2011 June 27 • Monday
The 171st Soundtrack of the Week is Bernard Herrmann's sci-fi masterpiece, The Day the Earth Stood Still.
This 1951 score still sounds more avantgarde to my ears than most avantgarde music I've heard. I'm no expert but much of it seems to anticipate the work of famous minimalist composers. If Herrmann had written "Radar" for the concert hall, given it some abstruse title and added enough repeat signs to make it a couple of hours long, he probably would have been the toast of the town.
This CD of the original recording, not to be confused with the stereo re-recording conducted by Joel McNeely (also worth having), begins with the most heard piece of film music ever, Alfred Newman's "Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare".
Then it's the triple threat of "Prelude/Outer Space/Radar", which immediately startles the ear with Herrmann's unique instrumentation. The orchestra included two theremins (one high, one low), electric violin, electric cello, electric bass, four pianos, four harps, three organs (two of them Hammonds), vibraphones, glockenspiels, and a large brass section. (Herrmann further enhanced the music by having some tracks played backwards and, as his biographer Steven C. Smith put it, "completing the otherworldly din with the process of oscillator testing, usually used to set studio sound levels".)
Another stand out is "Klaatu", a brilliantly ethereal "space music" cue. (Herrmann would expand on this years later in his "Outer Space Suit", music that he created for CBS Television. You can he