Tomorrow’s Halloween, so here’s a spooky and interesting record to fit the mood. The Forbidden Planet OST was composed by Louis & Bebe Barron, the same people credited with being the first American composers of electronic music for magnetic tape (Heavenly Menagerie, 1950). Not only is this thing eerie as hell, it’s also an improvisation with circuit-generated sound, using them to their capacities, burning them out and never being able to recreate the same sounds again. Clever and painstaking editing and mixing got the sounds to their final form, yielding a breakthrough piece of electronic music, or as the Barrons referred to them, “electronic tonalities.” Read more about their process below and check out this week’s in-stock list below that. Happy Halloween!!! -MLE
Louis & Bebe Barron – Forbidden Planet OST LP
Listen: Forbidden Planet OST playlist
“The 1948 book Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, by mathematician Norbert Wiener from MIT played an important role in the development of the Barrons’ composition. The science of cybernetics proposes that certain natural laws of behavior apply to both animals and more complex electronic machines.
By following the equations presented in the book, Louis was able to build electronic circuits which he manipulated to generate sounds. Most of the tonalities were generated with a circuit called a ring modulator. The sounds and patterns that came out of the circuits were unique and unpredictable because they were actually overloading the circuits until they burned out to create the sounds. The Barrons could never recreate the same sounds again, though they later tried very hard to recreate their signature sound from Forbidden Planet. Because of the unforeseen life span of the circuitry, the Barrons made a habit of recording everything.
Most of the production was not scripted or notated in any way. The Barrons didn’t even consider the process as music composition themselves. The circuit generated sound was not treated as notes, but instead as ‘actors’. In future soundtrack composition, each circuit would be manipulated according to actions of the underlying character in the film.
After recording the sounds, the couple manipulated the material by adding effects, such as reverb and tape delay. They also reversed and changed the speed of certain sounds. The mixing of multiple sounds was performed with at least three tape recorders. The outputs of two machines would be manually synchronized, and fed into an input of a third one, recording two separate sources simultaneously. The synchronization of future film work was accomplished by two 16 mm projectors that were tied into a 16 mm tape recorder, and thus ran at the same speed.
While Louis spent most of his time building the circuits and was responsible for all of the recording, Bebe did the composing. She had to sort through many hours of tape. As she said, “it just sounded like dirty noise”. Over time, she developed the ability to determine which sounds could become something of interest. They may also have invented the tape loop. The tape loop gave the Barrons’ sounds rhythm. They mixed the sounds to create the otherworldly and strange electronic soundscapes required by Forbidden Planet.” -Wikipedia
Not so forbidden fruits – new releases, reissues & restocks…