1959, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1999

The Twilight Zone (1999) by Bernard Herrmann, performed by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely

Though not the composer of The Twilight Zone‘s most iconic theme, Herrmann composed music for both the overall show and individual episodes. This album collects the scores for seven of those episodes and includes a couple other pieces Herrmann did for the show.

What Herrmann did here is remarkable. Much of this music is pretty typical of his science fiction music of the time, but it wasn’t typical for TV. Remember, back then, American TV was indeed nothing like the movies: way lower production values, worse actors, usually, worse writing, etc. Obviously The Twilight Zone helped change all that. But I think this music also had a huge impact on movies as well. And Herrmann’s scores for these episodes must be among the best American TV music of the era. Even the more conventional scores are among his better writing for movies and include a number of his hallmarks, including borderline-excessive use of what sounds like a vibraphone. But a couple of these scores are utterly shocking in their originality, going places that even American movies scores hadn’t really gone.

For example, the score for “Lonely” has some pretty bonkers orchestrated jazz influences that are not normal to Herrmann’s work – at least his work that I’m familiar wit). But, more significantly, in the score for “Little Girl Lost” contains elements of minimalism, to my knowledge the first time something like this had been tried in American TV, probably even in American movies, perhaps given minimalism’s American origins, in all movies. (This is true to a lesser extent, in “Eye of the Beholder” – and, putting aside whether or not there are elements of this in “Eye of the Beholder,” that is just incredible scoring.) It’s kind of hard to overstate the ballsiness of minimalism on TV, not to mention its general importance in popularizing what was, to my knowledge barely a nascent genre and also an underground one, at that.

It’s hard, really, to imagine more daring American TV music given the era. Really extraordinary stuff, and well worth your time.


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