Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
rob + = email

2023 July 10 • Monday

The 786th Soundtrack of the Week is the third we know of that claims to be "the first completely electronically scored motion picture": Mort Garson's Didn't You Hear?.

So which one was really first? It has to be Forbidden Planet but Gil Mellé rejects that because it wasn't really "scored". That is, the composers didn't think of the sounds they wanted to hear and then produce them, they produced a bunch of sounds and said, here, use these in the movie. Whereas Mellé took the more traditional compositional approach to scoreing The Andromeda Strain, which is why he claims it's the first true all-electronic film "score".

The problem with that is that it denies spontaneous composition. If Forbidden Planet doesn't count as an electronic score because the music wasn't thought of and written out first, then that probably means that Anton Karas's music for The Third Man shouldn't count as the world's only completely solo zither score for a movie, for the same reason.

And now there's Didn't You Hear, which is from 1970, while The Andromeda Strain is from 1971. We're going to leave it at that. We don't really care which one came first but it has to be Forbidden Planet.

The main title for Didn't You Hear? would be a straightforward kind of sappy/poppy song if it weren't for the otherworldly sonorities of Garson's electronic music, which sounds like what a hippy Raymond Scott might have got up to.

The second track, "No Smoking", is more in line with less commercial electronic composition, a weaving, woozy, windy piece of electronica that sounds very sci-fi. It starts out smooth and then shifts abruptly to staccato and noisy.

Then there are "Dream Sequence I" and "Dream Sequence II". The first one begins with what sounds like an analog synthesizer imitating what a harp might conventionally play to suggest falling asleep and dreaming but almost immediately swerves into a tense and aggravated pulsating electro-prog groove before changing again into a brief cloud of texture. The second part is calmer and more spacious, suggesting cloudy feelings and milder anxiety.

"Kevin's Theme" has a descending ostinato line with a delicate melody played on top, actually pretty but also with an undercurrent of unease.

Then it's time for "Sail! Sail!", which is part electronic freak out and part Raymond Scott-ish melodious mood.

The A side wraps up with "Kevin and Paige", another sci-fi sounding cue that has a mysterious and lonely quality to it.

The B side opens with "Bamboo City", which begins with some Doctor Who-ish low tones before jumping into a brisk, percussive section that suggests considerable urgency.

"Walk to Grange Hall" is actually a light, relaxed, sunny-sounding piece that starts spacious before becoming a kind of happy, peppy, poppy sort of number. It also goes back and forth between 4/4 and 3/4. This is maybe Mort Garson channeling Burt Bacharach.

A more pensive, thoughtful mood is established in "Virgil's Theme", with the synth suggesting the plaintive tones of a violin.

After that comes "Walk to the Other Side of the Island", which starts out fairly minimalist but eventually becomes a cheerful and breezy waltz.

An eerie feeling appropriate to midnight ghost stories, complete with some bell-like noises, dominates the gratifyingly creepy "Death Talk and Jeep Approach", while "Jeep Ride" is an energetic and almost rocking piece that could probably be effectively covered by a live band.

"Dead Tree" is another outer space-sounding cue, agreeably weird and unusual. The synth!

Then there's a reprise of the main title, with vocals again. All in all, a great record!