Jerry Goldsmith and the Sonification of the “Monstrous-Feminine” in his Science Fiction Scores


In listening to interviews with the film composer Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen, Tora! Tora! Tora! and Air Force One) his most musically significant comments are those that reveal the manner of his approach to his work. What comes through very strongly is his desire to priviledge emotion by scoring the underlying, unspoken feelings in a scene, as opposed to the more literal aspects of the narrative. One concept present in film that engenders such emotion is the notion of the “monstrous-feminine”, created by the presence of a deliberate relation between terror and the opposite maternal position or, the traditional, “benign” role of women in our society. A number of recurring compositional characteristics are evident across Goldsmith’s body of work. This article identifies some of those characteristics that are relevant to both extremes of the feminine, investigates the extent to which they contribute to the communication of associated emotional depth, and draws preliminary conclusions as to their powers of musical representation in those scenes in his science-fiction films where the concept of the “monstrous-feminine” exists.

And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect. [1]

Of the Goldsmith quotes I have discovered during the course of my research, the most musically significant are those that reveal the manner of his approach to his work. What comes through very strongly is his desire to privilege emotion by scoring the underlying, unspoken feelings in a scene, as opposed to literal aspects of the narrative. “Once the discussions are over, I clear my mind and react emotionally.”[2] From this, it is reasonable to make some assumptions: Goldsmith was guided by his emotional intelligence when he composed a film score; the result is the product of his musical upbringing and education, together with aspects of his general style (mostly the nineteenth-century, Romantic idiom); and, finally, the score will betray influences of the musical connotations that Goldsmith encountered during his life already present in our Western musical heritage.

My intention here is to investigate the extent to which Goldsmith’s compositional characteristics contribute to the communication of emotional depth, through their representative powers, in those scenes in the science fiction films where the monstrous-feminine is evident. As with any composer, Goldsmith has unique characteristics. Many betray influences of Western musical history and its connotations. For convenience, here is a bullet-point summary of the main characteristics I have discovered during the course of my analyses:

1. Use of repetitious intervals, often returning/rocking back to the start note

2. Repeated rhythms in action sequences, often on the same chord/note

3. The use of a “sighing figure”

4. Additive pitch clusters

5. Lengthy, sustained string pitches

6. Punctuating the texture with irregular percussion or other instruments, sometimes in sonic isolation

7. Characteristic scoring in certain scenes horns in uplifting, heroic, power moments flutes in pastoral melodies oboes, used as an indicator of otherness

8. The use of ethnic instrumentation in a connotative capacity

9. Unusual scoring combinations, mixing electronic and acoustic

10. Shifting from major to minor tonalities and vice-versa

11. Tertiary chord progressions

12. A multipurpose “action” formula using: sustained string notes, bass ostinati often in a syncopated rhythm, and shorter length chords in the middleground, with prominent use of woodwind. Often, to increase tension, the whole score will ascend in pitch sequentially, or by a semitone/tone

12. “Pastoral melody” accompanied by arpeggiated figures on guitar/harp

13. Impressionistic, “unsingable” writing, lacking strong or memorable content

Western musical connotations and the perception of the feminine

Whilst seeking to avoid a lengthy discourse on non-musical topics, some background information is necessary. To investigate the role of music in enhancing the monstrous-feminine by any one composer, one has to understand both the role that music has played in women’s social and musical history thus far, what is meant by the concept of the monstrous-feminine, and how this can be applied to film.

Assuming that music has the representational powers suggested by Born and Hesmondhalgh,3 how might it connote meaning? Annabel Cohen suggested that

although phenomenologically, the perception of music occurs immediately and passively, over 20 years of research reveal the complex processes entailed as the brain represents musical sounds, groups them, relates them to other similar patterns, engenders emotional meanings from them … music activates independent brain functions that are separate from verbal and visual domains. [4]

Arguably, as has been suggested by Chion (and others), the concept of counterpoint,[5] whereby the music is able to represent a different idea from that depicted by the narrative of the image, comes into play, especially when representing an underlying concept not necessarily intended as being explicit as narrative, but present nonetheless as a veiled, holistic abstract, such as the monstrous-feminine. Cohen, in explaining how the brain relates to musical patterns independently from dialogue and image suggests the psychological processes behind how music could be used to communicate such ideas. For an abstract such as the monstrous-feminine to be suggestible in musical terms, it is important to understand the difference between “mood induction”, and “communication of meaning”, as identified by Cohen.[6] Music can alter the mood of the audience or, to clarify, change the way it feels; it can also merely convey information, hence the “communication of meaning”. Different musical elements are used in film scores to convey different emotions: romanticism would employ a moderate pace, lush string timbres in a middle to high register, and a nineteenth-century harmonic idiom, whilst fear would be engendered by the inclusion of an accelerating pace, ostinati sequenced at successively higher pitches, low pedal frequencies, and metallic/wooden timbres scored at random time intervals. Cohen cited a television interview given by composer Marvin Hamlisch in which he stated that “underscoring is like a simultaneous translation, except that … the second language is music”.[7] I suggest that it is possible for a Western audience to attach notions of gender to these elements, and that Goldsmith’s music functions in line with such notions. Arguably, we regard the sounds of some instrumental timbres, such as the guitar or flute, or diatonic melodic lines, as being feminine, whilst harsh timbres, such as brass and drums, or chromatic, dissonant harmony as being more masculine? Why does diatonic, step-wise melodic movement in an uncomplicated, crotchet-based rhythm suggest the pastoral, gentle, and feminine, whilst an irregular rhythmed, chromatic figure perhaps engenders a greater sense of the masculine? Where has this general perception of the woman-identified come from, and how has this societal, gender-related behaviour affected musical thought and practice?

The characterisation of women in film draws on conventions of dramatic music in general, and opera in particular, in a world that, from the seventeenth-century onwards, chose, largely for reasons of social conditioning, to portray women as emotionally unstable. Carmen, however, as noted by Susan McClary, was created for the mezzo-soprano, the essentially middle register of the female vocal range. McClary also noted that Carmen is a “dissonant other” whose voice is “marked by chromatic excess”,[8] as is Richard Strauss’ Salome (1905), whose own leitmotif is marked by such chromaticism.

Figure 1: Salome leitmotif

Such chromaticism leads logically to the conclusion that the elusive notion of “sonic musical femininity” that we are trying to define here is influenced and communicated by both register, and level of diatonicism or melodic chromaticism. Elizabeth Wood coined the term “Sapphonics” to describe that music that

has overtones and resonances in and beyond voice production and hidden vestibules of the body. I mean to use it as a mode of articulation, a way of describing a space of lesbian possibility, for a range of erotic and emotional relationships among women who sing and women who listen.[9]

I acknowledge that, in the sense in which I mean it, I am deliberately ignoring the consequence of Wood’s antecedent. She regards the voice as a medium, a means to an end through which unique relationships, at varying levels of intimacy, are created between women singers and women listeners. Her point is that this relationship begins with the vibration of the voice through the body, starting in the lungs and finishing at the lips, thus causing the unique, feminising sound and tone quality, which then occupies its own space, sufficient to cause the “Sapphonic” relationship between performer and listener. I am arguing that this feminising sound exists separately, in its own right, and is not confined to the human voice, but also includes similar physical, timbral qualities in other instruments.

