In summary

  • To celebrate 2021 Space Week, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication Dr Dan Golding has put together an out-of-this-world space playlist to soundtrack your day
  • The playlist features well-known classics from Star Wars and Star Trek, as well as modern masterpieces and cult classics
  • Dr Golding says music inspired by space is so compelling because of its ability to help us comprehend the unknown

Space has inspired countless generations of musicians and composers to create some of the most iconic soundtracks in history.

Deputy Chair and Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications Dr Dan Golding is an ARIA Award-nominated composer and teaches Swinburne's Sound and the Screen unit as part of the Cinema and Screen Studies major.

To celebrate World Space Week (4-10 October 2021), he has put together his favourite space-themed tracks on Spotify. The playlist, Songs to listen to in Space, is available here.

We asked him what inspired his choices and what elements help make a big bang.

Why is music so important to movies and TV shows about space?

I think out of all possible settings for movies and TV, space is so impossibly vast and incomprehensible for most viewers. Music, as one of the artforms most easily able to connect with our emotions, helps us to understand and comprehend the unknown - and what’s more unknown than space?

What makes a great space song or soundtrack?

There are a few different approaches and each of them can reach greatness. There’s the spooky, threatening sound of space (and usually aliens). For that you want lots of electronics and synths that amplify the threat of the unknown.

Then, there’s space music that’s about awe and spectacle. I love this type - lots of slow-moving music that sparks our sense of reverence for nature and science. It builds on the kind of stuff that would be written for religious ceremonies in centuries gone by – songs of praise and beatification – and turns it outwards to the galaxy around us.

What are some of your favourites on this playlist and why?

The classics are all here- your Star WarsStar TrekClose EncountersAliens - and I love them all deeply (I even wrote a book about Star Wars!).

But I love some of the more recent music, too. I didn’t much care for the film, but Max Richter’s music for Ad Astra is just brilliant, as is the great Jóhann Jóhannsson’s incredibly clever music for Arrival. Then there’s Natalie Holt’s score for Loki this year, brilliantly incorporating a retro sci-fi sound into a very contemporary series.

Any artists or songs you’d like to highlight from the playlist?

How great a genius was Delia Derbyshire?! That original Dr. Who soundtrack, made by Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, still sounds like the future even though it’s more than 50 years old.

And although this is primarily film and TV music, I couldn’t resist throwing in a few tracks from Gustav Holst’s The Planets suite. For so many composers of all stripes, his music helped define the sound of space, and it’s been a huge influence on the musical world of the movies.

Inspired to start your own journey into space?

As one of Swinburne’s flagship areas of teaching and research, we have world-leading experts and technology to help you boldly take your first step.

Check out our Space Science and Technology co-major and the Space Technology and Industry Institute for more information.

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