Planet (1956) was what what Future Past was supposed to sound
like. From it's first
electronic growl Forbidden Planet made it clear that this
was not a film scored with brass and woodwind, but with electrons and
transistors. Instead of a melody there were hums and instead of
notes there were pips, whines, and growls. It was so out of this
world that you couldn't tell where the film score ended and the sound
It was geek heaven.
The, for want of a better word, "composers" of the Forbidden Planet
score were the husband and wife team of Louis and Bebe Barron.
In 1948, Louis Barron had read Norbert Wiener's pioneering work
Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the
Machine; a pioneering work on computers that discussed the role of
feedback in machines and animals and he hit on the idea of using
Wiener's equations as the basis for building electronic circuitry to
generate sounds. These Bebe would record on tape and then
splice together to create completed pieces of music-- which was a
good thing, as the results of Louis tinkering were so
unpredictable that they often couldn't be duplicated. Because of
this, the Barron's had only limited control over what were less
compositions than performances with the circuits less instruments than
(in the words of the Barrons) "actors."
The Barrons became part of the New York avant garde music scene and in
1956 MGM asked them to create twenty minutes of sound effects for
Forbidden Planet. This brief was soon expanded until the
Barrons were not only doing the effects, but the entire musical score
The results were such that at the film preview the audience burst out
in applause at the spectacular landing of the space cruiser C-57D on
the surface of Altair IV and the score was received warmly by the
critics. Over at the American Federation of Musicians, however,
the temperature was like a meat locker and the union was so up in arms over the
threat of mechanised music that the Barrons were denied a music credit
for the film (this changed to "electronic tonalities") as well as an
Academy Award nomination.
First they stiff Robby the Robot for best supporting actor and now
this. There's no justice.