for the week ending may 20, 2006.
stats: a superlative week here at tunequest. 394 songs played over 25 hours and 40 minutes. a further 5 songs were removed from the library for a net progress of 399, a new record. frankly, i'm surprised by the results. an afternoon braves game and a couple of extented meetings cut into my normal office listening time and i didn't really expect saturday's listening to be able to compensate. not that i'm complaining about it. i'm thrilled.
highlights for the week include sharing the chicago symphony's performance of mahler's no 6 with the neighborhood, revisiting some grunge and post-grunge rock from nirvana's bleach and soundgarden's down on the upside, appreciating the smooth grooves of the well-pollished idm of to rococo rot's hotel morgen, getting funky with morton steven's very compelling tv score to hawaii five-o (best tv theme song ever!), and finally finally finally finally getting through all those babylon 5 scores* (it took 7 weeks, but i did it), as well as enjoying a host of other really great music.
also mixed in this week were a couple of james bond scores (john barry's diamonds are forever and david arnold's die another day. both excellent) and william shatner's has been. now don't laugh at this, but that shatner album is some powerful stuff. he's got a very engaging spoken-word delivery as well as some respectable collaborators. the result is 11 songs that pack more heartfelt sentiment than all the songs on top 40 radio in the past 10 years combined. i mean that.
it was also apparently "records that time forgot week" here at tunequest. i only covered 7 albums in that short-lived series, and 3 of them managed to pop up this week: can's ege bamyasi, louis and bebe barron's score to forbidden planet and martin denny's space-exotica extravaganza exotic moog. as soon as i track down that file, i'll post it.
see this week's complete list of albums in the extended entry.
*technically, i have one album left, a compilation called 'the best of babylon 5.' it's currently not eligible for play because the tunequest-ipod is into the I's and it's not smart enough to ignore the "the" at the beginning of album names. artists yes, albums no.
Forbidden Planet is a fantastic film and is available on iTunes.
So I recently listened to Louis and Bebe Barron’s avant garde and experimental score to the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet. This soundtrack was one of the handful of Records That Time Forgot columns that I wrote in a previous life. I reprint it here for your reading enjoyment.
In 1956, science fiction as we know it scarcely existed as a genre. Adventures in space were mostly centered around action and heroics rather than depth, plot or characters. That changed with “Forbidden Planet,” which despite its fantastic setting, gave some credit to the intelligence of its audience. So influential was this film, that programs from “Star Trek” and “Star Wars” to “2001” (and all that has followed them) are in its debt.
Adapted from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” the story concerns Commander John J. Adams’ (Leslie Nielsen) rescue of a doomed colonization vessel bound for Altair-4. He arrives on the planet to find two lone survivors, Dr. Morbius and his daughter, who have mysteriously built a paradise on a barren rock.
It turns out that an ancient powerful race had mastered “mind-over-matter” technology, allowing thoughts to become reality, and Morbius has mastered it as well. Or so he thought. He hadn’t counted on a striking young Commander making his daughter’s acquaintance. Induced by jealousy, the doctor’s uncontrollable id creates an indomitable monster that threatens to destroy them all.
Created by husband-and-wife team Louis and Bebe Barron, the score to "Forbidden Planet" is less music and more sculpted noise, appropriately and perfectly crafted to fit the alien landscape presented in the film. Composed completely by electronic means (using many circuits created by the duo specifically for this project), this soundtrack consists of wails and groans interspersed with beeps, boops, and wobbles, as if a washing machine and a 1950’s flying saucer had a shotgun wedding in Vegas and produced some sort of bastard child.
Forbidden Planet’s “music” goes beyond the traditional role of underscoring the film’s action on screen, creating a sub text for character motivations and off-screen actions. Standing in for the long-dead ancient race, the soundscape becomes a character itself, giving a voice to the beings who live on through their machines, while constantly reminding the viewer of the complete otherworldliness of the situation.
The lack of traditional styling, instrumentation, and structure make the album difficult to listen to, but those same qualities make it perfect to put on and not listen to. In proper settings and situations, the effects produced can become peaceful and serene background noise. Dwell on it too long though, or listen to it in the dark, and the intended creepiness and disturbing inhumanity can summon dark nightmares, providing them with a soundtrack for a total freak-out.
It is fitting that a film that proved to be ground breaking has a soundtrack that is equally so. The experimentation shown here was a great success, especially in regards to modern electronic music, which might not exist had it not been for these pioneers.