Thoughts on Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey's Musical Score (Alan Silvestri)
[Original publication: May 10, 2018]
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey is a 2014 docu-series that chronicles the mystery, triumph, and beauty involved in mankind’s existence-long search for knowledge. The series takes viewers on an expedition across the universe as Neil deGrasse Tyson presents the scientific concepts that make up what they see. The series as a whole is truly excellent for its clear presentation of concepts and the healthy skepticism and wonder associated with those concepts. It loudly declares the amazing spectacle of our universe as a whole.
The composer whose music consistently takes us on journeys to far away places, time periods, and other worlds lent his brilliance to Cosmos. Alan Silvestri’s jazz roots and outstanding melodies permeate the ethereal musical environments he composed to accompany the expanses of space. The series’ score maintains Silvestri’s melodic sense of adventure, but also contains just the right amount of musical wonder and mystery. The truly awestruck nature of humanity before space is expressed in moments throughout this score.
Cosmos’ main title sequence begins with warm solo french horn and winds that place viewers firmly at home. Silvestri inserts one of his signature thematic melodies at the very start of the cue. Thick and swelling strings musically transition the cue into the aura of mystery and wonder associated with the exploration of the universe the viewer is soon to embark upon.
While the cue does utilize loud dynamics, it is careful and intentional with them. There are more quiet, stirring sections of this cue that underscore visuals of open space. The cue contains a thickly orchestrated section reflecting humanity’s awe before beautiful cosmic formations, but ends with quiet strings and woodwinds serving underscore to the audience’s contemplation of the incomprehensible expanse set before them.
When this score pairs with deGrasse Tyson’s narration and the intense visuals on the screen, Cosmos extends an open hand to viewers, inviting them to be immersed in and learn about the phenomenon of our universe. Silvestri’s seems to have specifically crafted cues like ‘Come With Me’, ‘The Cosmos Is Yours’, ‘The Staggering Immensity of Time’, and ‘Our Journey Is Just Beginning’ for this unique purpose. These cues elegantly take the viewer into the content of the show.
Noble, melodic brass, strings and winds encompass the viewer and provide subliminal accompaniment to the emotional wonder of the space journey. ‘The Cosmos Is Yours’ is an upbeat cue that keeps the viewer engaged through rhythmic strings and melodic brass. ‘The Staggering Immensity of Time’ and ‘Our Journey Is Just Beginning’ use beautiful and valiant musical timbres that seem to fill up the expanses of space, causing them to brim with emotion. All of these cues feature heroic themes and warm, alluring orchestrations to envelop the viewer in Cosmos’ subject and visual matter.
Silvestri also composed cues that are specific to space formations shown or to times or subjects that are discussed. ‘Virgo Supercluster’, ‘Multiverse’, ‘Giordano Bruno’, and ‘Chance Nature of Existence’ are just a few of these cues. Here Silvestri expresses the contemplative and informative nature of the series in his composition. Rhythmic piano and thick strings signify these cues and embody the continuous wonder and persistent examination of space and our universe by mankind.
Because the formations and information are a bit more knowledgeable to mankind than the other elements and expanses of space, Silvestri mixes in a bit more of his relatively calm and contemplative composition into these cues of the score, which is otherwise filled with grandiose musical depictions of the fascination involved here.
It’s plausible that the musical environment that is created in this score by Alan Silvestri couldn’t be exactly matched by another composer. Silvestri was absolutely the best hire for a composer for this series. His previous work includes films like Contact, Back to the Future, and The Abyss. He uses the same impeccable ability to craft melodies and textures that he used on those film scores to create exquisite cues that envelop user through the entire Cosmos score. His musical themes and textures are the gateway to the emotions, excitement, and absolute reverence viewers experience while watching the series.
Cosmos would not be the completely excellent docu-series that it is without the environment and spectacle created by Alan Silvestri’s musical score.