Another DCML Forbidden Planet Connection

Dave Rawson TheGuy at DrawsOn.Com
Mon Feb 9 20:14:15 CET 2004

L. Schulte wrote:

> Members might be interested in knowing that "Forbidden Planet" featured 
> the first completely electronic music score.

When I worked as Product Manager for VJ ("Meet The Beatles") 
International records, there was a fellow there in ill health whose job 
it was to clean up old albums for new pressings. I knew him as Louie and 
he seemed always as if carrying in some great weight, an angst, a 
beaten-down sadness of some kind. I assumed it had something to do with 
his medical condition. I believe he had a bad heart and was virtually 
unemployable, and so, therefore, thankful for the work he did for VJ.

We got along well because we had a few things that emerged in common.

The first was our mutually recognized skill with a razor blade. I could 
cut tape and record white noise over the splice without a dropout. 
Likely there's not a person reading this that knows what that means, let 
alone entails, but Louie knew because his job was to find the best 
record we (VJ) had of a given album, tape it at 15ips, cut out the 
ticks, replace each length of excised tape with one that was "quiet" but 
ambiently matched to the recording, and then send the patched tape to 
the pressing plant to create a new master from which the mothers and 
stampers would be cast to press audiophile discs to be sold in Japan. He 
had to do this because the original masters had often been lost or stolen.

This, to my mind, was grueling, laborious, meticulous work and I doubt 
that he was paid what he was worth, but he had little else he could do 
for income, so...

At any rate, I was familiar with John Cage's work with tape bits and the 
problems of preparing them. In Cage's situation, he and his assistants 
recorded piano music, cut the tape into precise lengths and then tossed 
them like the I Ching to rearrange their relative ordering. Their 
problem was that none of them measured a given length in _exactly_ the 
same way, even using the exact same ruler. Oddly, though Cage was 
seeking to impose an arbitrariness into his composition, the problem of 
subjective agreement was one he hadn't planned on and which he 
considered a flaw until he ultimately relinquished that judgment.

I asked Louie about this problem when replacing excised bits of tape and 
he admitted that it often required auditioning the fix and satisfying 
his ear, ultimately.

At any rate, it wasn't until working with Louie for some time that the 
young woman who was his partner and caretaker revealed that he had 
worked on "The Forbidden Planet" and that the weight he seemed to carry 
was a massive guilt that he was thereby directly responsible for an 
aggressive military presence in the modern world!

When I asked him about this, he indeed felt his work on "The Forbidden 
Planet" introduced and popularized a way of viewing things that he 
regretted abetting. I tried to talk him out of such a notion, but he 
couldn't be moved.

I was one of the few people who could appreciate the incredible skill 
Louie brought to his esoteric art of tape replacement, so we got along 
very well. I admired his ethical commitment to the species, even if I 
disagreed with his angst. I wish to this day that most people had a 
tenth of his moral sensitivity.

Also, because I was trained as an Electronic Engineer, I understood 
Louie's descriptions of the rudimentary filters and gates that he had 
employed to create the sinusoidal and sawtooth tones that he had 
employed in his lauded creation, the soundtrack for "The Forbidden Planet".

I last saw Louis Barron at Denny's Restaurant on Sunset at the Hollywood 
Freeway. He died in 1989 in, I assume, economic and medical conditions 
sadly unimproved from when I knew him.

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