Turning this idea of the masculine and feminine to the specifics of filmscore writing, Claudia Gorbman, in referring to characters in 1940s’ film, said that “even if you are in the next room, you are likely to find that a certain kind of music will cue you in correctly to the presence of Woman on screen”.[10] The type of music, which Gorbman refers to as “the euphony of the string orchestra”[11] is intended to link women to the emotional aspects of the narrative and distance them from the rational, logical, and reasoned world of men. Gorbman made it clear that she was talking about “good women”, as opposed to the “fallen women” described by Kalinak. These representations of binary opposites of womanhood, and reaction to them, afforded boundaries that, composers discovered, could be expressed through the connotative power of music, with the virtuous wife coded by lyrical, string melody and rhythm, orchestral instrumentation, and upward intervallic movement, all considered by Kalinak as attributes of “respectable, classical music with strong positive associations”.[12] Conversely, Kalinak continued, the fallen woman was, not dissimilar to Carmen, marked by “the inclusion of unusual harmonies, chromaticism, and dissonance”.[13] and with other musical characteristics including dotted rhythms and syncopation, and a preponderance of styles including jazz and blues.

Heather Laing described the relationship between female characters and non-diegetic music in the 1940s as “largely accepted as given”,[14] with the emphasis on linking women to the “emotional, and even irrational aspects of the narrative”,[15] whilst preserving that which is logical and reasoned for the “sensible” man of the proceedings. Romantic music, in Laing’s words, “makes paramount the artist’s subjective, emotional and therefore ‘feminine’ experience of the world”[16] Music was designed to appeal directly to the senses; this is one of its main purposes as part of a film narrative, and something that composers such as Goldsmith constantly explored, with Goldsmith’s nineteenth-century Romantic style potentially lending itself to codifying this idea of the world of the masculine and feminine very easily through music. Most women who conform to their expected social conventions within the narrative are scored according to the codes identified by Leo Treitler as being masculine and feminine. According to Treitler, “masculine” music exhibits qualities such as “clarity, system, understandability, strength, vigour and power, reason and manliness”, whilst “feminine” music has “softness, roundedness, elegance, charm and grace”.[17] Although Treitler was not talking about film music, examples in Goldsmith’s music betray Treitler’s masculine and feminine traits. One such example occurs in Total Recall (26’35”) when Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is running from the “Rekall” assassins. The brass section repeats a regular rhythm on the same chord with a short, rising ostinato. Above this, the strings have a much higher sustained note. As the chase continues, different, but short and irregular rhythms punctuate the texture. All are clear, strong, and, according to Treitler, masculine figures. By contrast, when Lori (Sharon Stone) kisses Quaid, in the middle of the action, a “feminine” cello melody in stepwise, crotchet movement, with a lengthened phrase structure, and essentially diatonic harmony is used.

The opening section of Star Trek: Insurrection also features music that would be considered feminine according to Treitler’s coding. By way of further clarification, two examples are given below. A utopian scene of domestic bliss is enhanced aurally by the nature of the melodic material, first on the harp, and then with a sequential oboe melody.[18]

Figure 2: Star Trek Insurrection, at 46”

Figure 3: Star Trek Insurrection, at 1’05”

In both excerpts, the thematic movement is mostly stepwise; where larger intervals are included, they remain with the diatonic scheme and fit triadically with the alternating tonic and sub-dominant harmony. The lower register of the harp maintains arpeggiated quaver movement and is unaccented. Rhythmic aspects are consistent throughout the phrasing, with no one timbre or pattern intruding into the overall texture. Each phrase is more than two bars long, and features sustained notes in its construction. Figure 2 is a passive, falling melody, lacking any sense of assertion, whilst Figure 3 is the opposite, mostly ascending, with rhythmic variety, and is soon to recur within the narrative as the leitmotif for the Ba’ku people. Both figures use the Goldsmith Interval Pattern[19] as their principle means of melodic construction (see bars 2, 4, and 6 of Figure 2, and bars 1, 2, 4, and 5 of Figure 3). They are intended to give the reader an idea of Treitler’s coded “elegant, charming and graceful” music that has come to be regarded as stereotypically feminine over the previous 80 years of film score composition, thus providing a model with which to compare the music of the monstrous-feminine later.

The concept of the monstrous-feminine

Lucy Green began her study Music, Gender and Education by drawing attention to a seventeenth-century poem by Thomas Campion in which he compared music with a woman. Green paraphrased from the Early Modern English and concluded that each is described as having a “mysterious, unattainable perfection.”[20] Campion considered there to be an irrefutable correlation between the beauty of Lawra’s physical being (the subject of the poem) and the beauty of the music that she sang.

Rose-cheekt Lawra, come,
Sing thou smoothly with thy beawties
Silent musick, either other
Sweetely gracing.

Lovely forms do flow
From concent divinely framed;
Heav’n is music, and thy beauty’s
Birth is heavenly

These dull notes we sing
Discords need for helps to grace them;
Only beauty purely loving
Knows no discord,

But still moves delight,
Like clear springs renew’d by flowing,
Ever perfect, ever in them-
Selves eternal.[21]

The only dissenting voice amidst this heavenly vision occurred when the men joined in; they were, by comparison, dull and reliant upon discords to gain attention (a foreshadowing of Carmen’s “dissonant other” above). Green’s point is that alongside this immortal and numinous categorisation of music and the woman the poem also revealed a dark and sinister binary opposite. The music that Lawra sang was “silent”; this is a figurative as well as literal silence, a silence that represents the repression and, according to Green, the “prohibition of women’s musical practices.”[22] Arguably, this prohibition extends to many other practices as well, with women finding themselves condemned to a marginalised existence outside the everyday world of the man, resulting in them being regarded as dangerous and decadent.

It is partly through this decadence and hence, perceived evil that, according to Barbara Creed, society has developed a concept of the monstrous-feminine.[23] This is understood to be that which society finds “shocking, horrifying, terrifying [and] abject” about women.[24] This is not a new phenomenon: Classical mythology is well-populated with gendered monsters such as Medusa, with her head of spitting serpents. These have carried through into literature, and subsequently film, with characters such as Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), a cyborg seemingly made of human tissue, or Sil, from Roger Donaldson’s Species (1995). In the latter, a government team led by Xavier Fitch (Ben Kingsley) attempts to hatch a female with benign and controllable characteristics and produces Sil, who morphs into her alien form of a creature with tentacles on her shoulders and back whenever she is threatened.

