, but I've been feeling so helpless and impotent of late. There is one thing that still excites me, however: getting in to fights and dressing up in fetish gear (the usual stuff, you know, like a cape, spandex suit and pointy owl ears.)
Is there any way I can get my sex life back to normal?"
Morbo says: "Morbo finds your lack of manliness laughable, and your sickening perversion oddly intriguing. Morbo can recommend some powerful aphrodisiacs, such as the much consumed `Human Horn. `Morbo has no such need for these things, however, and is a prolific breeder, with innumerable nightmarish spawn across the galaxy, waiting to conquer your doomed planet." Eleventh Heaven
Recently, my life's been in turmoil. I bumped into my long lost family (sort of), made up with my old schoolmate (we'd been through a bit of a rough patch for the past 700 years or so) and to top it all off I had to spend Christmas on my own (under the weather too, I might add!) I just don't feel like the man I was. In fact, I don't think I am..."
Morbo says: "Change is an unavoidable part of life. One of my hideous wives has undergone her sex change rotation 16 times in the past solar cycle, and Morbo's gender swap is long overdue. A positive outlook on your new life will help. Try changing your wardrobe (according to Intergalactic Tatler, bow ties are in this millennium.) Morbo's mother also finds that comfort food can help, and suggests the old Earth recipe of fish fingers and custard. I WILL DESTROY YOU!
Purple tentacular universe on the other side of black hole w/GSOH and paranoid sensibilities WLTM genuine universe for tentacle violation/ long-term relationship. No robots. Box no 8120 Yevo.
Young Jedi knight/rebellion hero seeks sexy Force sensitive for companionship, maybe more? DNA test required. I've already been down the incest road. Box no 1410 Yavin IV.
Naive schoolgirl seeks sparkly vampire and/or werewolf for pointless, soppy franchise that goes on and on for ever and gets exponentially more and more popular for some bloody reason. (Is this right? Ed.)