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This could be rather meta question itself, because you can allways say: Public domain. Yes, I am aware, that most of sci-fi movies have to pay intellectual property fees, so having your crew enjoy something what is in Public Domain could be nice workaround.

But still, crew enjoyment of classical music goes Star Trek Beyond (pun intended)

My personal guess is, that 2001: Space oddysey became space meme itself. That movie was first to introduce The Blue Danube song to accompany docking procedure in space

However that barely explains almost all popular works - wide obsession with classical music.

So, is there any other explanation for almost all crew members to enjoy really old music?

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closed as off-topic by StephenG, Ash, Vincent, Anketam, SPavel Jun 11 '18 at 0:30

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "This question does not appear to be about worldbuilding, within the scope defined in the help center." – StephenG, Ash, Anketam
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    $\begingroup$ Your question is about two things ; why sci-fi movies use classical music sometimes and why the characters in them are supposed to like it. Both of these are off-topic for WB. You might try the Scif-fi SE but I suspect it's either too broad or too opinion based for them as well. $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jun 10 '18 at 15:46
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    $\begingroup$ Because classical music is often public domain thus cheap, plus inventing new "future" music is costly and as likely to sound tacky and alienate an audience as it is to add to the atmosphere. People also tend to associate classical music with intellect and class. $\endgroup$ – TCAT117 Jun 10 '18 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ What's not to like about classical music? $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 10 '18 at 15:57
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    $\begingroup$ Why do you think classical music is 'really old'? Lots of new, great orchestral music is being composed today. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 10 '18 at 16:02
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    $\begingroup$ Since classical music was composed centuries ago, and is still being composed today, why won't it be composed in the future also? $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 10 '18 at 17:35
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The old masters spoke to the world

I've never met a musician who didn't appreciate (if not enjoy) classical music. Even punk musicians appreciate classical music. It's layered, addresses emotion, it's BIG. It was an era where a precious handful of people were so honking creative and fabulously capable with the instruments that it produced a sweeping array of sound that affected the entire world.

In all the centuries since, very very few artists have attained either the popularity or the recognizability of the classical masters.

Will everyone on a space ship prefer classical music over, say, classic guitar, Jazz, blues, country, Acid... That's unrealistic.

But if it was the only music available? Some would get bored with it, but honestly, humans get bored all the time. How many of us float through our day permanently wired to our tunes? My own playlist is about 200 songs long and there are days that I'm sick of listening to them.

But, ignoring the question "why couldn't you bring other music along?" (by the time we're sailing through space in elegant starships the Beatles will be in the public domain), why only classical music?

Even at it's most explosive, it's not raucous. You can't really head-bang to the 1812 overture. I mean, you could... There's cannons, after all... but it's just not the same. You can't lose your self control to classical music like you can other genre.

It's rarely played loud. Some people are more interested in the beat than they are the melody. These are the people who, despite their car windows being up, can be heard a mile down the road with enough force to pound nails into the asphalt. I've had days when I turned the volume of classical music up, but to claim that it's loud would be a lie. This is important on a ship where you will meet the same small group of people every morning for breakfast for months if not years.

It's common to us all. Humans tend to find things that divide us ("I'm a little bit country... I'm a little bit rock-and-roll" sang Donny and Marie Osmond). Classical music is such a common part of our shared heritage that it tends to have a binding effect rather than a divisive effect (my perspective). How often do you see biker-vs-cowboy fights in the movies? OK, how often do you see Bach-vs-Mozart fights? You get my point.

And, last but in no way least...

The captain likes classical music. We like to think that the world is a democracy, but starships aren't. ("This isn't a #*@%! democracy!" screams Matthew McConaughey in U-571.) And if the captain loves classical music, then you better keep our ipod full of Reggae and Bubblegum Rock under your pillow.

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    $\begingroup$ Re "It's rarely played loud", it might be more accurate to say that the volume (as recorded) varies a lot more in classical than in most other genres. E.g. the opening of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" will rattle your windows if played at the same volume as the rest. Or Ravel's "Bolero", which goes from nearly inaudible to really loud over the course of the piece. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 10 '18 at 19:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Evpok hardly speaking for all non-western cultures, but gamers familiar with the JRPG genre can attest that some of the best "classical" music produced in recent decades was composed for the soundtracks of games produced in Japan. $\endgroup$ – Morgen Jun 10 '18 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ @Evpok In recent decades, European classical music has been at least somewhat popular in Japan. One common explanation for the size of compact discs was that the wife of Sony’s CEO insisted one disc must be able to hold Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. I’ve heard plenty of classical music—and pop adaptations of it—in animé soundtracks (Neon Genesis Evangelion and Princess Tutu being especially prominent examples), there have been manga about young musicians in conservatories, and I’ve seen many videos of performances in Asia on YouTube. $\endgroup$ – Davislor Jun 10 '18 at 19:21
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No Lyrics

Most other genres of music are based on lyrics. Whether you love or hate the music itself, pop, country, rap, etc. are all dependent on lyrics. Some people like a particular song (or even an entire genre) "despite" the lyrics, but the lyrics can't simply be ignored.

Your starship crew all speaks English professionally, but they come from around the world and in small groups they speak Spanish, Chinese, Swahili or whatever they are most comfortable with. Similarly, they all would prefer to listen to songs with lyrics in their native language. But the ship-wide Muzak system can only play one song at a time - hearing the background music change as you move from one room/deck to another would be incredibly distracting. So the ship system plays classical music - well-known (if not loved) by all, with no lyrics. Lyrics in general are distracting anyway, and the crew needs to focus on their mission. They can, of course, listen to whatever they want on their iPods when off-duty (can't even play out loud in their quarters because the ship is cramped (this isn't Star Trek) so only senior officers have private quarters) but everyone gets used to classical music.

