Bebe Barron, RIP
May 8, 2008 4:10 PM   Subscribe

Bebe Barron, 82, Pioneer of Electronic Scores, Is Dead. Best known for the soundtrack to the 1956 sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet -- the first full-length feature to use only electronic music -- she and her husband Louis Barron recorded the film's pre-synthesizer "electronic tonalities" with electronic circuits of their own invention. She never scored another feature film, but remained active in the avant-garde music scene.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot (17 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Forbidden Planet was ahead of its time in so many ways.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:17 PM on May 8, 2008

Thanks for the post, CJP. Louis and Bebe Barron at

posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:24 PM on May 8, 2008

Forbidden Planet was the epitome of so many things, the soundtrack was way ahead of it's time.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:39 PM on May 8, 2008

posted by jtron at 4:48 PM on May 8, 2008

I had the privilege of meeting Bebe Barron during the mid-'80s while I was researching an article about Forbidden Planet. She was gracious, beautiful, and utterly charming. As I recall, she didn't really want to discuss the soundtrack, preferring to leave it to her ex-husband, Louis, to establish the oral history. But she was adamant that she be recognized as a 50/50 creative partner. Last I heard she was collaborating on music with David Javelosa, a composer and teacher in Los Angeles. RIP Bebe.
posted by Greenie at 5:00 PM on May 8, 2008

Well, shit.
posted by 2or3whiskeysodas at 5:04 PM on May 8, 2008

Thanks for this; I never knew they worked with John Cage, and the claim that they were ignored by avante-garde music historians for so long is sad. That 2nd-to-last link also does a great job of describing what was so amazing about the Forbidden Planet soundtrack:

...the scoring of Forbidden Planet breaks down the traditional line between music and sound effects since the Barrons' electronic material is used for both. This not only creates a new type of unity in the film sound world, but also allows for a continuum between these two areas that the Barrons exploit in various ways. At some points it's actually impossible to say whether or not what you're hearing is music, sound effect, or both. In doing this, they foreshadowed by decades the now common role of the sound designer in modern film and video.
posted by mediareport at 5:57 PM on May 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

An old related blog post.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:16 PM on May 8, 2008

posted by octothorpe at 7:32 PM on May 8, 2008

The sound of sci fi... it blew me away when I was young.

posted by Unicorn on the cob at 7:38 PM on May 8, 2008

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 9:23 PM on May 8, 2008

Ah man, she was wonderful. If you don't have it, pick up Incredibly Strange Music Vol. 2 for a wonderful interview with her. She discusses (if I remember correctly) how they cut out most of the extremely Freudian bits from the movie--no pun intended--as well as how they created the sounds.

Also, and forgive me if it's linked and I didn't see it, here's an NPR piece about the Barrons.

Years ago, pre-internet and its easily available bootlegs, I had a two track cassette recorder that I hooked up to my VCR and recorded every piece of music from Forbidden Planet (as well as some of the best dialogue bits). I played that tape until it finally broke in the car. Then I made another one. I think I went through about four of them.

Thanks for all the wonderful music, Bebe, and to all of those that collaborated with her. At the very least you lived a full and creative life and for that I will adore you. RIP.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:22 PM on May 8, 2008

When I finally got around to watching Forbidden Planet, one thing that amazed me was how many of the sounds were identical or similar to Star Trek (original) sounds.
posted by Goofyy at 12:13 AM on May 9, 2008

posted by sonascope at 3:06 AM on May 9, 2008

posted by Smart Dalek at 3:37 AM on May 9, 2008

posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:11 AM on May 9, 2008

And, because someone has to...

"Id, id, id, id, id!"
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 8:12 AM on May 9, 2008

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