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Music and its influential parallels with the UFO phenomena
by Matt Lyons 
January 2011

We can see many icons across all continents showing ancient depictions in painting and inscriptions, from caves and pyramids that celebrate or prophesise about heavenly objects or deities. In amongst these images, musicians of various ethnic instruments are often depicted on the same story boards.

Although text may have survived, in the ancient world into the first thousand years A.D. Music and dances survived or were lost to the oral tradition fading or simply moving on to the next developments of instruments and advancing compositional techniques.

The fascination with the heavens has many depictions of the deities from all the religions, whether this is to the glory of a god or some apparition or appearance. In the renaissance, as secular music rose in far more abundant art forms to depict the glory of kings and conquerors rather than gods, the revisiting of Greek and roman mythology is not just witnesses in epic tales of the gods but ‘music of the spheres’.

In the transitional time of the earth losing its position at the centre of the universe, the understanding of this planets position in paved the way to more creative musical portraits of this new way of looking at the skies.

By the time we reach the 20th century, the worlds of H.G.Wells and Holst’s Planets Suite are joined by more dramatic and discordant music in Arnold Schoenberg’s modern interpretations of noise and movement from the universe.

The modern popular cultures largely ignored the science fiction thriller stories of extra-terrestrial visitors whilst still in early jazz and blues form, until we go beyond the landmark Kenneth Arnold sighting of 1947. Molly Thompsons iconic ‘From other worlds’ embraced the wonderment and hope of a human race, aware and excited by the NASA space programme and our first reach for the stars.

Many of the films that emerged at this time used orchestration to shock or create awe which were highly imitative of sequences that could have easily also fitted a cowboy or war film. Certain signatures started to emerge where flying saucers so often needed to have a single warbling or echoing note, which then started to implant a false assumption that most UFO’s must have this tone, despite the fact that the majority of sightings rarely have any noise whatsoever.

The rock and popular culture observed the opportunity to exploit the rise of modern media reporting of the many iconic UFO reports around the planet, with news and media able to transmit stories across continents at ever increasing speed.

Even to this day, most of the groups or solo artists have tended to leave science and the real experience of observers and witnesses behind, often focusing on mystery, shock, men in black and science fiction. Now the modern UFO has reached over half a century, many musicians have taken retrospective and parody routes in relation to the earlier decade’s film and comic science fiction cultures.

There are some intelligent approaches if we consider the famous five notes from Spielberg’s Close Encounters film scene. The Voyager 1 spacecraft has the famed disc of music representing a comprehensive list of music from earth now travelling out of the solar system. In recent years, astronomy has discovered various constant pitches in the background noise of the universe and we have the SETI project projecting a regular pulse in the hope of alerting a listening recipient beyond our cosmic backyard.

Music plays a high part in reinforcing or producing belief systems in witnesses, even if this may not be perceived by them personally.

In formative years, we have an abundance of cartoons and other children’s programmes which have aliens and spaceships used in counting songs, cartoons and have replaced the older majority of television age shows which used anthropomorphic animal characters. There are science fiction series and their musical theme which are aimed to entertain youth and adult audiences alike. As an experiment into the power of music in media and psychological influences, here’s a sample experiment any one can take part in:

Take what would be your most frightening scene in horror or science fiction movies and turn off the music and incidental noises. Now replace it with a track from a comedy film or silly song, how sinister or frightening would the alien, zombie or vampire now seem? There are scarce few artists that stand aside as treating the UFO phenomena with a factually based interpretation without falling into the science fiction trap door. There are even fewer composers that have written event specific works based on the scientific known universe or respectfully reflecting true witness accounts and UFO cases and sightings.

Suggested listening:

Any album by Janus, Steve Hillage and Hawkwind. David Bowie: Ziggy Stardust.

Jeff Wayne: War of the Worlds.

UFO alien band CEIV: http://www.ceiv.co.uk/

Classical/orchestral: http://www.ufoopera.com, Holst: The planets

The voyager spacecraft music disc: http://www.voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/spacecraft/music.html

Music, science, mathematic response throughout the ages, article by Robert R. Reilly: http://www.firstprinciplesjournal.com/print.aspx?article=491&loc=b&type=cbtp

Further reading:

Flying saucerers: A Social History of Ufology, David Clarke & Andy Roberts

Alien Rock: The Rock ‘n’ Roll Extraterrestrial Connection, Michael Luckman


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