Tuesday, 8 April 2008


Cover of "The Songs of Distant Earth", the novel by Arthur C. Clarke

Covers (front and back) of the musical work created by Mike Oldfield, "The Songs of Distant Earth", based in the Arthur C. Clarke novel.

Songs of Distant Earth (novel)
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Songs of Distant Earth is the common title of several science fiction works by Arthur C. Clarke, including a science fiction short story, a short movie synopsis, and a 1986 soft science fiction novel that all bear the same title. This article deals with the novel.
Plot summary

The story is centered on a rendezvous between human beings far in the future, after a time of great crisis on Earth, on the oceanic planet of Thalassa.Unlike Clarke's other works, this piece focuses on characterisation and emotional development, instead of technological change. In some sense, it was written as a response to critics who attacked his writings as cold and impersonal.In the novel, the human race responds to the prospect of unavoidable doom by launching a series of robot colony ships into space, to continue Earth life after the destruction of the homeworld (caused by the Sun becoming a nova). Thalassa is colonised by one such ship in 3109, but loses contact with Earth due to a volcanic eruption that destroys its interstellar communications antenna. Meanwhile, just prior to the Sun going nova, vacuum energy technology is invented to allow the construction of one near-light-speed vessel, the Magellan, which is launched to build the last colony of mankind. (Previous colony ships employed embryo space colonization, or various forms of DNA synthesis. In Magellan, a living crew of 1 million people is transported in cryonic suspension.)En route to its target, the planet Sagan 2, the Magellan makes a planned stop at planet Thalassa to replenish its worn down ice shield, which has been steadily chipped away by interstellar debris. A small subset of the crew is awakened to perform the repair work on the shield. Because Thalassa has not maintained its interstellar communications antenna, the planet's citizens are unaware of the coming of the Magellan until the ship's arrival in orbit about the planet. The novel explores the impact of this reunion, documenting the efforts of the Magellan crew to repair their ship, and most poignantly, the possibility of love amidst the barriers of distance and time.

Scientific aspects

The story explored one possible outcome of the solar neutrino problem, which was unsolved at the time the story was written.Though not fully reversible by current technology cryonic suspension (sometimes called cryogenic stasis) is indeed a reality [1] and a feasible medical procedure for human beings in the sense that a patient may await unchanged until the technology for the second half of the process (revival) has become a reality.Recent tests (2005) have also shown the possibility of inducing a short term hibernation-like state on mice. [2]Vacuum energy is a controversial feature of modern physics, and the concept has repeatedly been hijacked by pseudoscientific theories. In the acknowledgements to the book, Clarke considered using vacuum energy a scientifically viable, but highly futuristic, propulsion technology.The logistics of space travel at near-light speeds is also explored in the novel in some detail, albeit with some errors for the sake of dramatic tension. The novel is also notable for featuring a Space Elevator. In his introduction notes to the novel, Clarke states that he wished it to be a realistic interstellar voyage, without use of warp drives or other fantastic technologies.
Cross-media Influences

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Mike Oldfield was so moved by the novel, that he wrote an entire album based on it (see link above). Around this time, Oldfield was exploring computer game possibilities, and on UK editions of the CD album "The Songs Of a Distant Earth", Oldfield included a CD-ROM multi-media interactive exploration "game" of some notable locations from the book, including the "Hibernaculum". Buried within the game is the promotional video for the album's single "Let There Be Light". The album's artwork features stills from the CD-ROM. The CD-ROM portion is only playable on Mac (not PC) computers.The total forms "Songs" has taken as of 2005:the original short story, published in 1958 in The Other Side of the Skya little-known 5-page movie outline, published in 1979 (Omni Magazine, vol III no 12)full-length novel (1986)original album by Mike OldfieldCD-ROM computer game (from the UK edition of the album)promotional music video: "Let There Be Light"A song by Kuribayashi Minami used in the video game Muv-Luv (the final chapter of the game is also named after Songs)

