Book Reviews

Books About Fantasy/SF/Horror Film Music

A Dimension of Sound:
Reba A. Wissner
318 pages, paperback. Pendragon Press, 2013

In 2013 Pendragon Press launched a series entitled “Music in Media” with this book as its inaugural release. The book is a thorough examination of this seminal TV anthology show’s use of music – through which many composers, including Jerry Goldsmith, Fred Steiner, Nathan Van Cleave, and others began their film musical careers, and others, including Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Leith Stevens, Leonard Rosenman, William Lava and others found a place for continued challenging work after the end of the studio system that occupied most of their careers. Featuring an introduction by Tommy Morgan, whose distinctive harmonica playing made it into several TZ scores, including “The Last Rites of Jeff Myrtlebank,” performed entirely on solo harmonica, Wissner offers individual chapters to the show’s four primary composers (Goldsmith, Steiner, Herrmann, Van Cleave), while covering less frequent composers in a chapter of their own. Very well researched, the author covers the subject in terms of its dramatic effect on the storytelling as well as from a musical perspective, with numerous score samples. An earlier chapter covering the techniques of composing and recording for the show includes some examples of timing notes and other charts the composers had to work with. An appendix offers a very valuable index of those episodes whose original cues were later reused throughout the series. This is a fine book for those interested in how this influential series utilized music while also offering an understanding of the ways in which music – both original and stock – can be used in an anthology series. The subject matter is both timely and extremely pertinent; the influence of what TWILIGHT ZONE and its composers did with music continues to be felt in the more musical-savvy of today’s television programming, and the use of music across the show’s five season remains a textbook example of how music can be used to enhance and interact with what is happening on the screen and felt through its storytelling. – rdl


We Will Control All That You Hear
THE OUTER LIMITS and the Aural Imagination
Reba A. Wissner
242 pages, paperback. Pendragon Press, 2016

Following the author’s 2013 volume, A Dimension of Sound: Music in the Twilight Zone, this third volume in Pendragon’s “Music in Media” series focuses on the second major television anthology of the early ‘60s and its creative use of music. Reba A. Wissner has provided a comprehensive analysis of the series’ use of music, both newly composed scores and stock music, to interact with the stories being played out on screen, enhancing their sense of drama, wonder, and disturbiana. The first three chapters set up background basics, explain the common practice of recycling cues out of a studio’s library of music, and how orchestration and sound design provides the final ingredients for an interactive score. The final two chapters examine in detail the scores of Dominic Frontiere for season 1 (and also Robert Van Eps, Frontiere’s former teacher who was brought in to compose music for several episodes), and that of Harry Lubin for season 2. Rather than examining the music episode by episode (which would have been impractical, especially due to the re-use of cues over many episodes), Wissner opts for a more coherent examination oriented around a topical design (“Gearing the Unseen,” “Ethnic Identities,” “Music and Gender,” “Creatures Big, Small, and Gooey,” and the like). Very well researched and organized, Wissner’s analysis of the series’ limitless outré musical design is an authoritative and definitive one. Her research has discovered much which had not been previously known or revealed (such as Van Eps having composed more than just the “Tourist Attraction” episode and the jazz source cues from “The Day After Doomsday” that he’d been credited with previously). Music samples are provided for those who read music, but Wissner’s narrative style never becomes so scholarly and obscured by musicological terminology that it loses readability for those who don’t have an academic musical education. Alongside her previous TWILIGHT ZONE book, Wissner’s OUTER LIMITS music assessment is a significant entry to genre film music studies as well as being a welcome read for the film score fan. – rdl


%d bloggers like this: