I missed this in my recent travels. Last week another electronic music pioneer died: Bebe Barron, who, with her then-husband Louis, composed the eerie score for the classic 1956 space opera Forbidden Planet.
Her story reminds me that we take computers so much for granted these days. With even my minimal music skills, I've got the processing power to easily arrange a soundtrack from a library of digitally-stored samples. But back in the 1940s, the Barrons had no such capabilities. They soldered their own circuits and recorded onto magnetic tape that then had to be manually cut and spliced together to create their compositions.
While Louis spent most of his time building the circuits, Bebe did all of the composing. She had to sort through many hours of tape, and as she described it, "it just sounded like dirty noise". Over time, she developed the ability to determine which sounds could become something of interest. She may have invented the tape loop too, as she did not recall ever having heard of it before. The tape loop gave the Barrons' sounds rhythm. Together they mixed the sounds to create the otherworldly and strange electronic soundscapes required by Forbidden Planet.
It's high time to watch Forbidden Planet again, and to really sit back and appreciate the otherwordly, completely alien soundtrack co-created by Bebe Barron.