November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Collection: The Twilight Zone (The 40th Anniversary Collection)   Music by Bernard HERRMANN; Jerry GOLDSMITH; Franz WAXMAN Leonard ROSENMAN, Fred STEINER and others.   SILVA Treasury STD 2000 4CDs [4hrs 51mins]

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"You are about to enter a new dimension…next stop The Twilight Zone –"

It must be daunting enough to score for a film using all the resources of a full orchestra, but to achieve the same colour and effects with a small ensemble of less than ten players, the men are separated from the boys (or, increasingly, now, the women from the girls). Yet this is what these composers were asked to do – to bring home the bacon to meet The Twilight Zone’s short deadlines and to even shorter budgets.

The Twilight Zone ran on the CBS network from 1959 until 1964. Its tales of science fiction and mystery were intelligent and thought-provoking and nearly always they had a moral or made some social comment.

CD1 Bernard Herrmann

The Classic Hermann of the endlessly inventive textures (rather than of the steely-satin iceberg paced-tunes) dominates the first disc. That he produced these effects with minimal forces and with a proper concern for the accountants' peace of mind is a tribute to his resourcefully stocked imagination.

The spoken introduction ushers us straight into those classic episodes with Herrmann's own theme (which is not the one that everyone knows!). The first season's start and close music is derived from the gentlest collision between Sibelius's Bard and the cycling strings of the Rite of Spring. Between them comes Where Is Everybody: a sharp as a razor clean-lit death-hunt for horns and strings: pursuit and panic personified.

As a staff composer for CBS, Herrmann wrote music for their sound library as much as many of the British light music luminaries of the 1940s and 1950s. The Outer Space Suite is an example of this genre and was clearly a lode from which he mined many later sci-fi and fantasy scores. The Prelude sounds like the main theme music from The Day The Earth Stood Still but minus the ondes martenot. Signals is a chipper woodwind razz, like the 'telescopes' music from the same film. Similar patterned echoes can be discerned in tracks 10 (harp and woodwind over Gallic accents) and 15. The other movements show Herrmann's talents to great effect: Space Drift a piacevole for the harp's downward-spiral and an icy flute. Time Suspense is something of a flat draught. Danger (11) was later drawn on for the Serpent-song dragon death in Journey To The Bottom Of The Earth and Airlock has similar redolence. Moonscape's silver neatly sets off Tycho which has the Dies Irae prismed and split down.

The remainder is a mix of substantial chunks of music and titles either opening or closing. The titles have variously an aggressive strident tread, echoes of Journey and in the final track the classic macabre sensibility of gloom-merchant Herrmann - a depressive's berceuse of lonely houses and the black shadows of Holst's Neptune. The more substantial essays are from Walking Distance (including a fragile as dust dance scene); Hitchhiker which has true gloom of the darker late film scores and the final The Lonely (a drowned sound world - a Cathédrale Engloutie of Poe's lurid imagination).

This is a most attractive disc and a sine qua non for all Herrmann collectors.

CD2 - Jerry Goldsmith

This second CD begins with the edgy but memorable Second Season Introductory music and Main Title composed by Marius Constant.

Goldsmith was still, in the very early stages of his career when he worked on this series contributing to some of the most notable programmes. His work on The Twilight Zone certainly propelled him forward. For the Back There episode he uses a harpsichord and a small string ensemble to give a period feel to a time traveler’s attempt to avert the assasination of Abraham Lincoln. This arresting score is both tonal and atonal and therefore unsettling adding to the brooding atmosphere and suspense. Long-held overlapping string chords are punctuated by staccato single piano strokes and a terrifying climax is reached with the upper strings positively screaming in protest. A harmonica is prominently featured in The Big Tall Wish. The music is sorrowful and yearning and it often suggests a child-like innocence and loneliness. The music settles into a slow waltz-like pattern before eventually the temperature rises and the music becomes more optimistic. The Invaders begins in a sound world not far removed from Herrmann’s Psycho, there are the same shrill stabbing string chords, plus a strange violin figure that recalls the Devil’s trill plus cello glissandi and short piano chords etc. The celeste is added to this little instrumental group and its glissandi sound like some demented. Add some weird solo violin pizzicatos, and isolated organ bells and triangle chords and you have a mesmerizing score for this tale of an elderly woman and her diminutive alien attackers. The harmonica is again prominently featured in Dust. Together with guitar to atmospherically underscore this tale of the Old West and the travelling salesman’s offer of miracles. This score cleverly exploits both instruments and double tracks the harmonica to enrichen the sound palate. This is a very inventive and imaginative with Goldsmith often exploiting the top and bottom registers of his ensemble with great effect. A subtle allusion to the Dies Irae gives a clue to the motivation of this miracle worker?

