Magazine article The Futurist

The Futurist Playlist: The Future Has Been the Subject of Awe, Fear, Hope, Cynicism, and Inspiration, Reflecting Our Changing Relationship with What May Be Ahead

Magazine article The Futurist

The Futurist Playlist: The Future Has Been the Subject of Awe, Fear, Hope, Cynicism, and Inspiration, Reflecting Our Changing Relationship with What May Be Ahead

Article excerpt

Music can express ideas and feelings both through the rhythms, melodies, and harmonies that evoke passions and through the words that distill complex thought into poetry. So we recently asked our Twitter followers to nominate their favorite songs about the future, then added a few of our own to create the official Futurist Playlist. Here is a sample of what we came up with.

* Also Sprach Zarathustra (Adagio, aka the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey). Composed by Richard Strauss in 1896, this theme gave the idea of the future a sense of grandeur in the 1968 Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. At the dawn of the space age, it was time for humanity to look back upon its history and ahead to its potential with equal parts of humility and hope.


* The Times They Are a-Changin', written and performed by Bob Dylan. In this 1964 release, Dylan gave voice to the civil rights and war protest movements of the early 1960s, inspiring all who questioned authority and defied the status quo. The driving force for the changes Dylan described was the younger generation, and the song advises the adults not to stand in their way:

Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

* Future Shock, written and performed by Curtis Mayfield. In 1973, an addition to ongoing concerns about civil rights and war came from the "future shock" of environmental degradation. Mayfield urged us not to "dance" but to take active control:

We got to stop all men
From messing up the land
When won't we understand
This is our last and only chance

* In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus), written by Rick Evans and performed by Denny Zager and Rick Evans. Written in 1964 but not released until 1968, this song judges the very long-term prospects for humankind, as technological tampering begins to cast long shadows across the cultural landscape. "In the year 6565," they warn:

You'll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

* Imagine, written and performed by John Lennon. Throughout history, culture feels the pulse of trends and countertrends, so this playlist reflects both pessimism and optimism. Of the latter sentiment, perhaps the most inspiring example I can imagine is "Imagine," from 1971:

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world ...

* Space Oddity, written and performed by David Bowie. We return to the theme of space exploration as the emblematic destination of the human future. Bowie's recording coincided with the U.S. lunar landing in 1969, but gave it a familiar touch with "Major Tom." Bowie also gave a wink to the celebrity culture surrounding the astronauts of the era:

This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You've really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear

For better or worse, the future now belonged to popular culture.

* Tomorrow (from the musical Annie), music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, performed by Andrea McArdle. An anthem for the hopelessly hopeful, the congenitally uncynical, this scrappy little bit of American inspiration from 1977 was an oasis in the encroaching deserts of globalizing competition.

The sun'll come out
So ya gotta hang on
Til tomorrow
Come what may

* Road to Nowhere, written by David Byrne, performed by Talking Heads. A decade later, and another tick of the psychic metronome, society's cynicism reasserts itself:

They can tell you what to do
But they'll make a fool of you ...
We're on a road to nowhere

* The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades, written by Pat MacDonald, performed by Timbuk 3. …

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