The monstrous-feminine is a term used to describe and explain the ways in which the perceived stereotypical, traditionally “feminine” characteristics of women (both physical and psychoanalytical) can be usurped by a sinister and potentially evil alter ego that is especially appalling to the male of the species. Robynn Stilwell, like Green, also points out that “feminine” cultural coding results from a “deeply ingrained binarism” of Western culture;[25] a culture that exerts a pressure to closely define gender boundaries as either male or female, and finds it difficult to accept the androgynous. One only has to consider the effect that Mrs. Bates had upon her son, Norman, to appreciate the monstrous-feminine in a filmic context,[26] or indeed, the metaphorical application of the vagina dentata that is Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws.[27]

Aspects of Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror, although written essentially about literature, transfer well to film narratives, in that they suggest an explanation for the effect of the monstrous-feminine in horror and science fiction films by relating it to the maternal position or to the traditional, “benign”, role of women in our society. Kristeva describes the monstrous-feminine as “abject”, or that which does not “respect borders, positions [and] rules … that which disturbs identity, system [, and] order.”[28] In contemporary critical theory, abjection is often used to describe the state of often-marginalised groups, such as women or the gay community. Abjection can be seen as letting go of something that one would like to keep. Arguably, humanity exists in abjection: the process of creating the self is continuous and unceasing, and done by considering the parts of the psyche that the self must exclude, principally, the mother. Hence Freud’s construction of the monstrous-feminine occurred within a patriarchal ideology and, as Creed says, is “related to the problem of sexual difference and castration”.[29] This is a situation in which the maternal must be abjected in order to construct an identity. The maternal bond is an emotional force, tied to human instincts, which exists in the prosody of language; that is, the distinctive variations of vocal stress, tone, volume, and timing (including the duration of pauses) in spoken language, rather than in the denotative meanings of words. Within Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), for example, there is evidence of both levels; the computer MU/TH/UR controls the life support system as a dominant, supervisory force, similar to HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), housed in a spherically shaped and padded “cockpit”. The exploratory sequence of the interior of the Nostromo ends with a tracking shot down one of the corridors leading to a sterile, uterine chamber where the crew are woken from their hyper-sleep by MU/TH/UR’s voice.

A full discussion of Kristeva’s theories, in addition to being beyond the scope of this article, would not necessarily inform a deeper understanding of Goldsmith’s music so, for this purpose, it is sufficient to note that Kristeva’s discussion of abjection in relation to the monstrous-feminine is deep-rooted in ancient religious and historical notions such as sexual immorality, perversion, incest, death and human sacrifice. The point is that abjection (Kristeva’s own term) “threatens life”[30] as we understand it, and, because of this, it must be “radically excluded”[31] from the living. Furthermore, this abjection is a manifestation of the moral depravity of the female, who specifically uses her feminine characteristics (including gynaecological attributes) to perpetrate her evil, something that society generally finds abhorrent. Such abjections feature quite regularly in science fiction film plots. However, there is a need to clarify a discrepancy with the notion of the monstrous-feminine herself: when can a narrative conclusively be described as using the monstrous-feminine? Many scenes in science fiction films may well feature feminine monsters or part-human creatures, but they may not be representative of the concept. Nor should it be taken that the monstrous-feminine is only present if she can be identified or represented purely physically (in whatever form this may take). With this in mind I have confined my examples to scenes where there is at least a partial sighting of a creature that can be clearly defined as female and, equally clearly, has an evil or suspicious intent, in keeping with both Creed and Kristeva’s explanations.

The most extensive instance of the monstrous-feminine is found in Alien, but others can be found inTotal RecallLeviathan, and Star Trek: First Contact, where the Borg Queen leads the villainous Borg. The underscoring for these characters, where “the stillness of an implacable force brood[s] over an inscrutable intention”,[32] will be examined to evaluate the extent to which Goldsmith’s scores enhance the communication and delivery of the monstrous-feminine.

Total Recall

There is a scene in Total Recall that has clear, narrative evidence of the monstrous-feminine (1.15’20”). Quaid is taken to rebel headquarters to meet the rebel leader, Kuato (Marshall Bell). At first, Kuato’s presence is uncertain, but it is revealed that he is a small humanoid using the larger man as his host medium for life support, existing as part of the man’s abdomen, as though he was never quite born into the world properly. Goldsmith’s treatment of this section is interesting both melodically and harmonically.

Figure 4: Total Recall, at 1.15’20”

NB: Each chord is in fact eight beats long, but has been shown as four beats for ease of reference.

The scene is scored for strings and flute, with the EQ of the bass frequencies boosted to sound more thunderous. The chords alternate major/minor, with tertiary progressions (D♭–B♭–G) departing from settling diatonicism. The slow rate of harmonic change adds further gravitas. Even though the chord sequence is technically descending, the spelling of the chords themselves uses ascending positions, so the overall effect is of a rising and triumphant sequence, rather similar in nature to Goldsmith’s chordal scoring for the opening of the hypersleep chambers in Alien. The strings are lush sounding, with heavy vibrato. The G major chord in bar 4 sounds with a “goblin” synth voice on the fifth and third of the chord, a sampled voice used in the late 1980s and early 1990s to connote the sound of the magical and fantastic. As Kuato begins to emerge, Goldsmith adds a flute to the texture (also similar to Alien) and featuring the Goldsmith Interval Pattern at its beginning (bar 5). The flute gives a breathy, clear timbre to the ostinato figure that is more connotative of the celestial than other woodwind instruments due to the partials created in tone production. The ostinato begins with falling semitone as its opening interval and, as in other previous examples, this serves to “diffuse but confuse” in a non-threatening manner.

Goldsmith’s score interacts with images that are gruesome and horrific. The music adds a pastoral, “feminine” sense. It does not add to the appalling sight of a man seemingly giving birth to a mutant through his stomach, but diffuses, even normalises it. The inherent chromaticism is just enough to suggest the otherness of the monstrous.


The monstrous-feminine in Leviathan centres around the regeneration process of the alien (52’45”). Sixpack (Daniel Stern), a miner with the Tri-Oceanic Corporation, finds a bottle of vodka in theLeviathan, a wrecked ship he is exploring on the sea-bed. Unbeknown to him, the crew had been experimenting with mutagens, improbably hiding them in the vodka bottle. Sixpack shares the vodka later with Bowman (Lisa Eilbacher). As they both die horrible deaths, computer analysis suggests genetic alteration, and their corpses begin to merge and mutate into one being.

