Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 7:30pm
Electronic Tonalities: The Film Scores of Louis and Bebe Barron

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

A lecture by Geeta Dayal

Before the advent of synthesizers, a generation of maverick inventors built their own circuits, designed their own instruments, and pushed the limits of tape machines. While the traditional history of electronic music points to Europe, and especially to the birth of musique concrète in France in 1948, an equally important history was taking root around the same time in New York City.

Louis and Bebe Barron, a husband and wife team living in Manhattan in the early 1950s, built a DIY electronic music studio in their Greenwich Village apartment. Inspired by cybernetics, they thought of their circuits as living organisms, with a life and death of their own. The Barrons would become most famous for creating the pioneering electronic music score for the science fiction classic Forbidden Planet (1956), but their work extended beyond Hollywood. They actively collaborated within the New York avant-garde, spending two years building up the samples for John Cage's seminal tape piece Williams Mix and assisting Maya Deren with the soundtrack for her 1959 film The Very Eye of Night. Their work tells a story not only of early electronic music, but of bohemian downtown New York in the same period—Marlon Brando, Aldous Huxley, and Anaïs Nin were among the other notable figures that spent time at the Barrons’ studio.

The Barrons also created electronic compositions for three experimental films in the 1950s by Ian Hugo, Nin's then-husband. Two of those films—Bells of Atlantis (1952) and Jazz of Lights (1956)—will be screened tonight, along with Shirley Clarke’s Barron-scored Bridges-Go-Round (1958) and excerpts from Forbidden Planet. An illustrated lecture on the life and work of the Barrons by Geeta Dayal will accompany the screening.

Geeta Dayal is the author of Another Green World (Continuum, 2009), a book on Brian Eno, and is currently at work on a new book on the history of electronic music. Her writing about music, technology, and culture has appeared in frieze, the New York Times, Slate, The Wire, and many other publications.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.