Author Ray Bradbury's fantastical exposition of events surrounding the first manned missions to Mars, remains seminal to his long and prolific writing career. Once considered unfilmable, Bradbury's thematically linked short stories (many of which were originally collected as The Silver Locusts) eventually receive much attention during the late 1970's as science-fiction found a mainstream audience like none before. Reworked into a three-part television mini-series by screenwriter Richard Matheson, with additional unaccredited rewrites by the author, the story of The Martian Chronicles (1980) became an extravagant production with a widely-renowned cast and sterling direction. However these weren't the only facets that the studio executives at NBC catered for. In realising the importance of a successful marriage of music to picture, The Martian Chronicles was lent the disciplined talents of a true composer, Stanley Myers.
A hugely prolific artist, Myers had received international acclaim during this time for his work on The Deer Hunter and, thanks to a previous collaboration with Chronicles director Michael Anderson, his agreement to score the multi-million dollar production was secured. He was among a few contemporary composers who knew how to successfully fuse electronic music with elements of more traditional orchestral composition, which would, no doubt, add to the accessibility of Bradbury's teleplay. Entrusted with the task of setting the fictional, unfamiliar world alongside that resembling our own, contrasting the devastation of the alien home-world by human disease with the eventual destruction of Earth, Myers' produced a memorable score that rightly receives an album release here, albeit one that's long overdue.
Airstrip One's album release is a joy to listen to and it comes as no surprise that it
has been crafted with great care, sporting a sensible running length and coupled with extensive and
informative liner notes. But what of the result? Without the writing of a musical dramatist of Myers' calibre
this album would not have been constantly in my player since it arrived. Beyond being an enjoyable listening experience, The Martian Chronicles demonstrates Myers' deftness at exploring compositional ideas and avoiding logical conclusions. Here this is as much due to his reading of the visual source material - he binds the three episodes of the series together with a fantastical motif for human endeavour (think ascendant horns and equally lofty trumpet calls) that accurately depicts the subject matter - as it is to his long-standing experience. The writing is never detracted by the ample size of the orchestra, thanks to his intimate orchestrations - nor a need to conform to popular stereotypes, with the myriad of synth patterns and continuous sonorities producing a genuine alien soundscape rather a poor imitation of then-contemporary progressive rock.
Stanley Myers has been sorely-missed since his sad passing almost a decade ago and this album gratefully contributes to a legacy that is somewhat poorly represented on disc. It deserves to be well-received, presenting a gifted composer at the height of his career and affirming that Bradbury's antipathy towards the "boring" production was not entirely well-founded. Myers' music is anything but tiresome and should prove a compelling purchase.
FMOTW editor Gary Dalkin adds:
Those who enjoyed Jerry Goldsmith's groundbreaking fusion of orchestral and electronic scoring for Michael Anderson's big screen science fiction, Logan's Run (1976) should find much to enjoy in Stanley Myers' score for the director's small screen SF.
Gary S Dalkin