I recently composed and recorded a theme for Stephen Hackett and Jason Snell’s space-centric Liftoff podcast. This is one in a number of themes I’ve put together for Jason’s podcasts. The approach to this theme was different enough from others I’ve done that I thought it worth a comment.
Many of the themes I’ve composed have been quite literal. For example, I built the theme for the Clockwise podcast around the ticking of a clock. The theme to Scott McNulty’s Random Trek podcast is more than a little, er… inspired by the original Star Trek theme. And the theme to the Upgrade podcast relies heavily on synthesizer sequences that bark “Late Breaking Tech News!”
When Jason approached me about doing the theme for Liftoff, I chose to avoid the obvious Star Wars “action” space theme—the horn and percussion-laden kind of thing that you hear in a lot of space operas—as I think it’s largely worn out its welcome. Plus, given that sound doesn’t travel in space, it always seemed odd to me that space-based movies are so clangorous. (Save Kubrick’s 2001, which is lovely in so many ways.)
Instead, I went with something very simple, imagining what it might feel like to be in space. To do that I pictured a sentient Philae, sitting atop the comet, observing the solar system unfold around it. Largely featuring only piano, the left hand plays repeated quarter notes—meant to denote time ticking endlessly away—while the right hand plays a sparse single note melody, which I pictured as celestial objects coming into the probe’s view.
Jason commented that while he liked it, he felt it was a little sad. And I suppose it is. But then, from the infinitely tiny human perspective, space is a little sad to the extent that, on such a scale, one individual is entirely insignificant. And so yes, with the simplicity comes some sadness.
As a podcast theme, it’s anything but typical, but I hope it works in the context of the show. (And thanks to Jason for giving it a go.) You can find Space Theme and other podcast themes on the Music page.