October 2, 2018

The Twilight Zone & Rod Serling

"There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone."    
Rod Serling ~ Twilight Zone introduction 

Thus began the opening on October 2, 1959, of a TV series that was to set the standard for exceptional production values with some of the finest writers of the Sci-Fi genre, the greatest actors at the dawn of their careers and the most brilliant writers of film music ever (link below) . . . 

. . .  and the groundbreaking series would open the door to new and incredibly exciting worlds. 

The combination of strange, imaginative stories -- usually parables for some aspect of contemporary issues -- fine casting and directing, and first-rate music supervised by Lud Gluskin, the head of CBS West Coast Music resulted in a five-year series, with 155 original episodes. It returned to series television several times over the next decades and reached the big screen as a feature film.

In 1959, Mike Wallace conducted an excellent interview in his series with Twilight Zone writer, Rod Serling (link below).   

Where is Everybody? was the first regular episode. Gluskin made an inspired choice in Bernard Herrmann to compose the score. Herrmann was an Academy Award-winning film composer with a long background in radio and television scoring. He could be relied upon to produce music quickly, using a minimum of players to keep expenses down, and was famous for seizing the mood of film in economical musical gestures, particularly when the mood was mysterious or fantastical. (Think of his opening music for the Orson Welles film, Citizen Kane and his highly original scoring of The Day the Earth Stood Still.) Herrmann mostly worked on the series during the first year, scoring seven episodes and writing a title theme used in the first year, only. (Marius Constant wrote the famous ostinato pattern forever associated with Twilight Zone.)    

Where is Everybody? set the mood for the series by throwing the audience into a world where something is obviously wrong, and playing up the series' main preoccupations: Extinction of humanity and alienation among people. Directed by Robert Stevens, the story was a solo tour de force for the talented young actor Earl Holliman. He plays Mike Ferris, an Air Force officer who finds himself wearing his flight suit and discovering he is in a strange, entirely deserted town.   

Wherever he goes, everything looks normal. Meals are set, stores are open, power, water, streetlights, and other implements all function, but there are no people. He gets increasingly frantic, trying to find another living soul.

The score by Herrmann begins with a panicked, galloping theme, but soon settles into dark, lonely wind chords and shimmering harp or vibraphone patterns, then builds the various emotions -- of panic, despair, rage -- Ferris experiences.        

It is a long score for a half-hour TV episode, lasting nearly 12 minutes of original music, required because there was nearly no dialogue. It even works impressively well as an original abstract work for chamber orchestra (YouTube links below).         

The premiere episode of The Twilight Zone, Where is Everybody?, perfectly set the tone for the series.   
Viewfinder links:        
Bernard Herrmann         
Rod Serling        
The Twilight Zone       
Orson Welles          
Net links:        
The Twilight Zone episodes       
The Twilight Zone Vortex ~ Where is Everybody?        
YouTube links:        
The Twilight Zone ~ intro        
                                 intro 1962     
      Where is Everybody? Bernard Herrmann Score (11 min., 23 sec.)  
Mike Wallace ~ Rod Serling interview (1959) (21 min., 50 sec.)    
Styrous® ~ Tuesday, October 2, 2018            

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