Singing machines: Musical intelligences and human instruments in science fiction and film
Laudadio, Nicholas Christian
MetadataShow full item record
Singing Machines: Musical Intelligences and Human Instruments in Science Fiction and Film examines the ways that musically-inclined machines and instruments function in science fiction. The texts under investigation here--Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey , Richard Powers's Galatea 2.2 , Lloyd Biggle, Jr.'s "The Tunesmith," and Fred Wilcox's Forbidden Planet (particularly its accompanying electronic musical score by Bebe and Louis Barron)--all present a mechanical entity that makes possible (through musicality) a profound connection with its "users." This connection tends to manifest itself as an empathic reaction, linking the mechanical and the organic and bridging larger evolutionary rifts in imagined futures. Chapters one and two address the idea of the "acoustic moment of disconnection" wherein a fictional artificial intelligence uses song and the act/art of singing as a way to detach itself from its human companions, enacting a digital version of death. I argue that this moment of song or sound is crucial to understanding the way in which science fiction both confronts and confounds the relationships artificial beings have with their creators and their adopted environments. Following this evaluation of musical intelligences, I proceed to actual and imagined musical instruments that, like the artificial intelligences in the previous chapters, merge and mediate the organic and the electric in the texts that they accompany. In all of these texts, the singing machine suggests that the gulf between human and inhuman can be traversed by an instrument both cultural and scientific, organic and mechanical. By tracing the role that this musical-mechanical instrument plays in fictive texts one can better understand the means by which sound and song help articulate the process of becoming human.