Scoring Alien Worlds: World Music Mashups in 21st Century Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV, Film and Video Games


  • Jonathan Stock University College Cork



world music, film, TV, gaming, mashups


This article provides three case studies of the use of world music resources to build alien worlds in mainstream screen media with Sci-Fi or Fantasy settings. The case studies—the TV series Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, the film Avatar and the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) video game World of Warcraft—show how composers and associated music professionals in the early twenty-first century increasingly draw on such sonic materials to generate a rich sense of sonic otherness and note the means they employ to sidestep such music’s existing geographical and cultural references. Each case study explores a contrasting subject position—composer, music consultant and consumer—to better trace not only the creation of such soundtracks but also what senses disparate groups of ordinary listeners subsequently make of them. The examples suggest that outside the sphere of big-budget cinema there is a growing confidence in both the creation and reception of such sonic projections, and that, when sufficiently attracted by what they hear, listeners may actively seek out ways to follow-up on the expressive characterisations put forward in such soundtracks. Three broad types of mashup are uncovered, those that work with world music ingredients by insinuation, integration and creolisation.


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Author Biography

Jonathan Stock, University College Cork

Jonathan P. J. Stock is professor of music at University College Cork, Ireland. An ethnomusicologist with broad research interests, his primary research focus is the transformation of musical traditions in modern or contemporary China and Taiwan. He is interested in developing theoretical approaches for ethnomusicology and exploring its overlaps with related disciplines, including music education, folklore, music analysis and musicology. He is author of several books, the most recent of which is Everyday Musical Life among the Indigenous Bunun, Taiwan (New York: Routledge, 2021), and is currently co-editing two further volumes, The Routledge Companion to Ethics and Research in Ethnomusicology and the Oxford Handbook to Chinese Music. He has previously served as chair of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology, co-editor of the journal Ethnomusicology Forum and executive board member of the International Council for Traditional Music. He is currently reviews editor for the Journal of World Popular Music.



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How to Cite

Stock, J. (2021). Scoring Alien Worlds: World Music Mashups in 21st Century Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV, Film and Video Games. Malaysian Journal of Music, 10(2), 13–28.