The Music of Space: Scoring the Cosmos in Film and Television by Chris Carberry; McFarland Books (2024); 307 pages; Softcover: $39.95.

Music to my ears…that somebody has written an account of the music of space-aged movies and television, as well as about off-Earth performances!

This well-researched and thoughtful book underscores the role of music in such classics as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Trek, and one of my all-time favorites, The Day the Earth Stood Still.

Chris Carberry, CEO of the non-profit organization Explore Mars, Inc., has written an informative account regarding the use of film scores that play a transformative role in how we perceive space. “Music has the capacity to capture and articulate the human experience and emotions than can be expressed in words,” he explains.

The Music of Space is divided into 12 sections, with an impressive chapter notes and excellent bibliography.

Covered in its pages, the book kicks-off with the first 50 years of space films, from silence to sound, through the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s that saw a turning point in space music thanks to composer John Williams and his Star Wars contributions. Highlighted too is the space horror classic, Alien, the return of Star Trek, and into the 1980s, anchored by Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial. You will also find his discussion of The Martian, Interstellar, and a number of space-based television epics.

ISS Astronaut, Chris Hadfield, picks out David Bowie’s Space Oddity.
Image credit: NASA

Carberry doesn’t skimp on details, showcasing his matchless research skills.

Near the book’s concluding remarks, the reader will find a nicely explained section on music in “real” space, be it played via harmonicas, guitars, keyboard, flutes, bells, saxophones, even a didgeridoo. Similarly, music in other forms is included, from the Beatles’ song “Across the Universe” broadcast toward the star Polaris to Apollo 17 moonwalkers singing a takeoff of “While Strolling Through the Park.”

I was drawn in by this author comment: “As the pace of real space activities accelerates, it is likely that space-related content will continue. However, the sound of space will also inevitably change,” he writes, “as these stories become less and less the realm of science fiction, and reflect reality.”

The Music of Space is an exceptional treasure on a topic that needed notice – and in chronicling this subject matter, Carberry has struck the right chord.

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