Figure 5: Leviathan, at 52’45”

The scoring is characteristically sparse. The violins sustain a piercing, non-vibrato F♯ throughout. This maintains a tension coding in the background, without the complete menace caused by a harsher timbre. The other musical idea, repeated several times, occurs in hollow octaves, not just in the lower strings and woodwind, but with the piano bass and glockenspiel as well. This sparse scoring – an indication of how what Mark Slobin has described as “code-layering” – can work well musically in its opposite form:[33] it is the lack of musical material that allows what is present to resonate in its space. The descending octaves on A and G sound in isolation, and on a weak beat. I am not suggesting that the musical presence of this figure, at this tempo, automatically connotes the presence of the feminine, whether monstrous or not. However, to Western ears, it is precisely this descent and weak beat configuration that causes the tension to be diffused rather than concentrated. Furthermore, the dissonant nature of the writing, with the final sounding of a seventh (between the sustained violin and the second idea) would suggest that if the diffusing and the weakening can be taken as evidence of the feminine, then the chromaticism, as with Carmen above, may suggest that the feminine is threatening and unpleasant.

As the crew carry the mutating corpse to the air lock, the two ideas from Figure 5 merge. Thematically, the ostinato is extended, and includes more chromaticism, outlining the Goldsmith Interval Pattern. The instrumentation is expanded from mostly strings to include upper woodwind (and later brass) sounding the ostinato in multiple registers. A repeating bass note E is augmented by the tubas and timpani in a regular, minim beat.

Figure 6: Leviathan, at 56’01”

As the leg is severed in the lift, the score changes back to flutes and upper strings, sounding power chords on E (ie not containing 3rds) and falling down from the tonic to the dominant in semiquavers. The original sustained violin is more obviously tremolo, continuing with other static noises as the leg swims away on its own. As Sixpack discusses the situation with the Doctor (Richard Crenna), it is clear from the sight of the images and the nature of the underscore that the leg is sentient, with evil intent. As it begins to “give birth” through its severed end, Goldsmith widens the registers and thins the texture. The high violin pedal remains, as does the falling semitone, now from G♯–G natural, and the bass note, now G and sounded with lower strings and tubular bells as a death knell. Additional “complementary” noise (claves) punctuates the texture at irregular time intervals, as well as descending, pitch bending whale moaning that helps rather than hinders the notion of a monstrous-feminine birth, made all the more plausible and shocking by the increased musical codifiers that aim to score the underlying emotion of the scene.

In both these films, the connections to the monstrous-feminine are fleeting, with Goldsmith demonstrating recurring scoring characteristics that contribute to his creating the sonic impression needed to musically codify the monstrous-feminine: Romantic strings play sustained chords, flute phrases are rhythmically short and with generally ascending motion, and chromaticism is decorative (Carmen again) rather than harmonic within mostly diatonic harmonic schemes. All of these fit well with Treitler’s idea of elegant and graceful, and have the undertones rather than overtones of menace necessary to communicate the monstrous-feminine.

Star Trek: First Contact

It is important to repeat that the presence of a female monster does not necessarily indicate the presence of the monstrous-feminine. Often in film, women characters feature in the narrative as the antithesis of the monstrous-feminine, seemingly there only to emphasise the patriarchal. The message is very clear: men are needed to save the world, and women are there to mop their fevered brows whilst they do it. In general terms, women are there for “eye-candy”, displaying a lack of physical strength, and a failure to understand even simple problems, often hindering the hero with ironic ignorance. Any woman perceived to have independence or strength of character (as Hollywood understands the terms) is treated to the “music of the siren”, which is described by Kalinak as being a “nucleus of musical practices which carried implications of indecency … through their association with so called decadent forms such as jazz”.[34] The Star Trek films made a considerable effort to redress the balance, even in their early days: in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Lieutenant Commander Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) is shown working competently on the bridge as an officer in a position of respect and authority, and features as a regular cast member (becoming a black role model in the process). Lieutenant Ilia (Persis Khambatta) stretched the boundaries a little by appearing bald (considered a radical action for a woman in 1979 when the film was produced) but she is not really suggestive of the monstrous-feminine as defined by Creed and Kristeva.

It is not until Star Trek: First Contact (1996) that an alien woman, the Borg Queen (Alice Krige) is shown to be the archetypal woman with overt and evil intent, in a position of power and influence. Her voice is heard first as Data (Brent Spiner), conveniently captured by the Borg and strapped onto a table awaiting experimentation, is staring upwards expectantly (44’19”). The Borg Queen descends on a wire from high above, a metaphorical representation of a female Messiah descending to Earth. At this stage, she is only a head and articulated, moving spine, with red flashing lights, venous skin, and Medusan, snake-like hair. She falls into the rest of her “body”, clothed in low-cut leather, with tight pants and over-emphasised breasts in a style made famous by Madonna in her Blond Ambition tour of 1991. Using lower string power chords on G♯, tubular bells mirror them by chiming the tonic, fifth and octave above. The fourth note in the sequence returns to A# and then to the tonic. As the Queen reaches her body, filtered but sustained violins begin a chromatic scale. The individual pitches bend (a characteristic of “siren” jazz) and remain in the mix, clearly at first, but creating an accumulative, dissonant effect. As she moves about at ground level, all the sfx cease momentarily and segue into a brief cello melody harmonised mostly by the G♯ pedal.

Example 7c.png

Figure 7: Star Trek: First Contact, at 44’54”

The tactile/kinetic anaphone of a cello timbre is a mellow sound amidst the sfx of the previous few seconds. The regular rhythm and stepwise motion lend smoothness to the line; there is the suggestion of a feeling of sighing in this largely ambient, impressionistic texture that does not convey the all-consuming power of the Borg Queen in any way, but allows for breathing space in the narrative as the audience comprehends her strong, silent menace. This is especially the case at the end of each phrase when the celli land on an augmented fifth – Carmen’s decorative chromaticism again.

The weak-beat accented ambience remains as the Borg Queen attempts to seduce Data by reactivating his emotion chip. Sustained string chords (Fm—E♭m) alternate slowly in a resolving formation, with the top note of each chord descending a major second. The resultant atmospheres using this figure are traditionally steeped in pathos, and this is true here. We are in no doubt that the Borg Queen is romantically interested in Data, and that she will easily overpower him at will (the abject monstrous-feminine). The rocking motion, and minor tonality augments the overall feeling of menace. The Queen asks Data ironically if he knows what she is doing and when he replies, somewhat unromantically, that she appears to be “grafting organic skin onto his endo-skeletal structure”, she attempts to “arouse” him (Data is an android) by blowing on a little patch of hairy skin on his arm. As the hairs move in the airflow, the strings and piano strings glissandi upward, finishing on a high, sustained, vibrato (C) that remains until the end of the scene when the Borg Queen asks Data “was that good for you?” Even though the association of tremolo strings with suspense is, as Kalinak suggested, a code acquired “not from an acquaintance with the musical idiom of the nineteenth-century, where it is earlier exemplified, but from the film scores which exploit it,”[35] Goldsmith’s scoring at this point draws heavily on established semiotic, and feminine codings to represent the dominatrix Borg Queen; undoubtedly a nasty example of the monstrous-feminine at work.