To clarify a little - the playlist need not be exclusively "classical" in the modern European tradition (Bach, Beethoven, etc.) but it would be predominantly classical. If there is popular instrumental from other genres - and particularly from other cultures represented in the crew - then that music could be included as well. But nothing with lyrics, all "real" music, and nothing super-distracting. So if the crew is predominantly 21st century Western (i.e., Europe, USA and similar) then the result is predominantly "classical" music.

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    $\begingroup$ There are quite a few Techno/House "songs" without any vocals, and quite a few with vocals which are not lyrics. There are also "sounds of the rainforest" kind of music which have no lyrics. So the question, out of all the genres without lyrics, why classic? $\endgroup$ – Matthieu M. Jun 10 '18 at 18:24
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    $\begingroup$ There are also Muzak-y versions of pop songs without lyrics, typically with the music itself "softened" a bit, and I might include those along with the classical music. But in general, I think that when most people think of music without lyrics (not the rainforest or waves or other "background noise" but actual music) they think of classical. $\endgroup$ – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Jun 10 '18 at 18:27
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    $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Then, if I were captain (captain sets the playlist), I might include some Celtic music - but only the instrumental variety. While most of the crew would not understand Gaelic vocals, the ones that do would be distracted - last thing you want during docking maneuvers at the Romulan space station for truce talks is the navigator getting distracted by his favorite old Gaelic love song. $\endgroup$ – manassehkatz-Reinstate Monica Jun 10 '18 at 18:54
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    $\begingroup$ I don't prefer to listen to music with English lyrics. $\endgroup$ – theonlygusti Jun 10 '18 at 22:36
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    $\begingroup$ @manassehkatz: Re "old Gaelic love song", that may be why I like it. If I understood the words, a lot of it might be as off-puttingly silly as much pop music. It's much the same with Gregorian chants: if my Latin was good enough to really understand the lyrics, I might be put off (as I'm not Christian). But as it is, I can just enjoy the sound. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 11 '18 at 6:23
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The classical pieces we think of are those which stood the test of time. There were many more compositions during the era, rightly or wrongly condemned to dusty archives or not even surviving to this day. A realistic assumption would be that a few 20th or 21st century pieces will join the canon of the classics, as a 25th century listener would know them.

But which ones? The Beatles? Michael Jackson? Elvis Presley?

And note that I just mentioned performers. Take a black and white TV recording of the King, have an AI color it, extrapolate to a high-resolution 3D hologram with decent sound, and what do you get? Pixeled artifacts and flat sound. Would having someone else perform Elvis' songs for modern recording devices (or a computer simulation) be the same?

By contrast, Beethoven's symphonies were always supposed to be played by an orchestra, so it is no cheating to get modern conductors and orchestras.

Consider 500-year-old plays which are still performed to large audiences, and 100-year-old movies which have become a niche interest.

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Royalty-free.

In the future, there are no ads, and no-one can purchase creative works. It is all pay-per-use. Persons on starships who listen to music (or are within the broadcast area) must pay royalties each time for anything recorded after 1901. These add up. Classical music is royalty free and so to avoid having the royalties garnished from their wage.

The lack of royalty payments for old music also explains why classical music is popular for TV and movie fiction.

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The crew of the Starship Exciting Undertaking view music as another form of mental exercise. Mental cataloguing of parts, memory exercises on certain bars and musical signatures, deductive reasoning for predicting the next part of the piece, all are valuable mental activities to help hone the mind.

Now, I’m not saying certain forms of popular music are simplistic and derivative, but you just can’t get the same mental workout from two guitars, a bass guitar, drums and vocals arranged in verse-chorus-verse-bridge-chorus as you can running through Kivlork’s ninth symphony for full orchestra, Murblorpian harp ensemble and assorted triangles.

And so everyone on a starship listens to complex, deep, layered (typically classical) music.

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Classical music is easy to refer to. It's part of our cultural roots. It is universal, majestic, involving, wherever you go. I never liked it when I was a kid, but after loving a cover of the 'Royal Fireworks' for a hair dryer spot, I fell in love with the original piece and JOY! My brother had the vinyl disc! And after that, I discovered a world of very interesting pieces.

Classical music was written to narrate stories, orchestras were theatrical stages for private and public performances back when there was no recording instrument. it survived because it left a print in our society for centuries. Let's face it: pop music would sound really silly in a sci-fi movie or TV show -with a few exception of course, like "Hooked on a Feeling" and other pop pieces used in "Guardians of the Galaxy", for example. But in such cases you must build a character or a story fit for that moment.

With classical music, you can have something you understand, something that can be thoughtful, or epic, light up your imagination. That is why, even in movie soundtracks, like for "Star Wars", you must go to that level. The first time, the very first time I listened to that intro, the music seemed to explode from the screen. On the other hand, the opening for Disney's "Robin Hood" was cute but nothing that would survive the test of time

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Common conception is that Classical music is appreciated by intelligent and cultured people. Crew of a starship would be intelligent and many are also casted as cultured, self controlled and disciplined. While the above are also true I think it helps create the impression of the intelligence etc of the crew members. Quite different if they were cranking deathmetal.

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