The remaining cues on this CD include two jazz themes – one sophisticated, sexy, slinky and reminiscent of the James Bond, Mission Impossible, Flint etc themes of that period and the other deeper, darker and sinister and quirky with an emphasis on brushed drum work. Before the end title, there is the score for Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room.

This has a persistent tick-tocking figure that is first stated in the percussion and then taken up by the other members of the ensemble. Is a bomb ticking away? Another mesmerizing score.

CD 3 Nathan Van Cleave – Nathan Scott – and Rene Garriguenc

This CD commences with Marius Constant’s theme for the Third Season Introduction.

Nathan Van Cleave’s first assignment on The Twilight Zone was the episode entitled, Perchance to Dream. Beginning with an almost police-siren like screeching it chillingly effectively underscores this story a man who is afraid of falling asleep. This is a score that mixes sweet dreams with dark nightmares recalling fairground-fun as well as spectres. It uses both Novachord and Theremin atmospherically. Hysteria mounts as the man’s dementia increases. A World of Difference has another electronic score to for a businessman who discovers he is merely a character in a movie – a film noire by the sound of it. Elegy is a brooding piece spooky and quirky. Two is another dark and rather militaristic score for strings, tympani and muted horns – it has a feeling of isolation and delusion. More cheerful (in general) is the music for Ray Bradbury’s story, I Sing the Body Electric about three children and their robot grandmother. It is a string-led piece with guitar giving it a cosy, homely feel. The music is sometimes playful and merry and high-spirited indeed at one point it rushes skywards like some shooting star but of course there are tense and suspenseful moments befitting ‘The Twilight Zone’ character of these stories.

Nathan Scott’s contribution is represented by his music for A Stop At Willougby which is about a longing to return to childhood. Again the cosy, front-porch, local town band atmosphere is contrasted very well with more disturbing material.

Rene Garriguenc’s breezy original jazz composition, entitled ‘Street Moods in Jazz’ (vividly evoking the busy streets and the street-wise) for The Prime Mover concludes the CD apart from the third season End Title.

CD 4 - Fred Steiner, Leonard Rosenman, Jeff Alexander and Franz Waxman

 The fourth disc's miscellany gives us the accustomed spoken intro over Constant's famous theme. Then comes a small slice of Constant: clear block-cut avant-garde music with sounds welcomed at that time only in the world of sci-fi and fantasy. The best of the Fred Steiner tracks is to be found in Hundred Yards Over The Rim (harmonica and a small body of strings in solitary serenade) and the sepia Fall elegies of The Passerby - rising into darker music out of Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht. The Leonard Rosenman music for When The Sky Was Opened, with its dour sourness, seemed rather a low spot in the collection while Jeff Alexander's Trouble With Templeton is all jazzy sophistication and blue cigarette smoke curling languidly. The Waxman track caused me high expectations which were undelivered. Waxman's The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine drifts around with a whispering jazz trio, muted sax and trumpet and a serenading solo violin but left me disappointed.

The 4-CD set comes with a 12 page booklet in monochrome reminding us that The Twilight Zone was broadcast in the days of black and white telly. The booklet has many photographs – stills from the TV programmes – although some are rather indistinct. Some of the scores are not covered in the analysis but on the whole this documentation is very good particularly in its summary of the history of the programme.

Whether these selections will make repeated visits to the CD player is questionable – this will be a matter of personal taste; nevertheless this is a very valuable collection and notable for documenting another dimension of important film composers’ work.


CD1 Rob Barnett

CD2 Ian Lace

CD3 Ian Lace

CD4 Rob Barnett

CD1 Rob Barnett

CD2 Ian Lace

CD3 Ian Lace

CD4 Rob Barnett

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