The Andromeda Strain – music by Gil Melle

The Andromeda StrainIn the early 1970s, while the British viewing public had been treated to electronic music in films and TV via the likes of Tristram Cary and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, the film scoring scene in America had stayed rooted in orchestral scores and, increasingly, pop-music-compilations-as-soundtracks. The Andromeda Strain was a bit of an aural shock for moviegoers in the U.S., and its score, rooted in radiophonic methods and sounds, was extremely unusual – probably the strangest film score since Forbidden Planet.

Melle is associated with more traditional scoring, especially in the suspense/horror genre (Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery being among his best-known work), but for this movie he used decidedly non-traditional means to create his music, with only a smattering of familiar instruments. The first three tracks really don’t make many concessions to an audience not already familiar with electronic music; “Desert Trip” is really the first truly tuneful track on the album. (“Desert Trip” also has a place in my own local history: one Fort Smith radio station which has held an annual Easter Egg hunt has used the middle portion of “Desert Trip” as the background music for on-air clues for as long as I can remember.)

“OP” and “Xenogensis” provide more material that borders on actually being melodic, but “Strobe Crystal Green” brings things full circle into the abstract. For those not accustomed to early electronic and radiophonic music, The Andromeda Strain soundtrack – away from the movie – can be a challenging listen at best, in the same vein as the music from the Doctor Who story The Sea Devils (broadcast the following year). Quite a bit of it isn’t just atonal, but eschews just about any notion of melody, harmony or rhythm, in either the western or eastern traditions. It’s not just noise, though: there is structure, just not in a traditional musical sense.

I frequently dock big points for a running time that clocks in well short of the capacity of a compact disc (especially at the premium price Intrada charges for its excellent limited-run soundtrack CDs), but there’s actually a historical reason for this one: when initially issued on 3 out of 4vinyl in 1971, The Andromeda Strain’s soundtrack was released as a hexagonal LP, and its running time was a byproduct of that unusual shape, since all of the tracks had to fit within a circular area within that hexagon. Intrada’s CD is round, but as it uses the LP master tapes as its source material, it has no more music than that hexagonal LP. Let the buyer beware of the running time vs. price ratio here.

Order this CD

  1. Wildfire (2:46)
  2. Hex (4:00)
  3. Andromeda (2:24)
  4. Desert Trip (4:14)
  5. The Piedmont Elegy (2:23)
  6. OP (2:45)
  7. Xenogenesis (2:40)
  8. Strobe Crystal Green (4:55)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2010
Total running time: 26:07