Previously on the site we’ve touched upon robots playing music, and the weird and wonderful use of technology in the modern performance space, but the crossover of Sci-Fi inspired tracks remains under-represented. The narrative behind Black Sabbath’s Iron Man may well be genre appropriate, but it’s their own with no authorial influence behind the scenes.
Prog rock ensemble, The Alan Parsons Project, probably has one of the earliest examples of this with the concept album I Robot named after Issac Asimov’s blueprint to artificial life. Also within the same experimental space an older, more measured Mike Oldfield can be found with his album Songs of Distant Earth borrowing from the Arthur C Clark’s novel of the same name.
Move into the more synth pop vibe of the late 1970s and, surprisingly, you’ll find Kim Wilde crooning about Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Philip K Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. Unsurprisingly, Dick’s work is also heavily referenced as a source of inspiration in Gary Numan’s 1979 album Replicas. Over the period, though, it’s the omnipresent adaptation of H G Wells’ War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne that dominates.
Gwenno Saunders – known simply as Gwenno when performing – has recently capitalised on the shortfall here by releasing Y Dydd Olaf (The Last Day) based upon Owain Owain’s 1976 novel of the same name (see above). The original dystopian tale of a robotic populace cloning human leaders, references a Welsh diary hidden from a mono linguistic hive mind – something that resonated with Gwenno as she found her musical voice within her native language.
The ultimate unity of science fiction and music lies somewhere on Iain M Bank’s hard drive. His last project, before his untimely death in 2014, was a musical one – a symphony composed from his home studio in Scotland (video here, time code 49:00). An orchestral thread can be found throughout his Culture works, within books like Look To Windward and The Hydrogen Sonatta, and the posthumously published collection of his poems released in 2014 could well add lyrical wealth. Who knows if there are any plans to pull such a project together. If there were though, Drozbot would be all ears.