The Songs of Distant Earth (album)
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
The Songs of Distant Earth is an album, written and mostly performed by Mike Oldfield. It is based on Arthur C. Clarke's novel Songs of Distant Earth.It was first released in 1994 (see 1994 in music) as a CD, and shortly afterward as an Enhanced CD of which two versions were made. The non-enhanced, CD album featured the image of the Manta flying in front of a planet on the front cover. This was also used on the initial release of the Enhanced CD version. However, it was later changed to the more common image of the Man in a suit holding a glowing orb with the Manta flying overhead. This second pressing of the enhanced CD (shown at right) contains slightly more multimedia content, such as the full version of the "Let There Be Light" video. The audio content is the same on all versions of the album.In terms of Mike's career, The Songs of Distant Earth represented a foray into science fiction-related music. Songs such as "Supernova" and "Hibernaculum" could be seen as similar or even influenced by Enigma, while "New Beginning" has ethnic world chants in the style of Deep Forest. There are also Native American influences on the album. However to be fair, Mike Oldfield had been using a variety of ethnic musical styles since the 1970s, long before the emergence of Enigma or Deep Forest in the early 1990s. Such works as Ommadawn (1976) and Incantations (1978) featured extensive use of chanting and drumming in combination with uplifting instrumental solos. And more broadly, Mike's early work in the genre of atmospheric instrumental music tinged mixed with world and folk styles, is widely held as a forebear for the success of many other such instrumental artists.Mike's interest in space and its connection to his music can also be cited elsewhere in his career, such as in the 1980 film entitled The Space Movie which featured a soundtrack wholly made up of music from Tubular Bells (1973), Hergest Ridge (1974), Ommadawn and Incantations, and for which Mike also wrote some original music.

Track listing

"In the Beginning" – 1:24
"Let There Be Light" – 4:57
"Supernova" – 3:23
"Magellan" – 4:40
"First Landing" – 1:16
"Oceania" – 3:19
"Only Time Will Tell" – 4:26
"Prayer for the Earth" – 2:09
"Lament for Atlantis" – 2:43
"The Chamber" – 1:48
"Hibernaculum" – 3:32
"Tubular World" – 3:22
"The Shining Ones" – 2:59
"Crystal Clear" – 5:42
"The Sunken Forest" – 2:37
"Ascension" – 5:49
"A New Beginning" – 1:37


The then Chairman of Warner, Rob Dickins, suggested to Oldfield that he should do an album based on this particular piece of Clarke's work[1].The spoken section at the beginning of the album is Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders reading from the Book of Genesis while orbiting the Moon on Christmas Eve, 1968.The Gregorian Chant on "Hibernaculum" is not Latin, but the chant on "Let There Be Light" is.The Saami yoik chant on "Prayer For The Earth" was composed and performed by Nils-Aslak Valkeapää. The chant is from the 1987 movie Ofelaš (The Pathfinder).The enhanced CD content was taken from the inspirational of Oldfield's MusicVR project.

Clarke and Oldfield

The booklet of the album features a foreword by Arthur C. Clarke about the evolution of Songs of Distant Earth from short story to novel. It ends with the following about the album:"Since the finale of the novel is a musical concert, I was delighted when Mike Oldfield told me that he wished to compose a suite inspired by it. I was particularly impressed by the music he wrote for The Killing Fields and now, having played the CD of The Songs of Distant Earth, I feel he has lived up to my expectations.Welcome back into space, Mike: there's still lots of room out here."This was not the first time that Mike's music had been connected with the books of Arthur C. Clarke.Prior to The Songs of Distant Earth, Mike had released Tubular Bells II, which featured a track called "Sentinel" — which also happened to be the title of a short story written by Arthur C. Clarke that later evolved into his most famous work, 2001: A Space Odyssey. Another track from Tubular Bells II was called "Sunjammer". The Arthur C. Clarke short story, The Wind From The Sun, had the working title of "Sunjammer".Meanwhile, other track titles from Tubular Bells II may be less direct references to space and science fiction — "Weightless" and "Dark Star", for example. Dark Star was the name of a science fiction film by director John Carpenter, released in 1973, the same year as the original Tubular Bells.





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