AD ASTRA | Max Richter Uses NASA Plasma Wave Data to Score Sci-Fi Drama

Composed in the summer of 2018, Max Richter’s Ad Astra score takes as its inspiration both the psychological dimension of its lead character, astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt), as well as the physical journey he takes across space.

While developing his concept for the score Richter recalled NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Mission, launched in the late 1970s. He took the plasma wave data, detected and transmitted by the Voyager probes as they passed planets in our Solar System, and used this data (via a specifically commissioned virtual instrument) as an element in his writing.  As Roy passes through space we hear probe data from the same locations being applied to the score.

Ad Astra, adds Richter, involves the marriage of music and science – Richter’s compositions lean heavily on his love of mathematics. But they are also characteristically moving. The score employs electronics, strings and vocals to intensify onscreen emotions, to mark transitions between Roy McBride’s inner and outer worlds, and build what Vanity Fair has praised as “a stunning kind of symphony” of sound and cinematic images.

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