Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Sounds of Space

Forbidden Planet has been called the greatest of the 1950s-era sci-fi movies. By Pauline Kael, no less. It is a sentiment with which I agree. But one of the things I always found most appealing about the movie was the music. The entire soundtrack was created on electronic instruments by married composers Louis and Bebe Barron. It is a masterpiece of bloops, bleeps, and squeals. "We were delighted to hear people tell us that the tonalities in Forbidden Planet remind them of what their dreams sound like," the composers write in the liner notes to the soundtrack.

Sadly, electronic avant-garde music of this sort never really caught on. Mucho props to Scar Stuff, an excellent blog run by a fellow named Jason, for making more space-age sounds from the past available to fans. Check out Music For Robots, a record from 1964 that features electronic soundscapes in the same tradition as Forbidden Planet. The first track is a spoken-word essay about robots. But the second track, Tone Tales from Tomorrow, is the good stuff, the 40-year-old sound of the future. Some days I like to listen to this and the Forbidden Planet soundtrack as I gaze out of the window on the commuter train. It makes the dull and familiar commute feel like a fantastic voyage.

[UPDATE: Check out the real sounds of space here. Some sound remarkably like the sounds of the space-age imagination above, like this one from Saturn's radio emissions.]

[via boingboing]

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