The Pastorale and the Dystopian Future of “Soylent Green”

Here’s a performance of pages 12 and 13 of my ‘Ukulele transcription of Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony:

Beethoven’s “Pastorale”-“Lucky” Page 13!

When most people think of Beethoven’s Sixth symphony being used in a film, they probably think of Disney’s Fantasia, which includes abbreviated versions of all five movements of the work as a soundtrack for animation of magical creatures inspired by Ancient Greece. I’ll talk about this more in a future post. (In fact, when this project is in its final stages I’m considering creating a video where I replace the original soundtrack with my ‘Ukulele version!)

For me, though, Fantasia is not the first movie that comes to mind when I hear the Pastorale. Instead, it’s Soylent Green, a 1973 movie set in the dystopian future of 2022. The oceans are dead. The greenhouse effect is making the world unlivable. There is a shortage of good food, clean water, and affordable housing. As part of an government-sponsored assisted-suicide procedure, the character Sol (played by Edward G. Robinson in the final role of his life) is shown a montage of scenes of natural beauty from a world that doesn’t exist anymore. The first piece of music accompanying these nature scenes is none other than the first movement of Beethoven’s Pastorale!

Sol and Thorn (Edward G. Robinson and Charlton Heston) react to scenes from a world that once was in Soylent Green. Soundtrack courtesy of Ludwig van Beethoven and the Pastorale Symphony!

I first saw Soylent Green on television a few years after its theatrical release. By the time I saw it I was already familiar with Beethoven’s Pastorale and a few of the other pieces of music included in the montage. However, I can imagine someone who had never heard the symphony getting hooked right away and seeking the music out just because of this scene.

We are living in 2019 right now, so are very close to the year depicted in Soylent Green. How close is Soylent Green’s 2022 to our current reality? Those of you who have seen the movie might pardon the puns, but it’s something to chew on. Food for thought 🙂

Thanks you for joining me on this adventure! Get in touch if you have any comments, questions, or just to say hi!

All the best to you!


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