Music from the End of the Universe

March 25, 2019

Zdenek Liška’s score for IKARIE XB 1 comes to vinyl and mp3

– Randall D. Larson

Zdenek Liska IKARIE XB-1Finders Keepers records, the label which rescued from oblivion such film score rarities as Stanley Myers SITTING TARGET, Lubos Fiser’s VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS and MORGIANA, Zdenek Liška’s THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE CREMATOR,  Acanthus’ LES FRISSON DES VAMPIRES, Don Gere’s WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, Philippe D’Aram’s REQUIEM POUR UN VAMPIRE  and FASCINATION, Anjelo Michajlov’s SAXANA THE GIRL ON A BROOMSTICK, and other sumptuous sonic delights, has done it again.

Released last month (Feb. 15), the availability of their vinyl/mp3 release, despite no word yet of a CD edition, of Liška’s score to the 1963 Czech science fiction adventure IKARIE XB 1 (released, heavily edited, in the US, as VOYAGE TO THE END OF THE UNIVERSE), has surely put a smile on the faces of those familiar with Liška’s work and the legend of this film and its score.

Described as a missing link between FORBIDDEN PLANET and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, with nuances we would later see in STAR TREK well in evidence, the film is directed by Jindřich Polàk and based on the book by Stanislaw Lem (best known for Solaris, source of another marvelous Eastern European film [and its lesser gratifying Hollywood remake]). This Czech science fiction classic is set in the year 2163, in which starship Ikaria XB 1 embarks on a long journey across the Universe in search of life on the planets of Alpha Centauri.

“Liška [1922-1983] is widely known for his ability to take the existing energy in a reel of film and literally change the polarity to suit his own interpretation while maintaining the full support from his ‘client’ who would in-turn end up working under this composer’s creative direction,” writes the label in its news release for this soundtrack. “Not only was Liška a genius of emotive orchestral and coral composition, his grasp on small group arrangements and intimate, minimal scores set him above the competition.”

“Liška provided an excellent minimalist score for the film, comprised almost wholly of computerized tonalities – or, at least, computer-sounding tonalities,” is how I describe the score in a forthcoming volume of Musique Fantastique. “Introduced over the main titles, they first sound like random bleeps and buzzes, but as the titles go on, and we are treated to amazing black-and-white visuals of the interior of the Icarus XB 1 space probe and glimpses of its crew, the musical sounds develop, jazz like, and eventually reach a rising cluster of percussive, mechanistic rhythm.  This kind of approach to the music characterizes most of the film.  The music also harmonically corresponds to the sound design inside the spacecraft, blurring the distinction between score and sound effect. At the end of the film, after the adventures are over and Icarus reaches its new world, the music strikingly warms up and there is a mild upsurge of orchestra and rolling timpani, as light, shifting layers of orchestral sound swell in triumph and joy at the promise of a new life on this new planet.”

For more information, see finderskeepers

I also recommend this article which initially brought this release to my attention, see cinetalk

Watch this trailer for the film (from the 2016 Gent Film Festival):

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