The final scene featuring the Borg Queen exhibits the clearest examples yet of feminine codings. The hero of the film is Zephron Cochrane (James Cromwell) who flies out to the Borg ship just as Jean-Luc Picard is now in Data’s chair with a rotating saw blade aimed at his throat. Cochrane’s music features a quaver bass pedal, and fragments of the Star Trek theme in upper brass, accompanied by heavy bass (including timpani) affirming mostly the tonic and occasionally dominant harmony. As soon as the scene cuts to the Borg Queen, all rhythm ceases, and there is a return to the sustained string note and now familiar weak-accent “sighing”; a pronounced musical contrast between the all-action anti-hero Cochrane and the monstrous-feminine tyranny of the Borg Queen. Both blocks of scoring exhibit the elements suggested in Treitler’s codification of “masculine” and “feminine music”. As Picard’s danger increases, the sighing figure is diminished to quavers and played by the woodwind section, but there is still no rhythmic impetus. This begins only after the return to the Borg ship, and Data. Timpani and bass quavers preface his announcing of the now legendary “resistance is futile”, before the brass and lower strings drop down a tritone as the narrative registers the sudden impotence of the Borg Queen. In between periods of musical agitation, the now leitmotivic, sighing figure recurs as the Borg Queen is sent plunging into a large vat of boiling oil.

Figure 8: Star Trek: First Contact, at 1.32’53”

This final instance of the rhythmically static figure underscoring the Borg Queen, with its prominent, chromatic augmented fourth (bar 2), and string timbre, acts as a hiatus in the music, returning the score from its current function in scoring the action mimetically, to temporarily exhibiting “feminine” characteristics, thus sonically representing the monstrous-feminine.


Alien (according to Barbara Creed) is a “complex representation of the monstrous-feminine in terms of the maternal figure as perceived with a patriarchal ideology”.[36] Within the “ten little Indians” plot, three women are involved: Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who gradually morphs from the masculine perception of a frigid and unfeeling woman into the heroine; Lambert (Veronica Cartwright), who is just as effective as Ripley by virtue of reverse implication (she goes increasingly to pieces, as Ripley does the opposite); and the alien herself. Creed identifies four scenes that she describes as “birthing scenes”.[37] These will be discussed first, followed by discussions of the role of music’s representation in other scenes that exhibit monstrous-feminine characteristics such as during interactions with MU/TH/UR, and finally in Ripley’s encounter with the alien.

Birthing Scene 1

The plot reveals many occurences of the monstrous-feminine, some more overt than others. The USS Nostromo is an ore refinery, viewed first from the outside (after the initial opening shots of its surrounding galaxy) before a lengthy (in filmic terms) panning through the deserted crew area, finally settling on the crew’s hypersleep chamber. These two shots, outside and inside, give relative location, homing in on the maternal, womb-like cocoon in which the crew are almost gestated until needed. In musical silence, the camera focuses on a helmet visor as MU/TH/UR (the ship’s computer) initiates the computer boot sequence in preparation for the waking of the crew. This is a good point to begin an exploration of the music used to underscore the first example of monstrous-feminine traits in the narrative.

MU/TH/UR is responsible for the life-support system, with the crew’s hypersleep chamber presenting as a sterile, birthing environment, with hospital white lighting. The crew wear white loin cloths (a metaphor for nappies) in a scene described by Roz Kaveney as being designed to show “how vulnerable sleepers are, how vulnerable and how innocent”.[38] Scott wanted them to be naked, but was advised that this was inappropriate for mainstream Hollywood.[39]

The computer boot is suddenly reflected in the helmet visor and is recorded at sufficient volume to intentionally startle. There is an array of disparate, but identifiable “electronic” sounds: in order, glass, wood, screeching, and metal on metal effects. The rhythm of each sound is definite, controlled, and pitched at approximately either C’ or G. The glass sounds act as a pedal note, their altering envelope effecting a subtle change to allow for the registering of emotional impact. As yet unbeknown, the computer bleeps are a leitmotiv for MU/TH/UR.[40] William Whittingham described all these sounds as being indicative of an “anthropomorphic organism”, in which the ship is somehow considered to be an “organic-technological construction”. This, Whittingham argued, encourages us to emotionally invest in the Nostromo’s fate and, by extension, the fate of her crew, because these sounds are recognisable as being associated with life.[41] The implication, appreciable only with hindsight, is that the crew are dependent upon the ship’s life-support system. Importantly, all these sfx are mutually complementary with Goldsmith’s score, and form part of a complex soundscape of sonic codifiers that have already been communicated wordlessly.

Kristopher Spencer described the score for Alien as being “by turns gorgeous, gripping, and sinister … [with] the four-note ‘time’ motif suggest[ive of] the deep, lonely reaches of outer space”,[42] Although it occurs chronologically earlier in the narrative, I believe that using it at the start of Birthing Scene reveals its true purpose in the score, a purpose that is directly relevent to the representation of the monstrous-feminine, both in this scene, and later.

Figure 9: Alien, at 12”

Whilst there is no doubting the veracity of Spencer’s analysis, the opening (in which elements of the time motif central to Birthing Scene 1 first occur) does more than just sonically represent the loneliness of outer space. If we return to Treitler’s “feminine” musical codings – in particular, “softness”, and “grace” – and consider that his “masculine” characteristics – “system”, “strength”, and “vigour” – are notable in this section through their absence, then there exists a cue able to be considered as musically representative of the “feminine”. A list of its characteristics illustrated in Figure 10 – “soft”, pastoral flute sound (dynamic and timbral), irregular rhythmic interjections (lack of “system”), no real rhythmic drive (lack of “vigour”), sustained pitch sfx (whale noise) combined with pitch bend (lack of “clarity”), together with the Goldsmith Interval Pattern of the time motif itself (C–B♭–C–G) produces a soundscape composed almost exclusively of “feminine” codings.

Retaining this thought as the scene progresses, there is a growing awareness, especially when theNostromo is first sighted (and heralded by the time motif), and the soundscape becomes more animated with the introduction of legato strings and all manner of hums, reverbs, and knockings, that there is an awakening in progress. The crucial question, asked in part by the sonic codings, is just what exactly is waking up?

