Bebe Barron, half of the Electronic Music composing team of Louis and Bebe Barron, died today. They were most well known for composing the “Forbidden Planet” soundtrack, for which Louis built various analog feedback circuits and literally recorded the sounds of them dying/overloading. Interestingly, they built circuits for each character, each with sonic properties they felt highlighted that character. Sadly, this was one of their last soundtracks for Hollywood after being blackballed by the Musician’s Union.
When I first heard this soundtrack, I was blown away at how organic these sounds were – these are the sounds of overloaded circuits, circuits slowly melting, producing otherworldly sounds we still consider sci-fi. In their mastering of circuit feedback, one could say the Barrons were one of the original founders of noise music and we know and love it.
Like most pioneering woman electronic music composers (another being Delia Derbyshire, arranger of the Dr. Who theme), Bebe’s contribution was not recognized until much later. Louis Barron may have built and recorded the circuits, but it was Bebe’s editorial voice who managed to cull and cut these electronic improvisations into recognizable pieces. In her later years, after Louis Barron’s death, she continued as a solo composer, including a piece called “Mixed Emotions”. An early leader of the Society for Electroacoustical Music, she also knew John Cage well, and it was actually Cage who encouraged the Barrons to think of their “Electronic Tonalities” as music.
The Barron’s legacy is quite large and amazing, and I’m glad to see they are finally getting their due as electronic music pioneers.
Anyway, more info about Bebe here: Louis and Bebe Barron
Matrixsynth obituary of Bebe Barron, probably the most comprehensive one.
Another obituary here: Obituary for Bebe Barron
A great NPR piece about the Barrons here: The Barrons: Forgotten Pioneers of Electronic Music
And here is the Forbidden Planet Soundtrack.