Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Leon Theremin...and the Theremin
Yesterday marked the passing of Leon Theremin who could be considered the father of electronic music.
"Leon Theremin dies in Moscow. The Russian-born inventor leaves behind a legacy that touches several technical and creative disciplines."
Nov. 3, 1993: Theremin Fades Out
[The above link incorrectly intimates that the soundtrack for MGM's Forbidden Planet was Theremin based. That is incorrect.
The movie's innovative electronic music score (credited as "electronic tonalities", partly to avoid having to pay movie industry music guild fees) was composed by Louis and Bebe Barron. MGM producer Dore Schary discovered the couple quite by chance at a beatnik nightclub in Greenwich Village while on a family Christmas visit to New York City. Schary hired them on the spot to compose the film music score. The theremin had been used as early as 1945, in Spellbound, but their score is widely credited with being the first completely electronic film score. The soundtrack preceded the Moog synthesizer of 1964 by almost a decade.
Using equations from the 1948 book, Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine by mathematician Norbert Wiener, Louis Barron constructed the electronic circuits which he used to generate the "bleeps, blurps, whirs, whines, throbs, hums and screeches". Most of the tonalities were generated using a circuit called a ring modulator. After recording the base sounds, the Barrons further manipulated the material by adding effects, such as reverberation and delay, and reversing or changing the speed of certain sounds.
As Louis and Bebe Barron did not belong to the Musicians' Union, their work was not considered for an Academy Award, in either the soundtrack or special effects category. Curiously, MGM avoided producing a soundtrack album when the film was first released. However, film composer-conductor David Rose released a 45-rpm single of his original main title theme, which he had recorded at MGM Studios in Culver City, California in March 1956. This theme had been discarded when Rose, who had originally been contracted to compose the film’s music score in 1955, was discharged between Christmas 1955 and New Year’s by Dore Schary.
The innovative soundtrack was finally released on a vinyl LP album by the Barrons for the film's 20th anniversary in 1976, on their own PLANET Records label (later changed to SMALL PLANET Records and distributed by GNP Crescendo Records) and, later, on a music CD in 1986 for its 30th Anniversary: with a six-page colour booklet containing images from Forbidden Planet plus liner notes from the composers, Louis and Bebe Barron, and Bill Malone. The soundtrack is also available on disc one of the album Forbidden Planet Explored.
The following is a list of compositions on the CD:
1. Main Titles (Overture)
3. Once Around Altair
4. The Landing
5. Flurry Of Dust - A Robot Approaches
6. A Shangri-La In The Desert / Garden With Cuddly Tiger
7. Graveyard - A Night With Two Moons
8. "Robby, Make Me A Gown"
9. An Invisible Monster Approaches
10. Robby Arranges Flowers, Zaps Monkey
11. Love At The Swimming Hole
12. Morbius' Study
13. Ancient Krell Music
14. The Mind Booster - Creation Of Matter
15. Krell Shuttle Ride And Power Station
16. Giant Footprints In The Sand
17. "Nothing Like This Claw Found In Nature!"
18. Robby, The Cook, And 60 Gallons Of Booze
19. Battle With The Invisible Monster
20. "Come Back To Earth With Me"
21. The Monster Pursues - Morbius Is Overcome
22. The Homecoming
23. Overture (Reprise) [this track recorded at Royce Hall, UCLA, 1964]]
Delia Derbyshire--revival for "Doctor Who"