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[GUEST POST] How the Future Sounds: Composer Steve Buick on Making Music for Science Fiction

Steve Buick is a British composer and the director of Evokescape Limited. He records his music in the back of a converted 1974 Lincoln Continental (with a telescope mounted on the roof).

How the Future Sounds

by Steve Buick

In 1997 I traveled to Sri Lanka to visit a friend and to call on Arthur C Clarke. I had written music for him based on his short stories which had been a source of inspiration from a young age. I rang the door bell of his Colombo residence and was taken to the great man’s office by his assistant. As I looked around the room at the collected books, photographs and relics of the space age, he looked at my track names and spotted the word “Europa”. He immediately got excited and started talking about news he had heard from NASA regarding the potential for life on the Jovian moon he wrote about in his Odyssey series. The music was, of course, suitably Europan with long, ambient soundscapes ebbing and flowing like seas of swirling gases around giant planets and shadows across dark, life-harboring moons.

Arthur called me at my friend’s place a couple of days later to tell me how much he enjoyed it. We corresponded occasionally for a few years after that with me sending more music that I hope may have been some small inspiration for his works that followed.

Seventeen years later (after touring with a band and making endless music for television) I thought again about those long, atmospheric pieces and approached Peter Hamilton with a view to creating music for his new book, The Abyss Beyond Dreams, still in its infancy. He welcomed the idea and I got to work on bringing the chilling, ever-present “Fallers” of the manuscript to audio life. As the compositions unfolded, so did the format: the music album would comprise three long ambient tracks totalling around 100 minutes to be downloaded by readers as background mp3s to work anywhere in the book, unsynchronized.

I created layers of ambient soundscapes in a forty four minute piece called “The Void”, to represent the expanse of space at the center of the galaxy where most of the action happens. I’m happy to say that Peter wrote the rest of the book listening to this piece, which, to me, is a perfect infinite circle of creative inspiration.

I found that by evolving the music gradually, with vibrant and occasionally eerie clouds of sounds, the music took the shape of an all-surrounding cape; a deep and colorful atmosphere that brought the words and story into a new focus while not distracting from the reading itself. This has been the key while creating music for Neal Asher’s Dark Intelligence and now my “Music for Reading Science Fiction”. I love the direct connection music can make with science fiction and how it can trigger emotion and complete the feeling of escapism.

With this album, strange atmospheres are blended with flowing currents and subtle, ever-moving percussive elements that allow you to ride the wave of a deep and distant soundtrack. The music backs up what you’re reading in a way that heightens your senses while staying far enough away to keep you firmly within the world of the author. Drama without distraction.

I have started Evokescape.com as a means to continue creating music for reading fiction and to add another layer to the amazing minds of the great writers. I hope that in the not-too-distant future these musical pieces will be know as “evokescapes” affectionately and bring a new feel to the places, characters and stories for readers when they open their books, hit “play” and escape into another world.

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