Yesterday I wrote about the continuing question Is science fiction dying? While I was writing, I was also listening to music and watching videos from the 1970s and '80s. I started with "In a Big Country" by Big Country, a song of hope and of soaring, passionate feeling ("I'm not expecting to grow flowers in the desert/But I can live and breathe/And see the sun in wintertime"). It returned to me that so much of the music from that time was full of great hope and expectation, energy and passion. The music and the people who sang it and listened to it were looking to a brighter future.
After awhile, I watched the video for "Cars" by Gary Numan, and it occurred to me that this was science fiction. Next came "Are 'Friends' Electric?", a song with a science-fictional title (and a question that has since been answered in the affirmative by Mark Zuckerberg). Song after song and video after video from the 1980s is science-fictional or futuristic in content or technique. The music itself--reliant upon electronics and technological experimentation--is also science-fictional or futuristic, as are the names of the movements, New Wave and Technopop, and even some of the groups, such as Level 42 and T'Pau. It is clear that the music and the musicians were moving towards something new.
In considering Gary Numan, my thoughts went to the song "Breathe" by another British electronic music act, The Prodigy. Whereas Gary Numan's videos seem science-fictional, the video for "Breathe" is nightmarish, full of images of horror and decay. (1) So if "Cars" is representative of British music from 1979 and "Breathe" from 1996, what happened in the intervening seventeen years? A larger question: If science fiction was still alive and kicking in the 1970s and '80s and is now on its deathbed, just what has happened to make it so?
(1) A little more than three and a half minutes long, the video version of "Breathe" seems longer, epic in fact, like "Eight Miles High" by The Byrds, which clocks in at 3:33. "Breathe" is a fascinating and scary video. Have a look when you get a chance.
Copyright 2014 Terence E. Hanley