The black-out in the corridor contributes to the re-birthing ethos, involving us emotionally in a literal and metaphorical “turning on of the lights”. As the door opens remotely, the camera pans into the hypersleep chamber, and the birth begins, both visually and sonically. Flutes and piccolos are prominent in the mix, repeating a variation of the time motif, involving the oscillation between two repeated pitches, one of Goldsmith’s main compositional characteristics. These timbres, in successively rising registers, suggest a celestial or numinous involvement (but still pastoral and “feminine” overall); all of this is happening seemingly without human intervention. The thematic construction of the score has its origins in the word-painting of, for example, the Renaissance madrigal, where key words indicating the numinous were set to such ascending figures. The score remains calm and non-threatening at this point, with a middle-register string pedal, rising every eight beats or so by one semitone. This coding for “something nasty is about to happen” is veiled, subtle, and arguably “feminine”, lacking the sonic code of regular rhythm. Ever-widening intervals sustain this sinister atmosphere as the rhythmic lengths shorten from triplets to semiquavers to increase the uncertain nature of the tension as the vertical door opens into the darkened capsule. The triplet figure is wet, leading to the start of the re-birth proper, as the hypersleep pods open gradually. This is no ordinary “birth”, but a sanitised, utopian, pain-free, re-entry to the world far removed from Kristeva’s notion of abjection; even the mother is a machine. In returning the time motif from the opening 12”, Goldsmith’s score continues the association with the atemporal, and distant, which, in turn, contributes to the overall feeling of surrealism.

Figure 10: Alien, at 4’28”

The tonality here is minor at first, with scales of D♭ minor played by the strings using irregular bowing and col legno. As the pods open fully, there is a shift to D major, the first real statement of a definite major (indicative of triumph at this point), and a return to the mp string and woodwind texture as Kane (John Hurt) becomes the first crew member to wake up.

Figure 11: Alien, at 5’15”

The more biting timbre of the oboe joins the texture with a figure in thirds, working antiphonally in the “melodic” part with flutes, who continue with intervallic dissonance, rising first by two fourths (C–F♯ and F♯—B), and then falling a semitone to B♭. As previously mentioned, this falling semitone diffuses and weakens; additionally, the flute connotes infinity, and isolation, and the oboe, a sense of otherness, developed from Western musical associations with music of the Middle East, and its use of theMizmar.[43] A tertiary chord progression moves from D–B♭–G♭, similarly to Total Recall (see Figure 4 above). Arguably, the spelling of this harmony is also significant to the “feminine”. Aside from being a departure from the emphatic tonic/dominant harmony often present in film scores to represent a powerful, and “strong” action moment, its use of the 6/4 chord, traditionally a weaker-sounding chord in the harmony of Palestrina and Bach, results in the lack of a “clear”, founding bass for the listener, thus adding its effect to the overall atmosphere of “daunting mildness”.[44]

Birthing Scene 2

The second Birth scene occurs during the investigation on the unknown planetoid (22’55”). The sequence begins with the crew, led by Kane, moving amidst cavern-like rocks in fog, lit in dark blue by a hazy moon. Curiously, given that the action is set in outer space, this is claustrophobic, rather than nebulous.

Figure 12: Alien, at 23’05”

The time motif mentioned above continues to be crucial, with Goldsmith giving the sparse, almost unmetred texture room to resonate in the narrative space. The motif is reduced to the first two notes (the familiar “sighing figure”), augmented by a single note (C) at the beginning of the phrase, sounded by the tubular bells, as a type of “death knell” effect. Goldsmith used this effect before in The Satan Bug, and it is as menacing in this context. The accompaniment has developed a little too: the whale noise andcol legno strings remain as a drone, with the additional of the “scuba-diving” breathing of the crew in their space suits. This sfx is dichotomous; it creates a humanising effect, indicating the presence of beings who need air to survive, but, the sound alone also codifies evil intent, as it is almost impossible not to think of the character of Darth Vader, introduced to audiences two years earlier in Star Wars. In contrast to Birthing Scene 1, there is quite a pronounced bass, falling a perfect fourth, and recorded with delay to create a pulsating sensation. As the crew move through what appears to be the ridged insides of a creature, Figure 11 is used with a drone bass. As this is the material used during the build-up to the opening of the hypersleep pods, the association is obvious, at least sonically.

The Time motif, still accompanied by the col legno strings, whale noise, and the scuba breathing, and without rhythmic interest, recurs just before the camera focuses on Kane’s face. The only change is that the motif is now extended to include chromatic intervals, as the crew sight a fossilised alien, clearly with a head, and humanoid skeleton, but with its spine running down the front of its body.

As Kane descends (29’49”) and follows the length of the spine, rife with sperm-like imagery, the soundtrack emphasises the first beat, with the quavers at the end of the bar played in octaves. The brittle timbre of the piano joins in, accompanied by reverb bass notes. The registers are balanced by a string bass “countermelody” that rises chromatically (for example, A♭–A–B♭). Once again, there is an absence of masculine codings.

Example 13c.png

Figure 13: Alien, at 30’14”

The sparse, non-threatening texture causes a gradually increasing tension until Kane asks “What the hell is this?” when the strings and flute ascend chromatically, reaching a high, sustained E♭. Cellos and lower brass join with the falling tone, and occurrences of this combined idea are repeated more insistently. Goldsmith could have scored this scene as an accumulation of “musical danger” codes such as increasing tempi, or short ostinati, as Kane progressed on his journey. Instead, he maintained his use of what Larsen describes as “very soft, plaintive motifs… emphasising a conventional orchestra to achieve very weird sounds”.[45]

As Kane happens upon giant “egg” structures, one of which is shown as opaque, but clearly containing a pulsating embryo, the hypersleep music returns, and the score gradually fades to silence, via a cello pedal on E♭ as the “egg” opens to reveal a flower-shaped “mouth” with clear teeth, a clear metaphor for the vagina dentata referred to above. The alien “embryo” leaps up unexpectedly, and clings to Kane’s helmet, thus infecting him. Here is the first suggestion that these two musical figures, both bearing the codes of “feminine” music, have a much greater representational role than first thought, that of an association with the alien herself.

Birthing Scene 3

The scene begins at 53’04” when Kane starts to choke during dinner, and a distinctly phallic, baby alien emerges from his stomach. The “underscore” is ambient noise only, and linked with two sfx: the scream of the alien, and a heartbeat. Whittington described the scream as “a complex mix of human, machine and animal noises that are processed through filters and pitch shifted to create a shrill noise”.[46] It is quite blood-curdling, and also the literal embodiment of the monstrous-feminine. Additionally, there are the diegetic sounds of Kane himself (and the associated panic of the crew) as he first chokes, then screams in his own right (more in the tenor register), together with assorted gasps from the crew. Indeed, the scene is almost unprecedented in horror as “the monstrous creature is constructed as the phallus of the negative mother”,[47] and “the layers [of sound] fuse to establish the link between machine and organism”. Arguably, although this pivotal scene has musical silence, in selecting his material carefully to represent the “feminine” in what has gone before, Goldsmith ensured that such a lack of strength and vigour contributed to setting the effect of the monstrous-feminine when it was finally revealed in its complete abjection.

