Royal Albert Hall Space Spectacular

You’ve got to give the Royal Albert Hall credit where progressive credit’s due. Not only did their recent Space Spectacular continue Drozbot’s theme of live Sci-Fi, but it also brought a fresh audience to the soundscapes of classical music. There’s no denying that John Williams, and his return to full orchestration of Sci-Fi movies in the 1970s, helped develop the listening habits of a generation, but the event’s 17 piece programme didn’t just stick with the ‘hits’ of that most prolific composer.

Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathustra, presented as the show’s opening piece, was nicely underpinned with a reference to Alex North’s original film score for 2001 A Space Odyssey. It’s hard to conceive of that film with anything other than Stanley Kubrick’s preferred classical selection, and North’s music sadly sounds weaker as a result of the movie’s iconic status – even with the inclusion of Gy├Ârgy Legeti’s avant-garde Requiem.

However the surprises, secreted in both the schedule and show notes, didn’t end there. Sir Arthur Bliss and the march from William Cameron Menzies and Alexander Korda’ Things to Come, spilled over into a more Modernist approach to the future as postulated by H.G. Wells. This was subsequently extended with the inclusion of Jupiter and Mars from Gustav Holst’s Planets, culminating in the John Williams at probably his most experimental with the score to Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

While electronic music was understandably avoided, there were some interesting references to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and the synthesized adaptation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ. This, in turn, brings to mind Wendy Carlos’s adaptation of Henry Purcel’s Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary – that opened Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange – as well as Isao Tomita’s adaptation of Williams’ extraterrestrial opus. Connections within connections…

As we mentioned in a previous Drozbot post, this all comes as yet more evidence of the cultural acceptance of Sci-Fi as a valid artform. There is, out there, a new generation receiving similar influences through the works of composers like Jessica Curry within video games. This wonderfully replicates what John Williams was achieving in the 1970s and, also, ensures a continued appreciation for classical music. If the much maligned Sci-Fi can move into the mainstream, then we predict the Royal Albert Hall holding a video games extravaganza in the near future.

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