Sensing Time and Space through the Soundtracks of Interstellar and Arrival

John Richardson, Anna-Elena Pääkkölä, Sanna Qvick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


This chapter discusses the recent science fiction films Interstellar (2014; music by Hans Zimmer) and Arrival (2016; music by Jóhann Jóhannsson) as benchmarks for new ways of configuring the listening body in time and space. These films are characterized by soundtracks that emphasize visceral as much as audiovisual involvement. Both draw on influences from postminimalism and electronic music with historical allusion to produce sonic end results that convey a texturally rich but semantically impervious sense of the otherworldly. Our analyses draw on theories of multisensory cinema to explain how the soundtracks create experiences of altered time and space. While evoking a sense of monumentalism reminiscent of tropes of the sublime, the music of these films communicates also optimism about futures where conflict and ecological shortsightedness give way to something more intuitive and all encompassing.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Cinematic Listening
EditorsCarlo Cenciarelli
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190853617
ISBN (Print)9780190853617
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book


  • film music studies
  • science fiction
  • cultural musicology
  • minimalist music
  • film music
  • multisensory sound design
  • scifi music
  • aliens
  • Interstellar
  • Arrival
  • scifi film
  • Films
  • movies
  • Romanticism
  • neominimalist composition
  • Stockhausen
  • Philip Glass
  • Scifi and gender
  • Johann Johannsson
  • Hans Zimmer


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