Birthing Scene 4

The alien systematically kills all the other crew members except Ripley, who eventually escapes theNostromo in the escape shuttle, initially attached to the mother ship by umbilicals, thus connoting imagery of the dying mother saving the living infant (1.39’55”). The underscore remains sparse, with one significant cue that typifies Philip Hayward’s description of the music of Alien as producing “music that included shrill, processed treble sounds and percussion effects blended in with atmospheric score, blurring the lines between music, sound effect and diegetic noise”.[48] As Ripley sits back in the escape shuttle, watching the destruction of the Nostromo, she breathes a sigh of relief and says “I got you, you son of a bitch.” Ripley’s isolation is connoted by the solo flute arpeggio figure that ascends over an octave register, up to a major ninth (D♭–A♭–E♭–D♭’), thus beginning a series of entries that continue with the ascending motion “into the Heavens”, but with increasing dissonance – final evidence ofCarmen’s dissonant other. Rhythmically, there is little movement; even Ripley’s escape from theNostromo was not underscored with any “action-type” ostinati, or pulsing bass ideas, for example; the sfx were allowed to speak for themselves. Consequently, any agitation occuring from watching this scene is created without musical intervention (no pulse-racing beats, etc). When the musical cue begins, it is composed from unmistakably feminine codings, with only the dissonance providing a musical hint that Ripley’s relief that the perpetrator of the monstrous-feminine has been eliminated is to be short-lived.

The Interaction with MU/TH/UR

As the crew eat their first meal since hypersleep, the alarm sounds to indicate that MU/TH/UR is communicating, and Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) responds. As he moves to the pod, the engine throb pulsing on Ab is in the foreground of the soundscape. He pushes the illuminated entry button (pitch C); although this has a much fuller envelope than the previous bleeps, it still maintains the electronic, background ambience. There are other, precisely recorded sounds as Dallas completes other procedures; all much louder and clearer than they would be in real life. This is true of any filmic sound effects, but their individual positioning and clarity inhibits any sense of normality that such sounds would generate in real life; they are coding “otherness.” As yet, there is no hint of the monstrous-feminine in the narrative. When Dallas enters the pod, which is warm and cream-coloured in contrast to the industrial grey outside, a relentless hum begins. The computer centre is a clear metaphor for the uterus; its user is cocooned away from the world. Interestingly, it is the pitch of all this humming that has significance. Centring around F, the timbre becomes a fog-horn type sound, with increasing pitch bend that causes a rocking from F, down one semitone to E and returning, mirroring Goldsmith’s score in places. Higher octaves are added with more brittle timbres as MU/TH/UR and Dallas begin their dialogue. The keyboard has a whistle tone with pitch synchronisation, still using F–G. Even the sound of the graphic appearing on MU/TH/UR’s interface is represented by the sound of crickets – in a glissando from F–F’. Dallas talks to MU/TH/UR and bids her “morning” (a further dichotomous coding: nowadays, those who talk to machines are considered to be slightly eccentric; however, in 1979 it would not be immediately obvious that MU/TH/UR is voice-activated). The pitch increases by one tone to G’ for MU/TH/UR’s reply. Significantly, the pitches of Dallas’ keyboard have a more brittle timbre and are one octave higher than MU/TH/UR – she is in control, whereas Dallas and the ship are presented sonically as her more nervous subordinates. The hum of the pod develops into an ostinato with a discernable rhythm (F–E–E♭) and is broken abruptly by a cut to the inside of the transit vehicle. From a thematic point of view, the pitches used in this sequence, although significantly different in their timbres, bear a close resemblance to the intervals used in the underscore to the birthing scenes; there is a clear connection for the listener (via the intervallic relationships) between the overt monstrous-feminine of these scenes and the veiled, but sinister motherly interaction in them.

Ripley’s encounter with the alien

This cue refers to the second section of music, after Birthing Scene 4 above, when Ripley finds the alien in the escape shuttle. Ripley is presented as vulnerable, having stripped to her underwear in preparation for hypersleep. Her situation automatically engenders self-consciousness (in addition to the more cynical view for the inclusion of Weaver in this state). As she switches apparatus off, an alien claw appears. Although the alien is now a separate being, independent from its mother, Goldsmith reuses some musical elements from the birthing scenes in this section, combined with some new ideas.

Figure 14: Alien, at 1.42’26”

The sfx are still “tuned” to the oscillating semitone (E♭–F), creating dissonance with the ambient hum (E and E♭) that stops as the alien attempts to strike Ripley with its hand. The whip sound has a short attack and decay, with a strong rush of air, and a “rattle-snake” effect afterwards, in keeping with a strike upon a taut object; a tactile anaphone sfx immediately identifiable with pain. Ripley’s scream has also been manipulated to the tuning, and naturally rises at its end to convey shock and panic. It also heralds the start of one of the few displays of overt musical aggression allowed by Goldsmith in the score. Low strings accent pulses on the beat, with brass timbres augmenting these forces on beat four of the first bar and beat two of the second. This use of weak beats has an unsettling effect, increased by the trumpet flutter tonguing (with F as its tonal centre, maintaining the semitone movement). The tubular bell “death knell” idea that is first heard in Birthing Scene 2, when Kane began his exploration. Ripley’s arrival at the rack of spacesuits is synchronised with a single pulse of timpani and lower strings. Timpani are used sparingly by Goldsmith only when sudden narrative emphasis is needed, as here where they are the orchestral equivalent of someone shouting “Boo!”. As Ripley hides amongst the spacesuits, a rising, chromatic scale slows down the pace, and connotes her obvious terror. There are more “masculine” codings in this cue that are suggestive of strength and power, but they are manifest within the confines of the semitonal ideas so dominant in the Birthing Scenes. With this, Goldsmith’s music retains a connection to the representation of the monstrous-feminine heard earlier.

Sfx first heard in the opening scene return as Ripley climbs into a space suit. Isolated musical interjections – opening sfx, short rhythmic units of brittle, percussive timbres, string trills, bass pulses, and glissandi – alternate with the vague sounds of the alien gurgling and breathing as Ripley “prepares to meet thy alien”. With this block texturing, using the strobe light ticking as an ostinato throughout, Goldsmith has aurally represented the “it’s behind you” effect convincingly. As Ripley destroys the alien with a steam jet, the alien screams, it has to be said, “like a girl”, high-pitched and melodramatically ear-piercing – her gender is confirmed beyond doubt. With the alien still clinging to the open door of the ship for dear life, Ripley, by now talking to herself, finishes the alien off with a harpoon to the chest. Only then does the underscore change from the impressionistic understatement of all of the monstrous-feminine scenes to Romantic writing reminiscent of Mahler and R. Strauss, with its long-breathed string melodies and major tonality, as Ripley files her final report before hypersleep and the journey home.


