The Illustrated Man – music by Jerry Goldsmith

The Illustrated ManIn 1969, the thought of dramatizing the short stories of renowned speculative fiction master Ray Bradbury was still relatively new, and the thought of trying to cohesively film a short story collection was probably daunting in itself. Put the two together, and you have a recipe for a movie that probably won’t meet anyone’s expectations. Despite the talent and star power brought to bear on it, The Illustrated Man is considered a valiant attempt, but still a flop at the box office.

Among that talent was Jerry Goldsmith, who had just shaken up movie audiences the previous year with his paradigm-shifting soundtrack from Planet Of The Apes. Setting a pattern that would continue for much of the rest of his life and career, Goldsmith was now being sought out as a composer who “got” science fiction – and, more importantly, could lend it sonic support that would help the audience “get” it too. His score for The Illustrated Man, essentially four separate but linked scores for the price of one, continued Goldsmith’s streak as a cerebral, forward-thinking composer.

The framing story (involving the Illustrated Man of the title) gets a deceptively pastoral sound, introducing the movie’s only real theme. As the framing story’s characters reveal their true nature, the music grows more uneasy, reaching a disquieting climax as the first story within the story opens. For the sequence based on Bradbury’s “The Veldt”, Goldsmith leans almost entirely on synthesizers for the setting of a futuristic house, anticipating his work on Logan’s Run (which was still seven years away). As this story closes, Goldsmith generates some real shock value by pairing the full orchestra with the synths for the climax.

After a brief segue back to the movie’s framing device, the music for the dramatization of “The Long Rain” presents a more traditional orchestral setting, but a languid, hopeless and droning one, ideal music for saturation.

“The Last Night Of The World” continues the cheerless feel, in a somewhat simpler, plained vein, at least until Bradbury’s cruel twist ending catches up with the story’s characters. This leads into a flashback and a return to the framing story, which itself has a sting in the tail before the movie (and soundtrack) are over.

4 out of 4Goldsmith was an ideal composer to pair with the works of the late Ray Bradbury. More intellectual and adventurous than worried about what constituted “proper” music in a classical vein, Goldsmith – with his music – was willing to step outside the same bounds that Bradbury’s words did. It’s a pity that the result on film wasn’t as good as the musical collision of their respective worlds.

Order this CD

  1. Main Title (3:28)
  2. The House (2:50)
  3. The Illustrations (2:25)
  4. Felicia (1:40)
  5. The Rose (1:55)
  6. The Lion (0:51)

    “The Veldt”

  7. 21st Century House (1:56)
  8. Angry Child (1:49)
  9. Quiet Evening (2:50)
  10. Skin Illustrations (1:22)
  11. The Rocket (1:19)

    “The Long Rain”

  12. The Rain (1:34)
  13. The Sun Dome (1:24)

    “The Last Night of the World”

  14. Almost a Wife (6:05)
  15. The Morning After (2:00)
  16. The House Is Gone (3:46)
  17. Frightened Willie (4:29)

Released by: Film Score Monthly
Release date: 2001
Total running time: 42:02

White Noise – An Electric Storm

White Noise - An Electric StormAn Electric Storm is the adventurous debut album by a British outfit called White Noise. Even if the group is new to you, its members are familiar names: White Noise was a collaboration between electronic musician David Vorhaus and BBC Radiophonic Workshop members Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire, doing a little bit of work on the side. Originally, White Noise set out to record a single only: two songs. Island Records insisted on an entire album of material… and unfortunately, that’s where it started to go downhill, rapidly.

An Electric Storm starts out promisingly enough, putting the two most interesting numbers up front. “Love Without Sound” and “My Game Of Loving” were the A and B sides of the originally planned single, showing off the concept behind White Noise very well: to apply the working methods of the Radiophonic Workshop to something that was intended, from the outset, to be a pop song or two. Even these two songs aren’t without issues, however. “Love Without Sound” has a fantastic, mysterious feel, with vocals that anticipate the singing style of the new wave and new romantic genres by a good ten years, and “My Game Of Loving” isn’t bad either, with almost Brian-Wilson-esque vocals.

But both songs become novelty tunes with the addition of intrusive laughter on the former and orgasmic moaning on the latter. The “instrumental” backgrounds – and I used that term loosely since, as with Derbyshire’s famous version of the Doctor Who theme, few traditional instruments were used – are intriguing. Any album with Derbyshire and Hodgson involved would have been spectacularly well-produced at the very least.

Though I’m not as fond of the music, this leaves the relatively uncluttered “Firebird” and “Your Hidden Dreams” as the gems of this album. “Here Come The Fleas” takes things firmly into novelty song territory.

The last two tracks on An Electric Storm are wanna-be epics that wind up weighing the whole endeavour down. “The Visitations” clocks in at over ten minutes, and few of those minutes stand out as interesting music, while “The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell” is a noise montage with track after track of overdubbed screams, resulting in a piece that, quite frankly, I’d be happy never to hear again. Legend has it that the trio cranked out the two longest tracks in the shortest amount of studio time simply to fulfill Island’s demands for a full album. An Electric Storm in hell, indeed: it’s almost as if the group made a deal with the devil and was in a hurry to get out of it.

To be blunt, An Electric Storm is really the A and B sides of two decent, if trippy, singles, and a further collection of filler material that’s not worth the time (and keep in mind, very few times in theLogBook.com’s Music Reviews has it ever been said that anything’s not worth at least one listen for curiosity’s sake). There would’ve been no honor lost in just doing a four-song EP – and my opinion of this collection minus the three filler songs would’ve been 2 out of 4raised considerably. White Noise actually continues to this day, having released an album each decade since An Electric Storm, though most of the “group”‘s output since this album has been Vorhaus on his own; Derbyshire and Hodgson went their own way following this album. It’s a pioneering piece of electronic pop music, but the artistic achievement isn’t quite on par with the technical prowess on display.

Order this CD

  1. Love Without Sound (3:07)
  2. My Game Of Loving (4:10)
  3. Here Come The Fleas (2:15)
  4. Firebird (3:05)
  5. Your Hidden Dreams (4:58)
  6. The Visitations (11:14)
  7. The Black Mass: An Electric Storm In Hell (7:22)

Released by: Island Records
Release date: 1969
Total running time: 36:11