Space Music: 'The Petrified Forest'


'The Petrified Forest' Biopshere
'The Petrified Forest' Biopshere

It's been a while since I've shared any space music, but I've been enjoying this particular release far too much to leave it alone. It's the work of ambient mainstay Biosphere and he's built it entirely around samples from the 1936 noir drama "The Petrified Forest."

As with the rest of Biosphere's discography, familiarity with the sample source is hardly required. His 1994 album "Patashnik" (covered here) featured a host of looped samples from a variety of sources, and to great effect. Submerged in such electronic depths, these ghostly utterances take on their on their own meaning and power.

So too does "The Petrified Forest" excel in ignorance of its cinematic precursor. The track "Black Mesa" in particular creates such a hypnotic aura of desolation, desperation and wonder. A woman's voice repeats a the mantra "Here in this desert it's just the same thing over and over again," to which an englishman's voice responds with "Black Mesa..." Movie dialogue takes on the power of call-and-response spiritualism.

It's a fantastic track, but of course that female voice belongs to Bette Davis and the male voice is that of Leslie Howard -- both screen legends of classic Hollywood. Fascinated as I was with the music, I watched the original film over the past week (ironically enough in Arizona). Not everything ages well, "The Petrified Forest" stands up remarkably well in many respects. Davis' Gabrielle ponders the desolation of small town America. Howard's Alan Squier contemplates the chaos of the modern world, set against the backdrop of environmental trauma.

I think all of that resonates in Biosphere's treatment of the film as well. You can pick it up at the Biosphere Bandcamp page, stream it on Spotify or grab it wherever you get your digital music.

Space Music is a continuous exploration of our expanding cosmos of sound, with an emphasis on electronic music. Sample a little of everything from past posts at the Space Music Sampler playlist on Spotify.


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.