Investigating the monstrous-feminine, and then the effect of Goldsmith’s music in communicating it effectively, requires a number of “leaps of faith” on the part of the reader. As indicated in the introduction to this paper, the presence of the concept of the monstrous-feminine is potentially contentious; does a specific narrative consciously use the concept? Or is it a sub-conscious occurrence on the part of the screenwriter or director? Is a female monster automatically rooted in the tenets of the concept of the monstrous-feminine? Ensuring that both the concept of the monstrous-feminine, and the appropriately gendered physical presence, resulted in some careful scene choices, with Alien arguably providing the clearest example.

As my investigations show, Goldsmith has adapted some of his recurring compositional characteristics to comply with some of the conventions of the music of the siren and the muse as detailed by Kalinak. These include: dissonant intervals such as augmented fourths, and particularly semitones/tones relying on the “sighing figure” to weaken or soften effect, to suggest “otherness” in female-specific situations; an absence of rhythmic clarity and beat in contrast to his scoring for action scenes that rely heavily upon ostinati and Stravinskian accents; timbres that are sonically less harsh and brittle, using mostly flutes and strings, with the occasional oboe; sustained string pedal notes in lengthy sections, often rising chromatically, but with a slow rate of harmonic change; chord progressions that are smooth, often using tertiary modulations to imply a non-diatonic harmonic scheme without it existing in the whole; writing that generally indicates either lush (in the case of tremolo strings) or non-abrasive (woodwind) tactile anaphones, suggestive of the softness and warmth of the maternal, accompanied by the dissonance or chromaticism that connotes “otherness” to a Western audience, with the whole based around a tendency to work around “unsingable” thematic material.

My belief is that Goldsmith has used all of these elements to underscore those scenes that feature the monstrous-feminine concept, providing solid musical foundations to represent and express the alien concept of abjection. In so doing, Goldsmith has complemented the communication of the concept effectively, but in a more impressionistic, subtle, and cerebral way than perhaps we are used to with other film composers of his generation.



[1] Conrad, J. (1973) Heart of Darkness. London, pp.48–49.

[2] Goldsmith, J. (c. 1995) Film Music Masters, interview [Online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 September 2010].

[3] Born, G. and Hesmondhalgh, D. (2000) Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music. Berkeley.

[4] Cohen, A. J. (1998) The Functions of Music in Multimedia. In Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Music Perception Cognition. Seoul, pp. 13–20.

[5] Chion, M. (1994) Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen. Translated by Claudia Gorbman. New York, p.5.

[6] Cohen, The Functions of Music in Multimedia, p.15.

[7] Ibid.16.

[8] McClary, S. (1991) Feminine Endings: Music, Gender and Sexuality. Minneapolis, p.57.

[9] Wood, E. (1994) Sapphonics. In P. Brett, E. Wood and G. Thomas, eds. Queering the Pitch. New York, p.27.

[10] Gorbman, C. (1987) Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music. Bloomington, p.80.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kalinak, K. (1982) The Fallen Woman and the Virtuous Wife; Musical Stereotypes in The InformerGone with the Wind, andLauraFilm Reader, 5, pp.76–82.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Laing, H. (2007) The Gendered Score: Music in 1940s Melodrama and the Woman’s Film. Aldershot, p.1.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid., p. 11.

[17] Treitler, L. (1993) Gender and Other Dualities of Music History. In R. Solie, ed. Musicology and Difference: Gender and Sexuality in Music Scholarship. Berkeley, p.27.

[18] All the musical examples in this article are my own transcriptions from the DVD. They are intended to give the reader a flavour of the music under discussion.

[19] The Goldsmith Interval Pattern is a characteristic intervallic construction found throughout Goldsmith’s science fiction film scores consisting of a tone/semitone, followed by a larger interval, most often a perfect fourth.

[20] Green, L. (1997) Music, Gender and Education. Cambridge, p.1.

[21] Campion, T. (1997) Observations of the Art of English Poesie (1602), cited in Green, Music, Gender and Education, p.1.

[22] Green, Music, Gender and Education, p.2.

[23] Creed, B. (1989) Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection. In J. Donald, ed.Fantasy and the Cinema. London, p.63.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Stilwell, R. J. (2001) Subjectivity, Gender and the Cinematic Soundscape. In K. J. Donnelly, ed.Film Music: Critical Approaches. New York, p.170.

[26] Hitchcock, A. (1960) Psycho, Paramount Pictures.

[27] The vagina dentata is a mythical tale told as a caution against rape or sex with an unknown woman. See Neumann, E. (1955) The Great Mother. Princeton, p.168 ff.

[28] Kristeva, J. (1982) Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York, p.4.

[29] Creed, Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine, p.63.

[30] Kristeva, Powers of Horror, p.2.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Conrad, Heart of Darkness, pp.48–49.

[33] Slobin, M. (1993) Subcultural Sounds: Micromusics of the West. Hanover, NH, p.87. Code-layering occurs when small musical units, most representative of otherness (according to Slobin) occur in groups within a larger musical texture.

[34] Kalinak, K. (1992) Settling the Score: Music and Classical Hollywood Film. Madison, p.120.

[35] Ibid., p.14.

[36] Creed, B. (1993) The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Femininism, Psychoanalysis. London, p.128.

[37] Creed, Horror and the Monstrous-Feminine, 63–89, 73, 74, and 75 respectively.

[38] Kaveney, R. (2005) From Alien to the Matrix: Reading Science Fiction Film. London, p.133.

[39] Kaveney cites this fact in her footnote, but gives no bibliographic information.

[40] So called from its computer designation as stated in the film, MU/TH/UR 6000.

[41] Whittington, W. (2007) Sound Design and Science Fiction<>. Austin, p.157.

[42] Spencer, K. (2008) Film and Television Scores, 1950–1970: A Critical Survey. Jefferson, p.183.

[43] A double-reed instrument found in Arabic music.

[44] Le Carre, J. (1983) The Little Drummer Girl. London, p.66. Within the context of the narrative, Charlie, the main protagonist, thus describes a suspiciously quiet, but nonetheless menacing, Mossad agent.

[45] Larson, R. D. (1985) Musique Fantastique: A Survey of Film Music in the Fantastic Cinema. London, p.260.

[46] Whittington, Sound Design and Science Fiction, p.158.

[47] Creed, Alien and the Monstrous-Feminine, p.139.

[48] Hayward, P., ed. (2004) Off the Planet. Eastleigh, p.22.

About the Author:

Dr Elizabeth Fairweather is a musicologist with a strong interest in the music of science-fiction film. Fairweather holds a PhD from the University of Huddersfield and is a part-time teacher in the department of music. She has written on soundscapes in Sci-Fi films and the representation of “otherness”, as well as the meaning that emerges from repetition and how sound, emotion and image become composited. Fairweather specialises in writing about the film scores of Jerry Goldsmith, and is hoping to complete his biography to be published in 2016 by Pendragon Press. She has an additional interest in Soviet Cinema, especially the work of Andrei Tarkovsky, and is working on several collaborative projects regarding his use of music in film.