Friday, June 13, 2008

Orchestrating the Intangible: UFO Music

Even back in 1966, several years prior to jumping in and doing some serious research on the motion picture, I began looking for bits and pieces of knowledge. One generally forgotten little tidbit concerning the film's publicity aspect was the existence of what was probably a record, a little continuously played audio record in essence, that theater managers could play outside or in their lobbies to draw viewers in. These were common attention-getters in the fifties and would usually play audio from the movie trailer or flaunt exciting dialogue and/or music from dramatic movie scenes. Like the odor of popcorn at the refreshment stand, who could resist the sounds of terror or chaos teased from the silver screen and directed toward the street for the benefit of potential ticket purchasers?

I really don't know what the recording contained, and neither I nor others on the trail ever achieved success in tracking down a copy, but locating one would surely be of historical significance today.

However, always high on my mind was the beautiful musical score accompanying "U.F.O." I even wrote to the music organization A.S.C.A.P. (see letter) in 1966 for further information. Perhaps not surprising, the score is entitled "U.F.O." What might be surprising to some, though, is the fact that this low-budget black and white (except for the Montana and Utah UFO films, shown with their original colors) movie was scored by the famous Ernest Gold, noteworthy for the music of "Exodus" and other major motion pictures. When you've watched "U.F.O." as many times as I and you concentrate on the musical theme and its various interpretations throughout the movie, it's obvious that Gold had virtually woven a musical suite for the story whose parts, though varied, fit together nicely. Further, just as Clarence Greene took the low-key approach to filming his movie, Gold declined to create a typically wild fifties science-fiction score, instead opting wisely to use his music conservatively to set an "official" mood. I'm no music authority, but the realization that Gold created music of such restrained beauty and strength for a movie about UFOs -- UFOs! -- is simply amazing. But Ernest Gold, strangely, did not conduct the score himself for the motion picture.

In recent years, I had the pleasure of corresponding a time or two with Ernest Gold's son, popular singer and songwriter Andrew Gold (for you younger folks, Andrew composed and sang the theme, "Thank You for Being a Friend" for the TV series, "The Golden Girls.") about the music. While kindly imparting some information about his father and family, Andrew did admit that he was a young child in the early fifties and had only a vague recollection of "U.F.O." being scored.

I've often wondered, aware that so many motion picture scores are eventually re-orchestrated and put into special movie music collections, why this veritable " 'UFO' Suite" hasn't received the same caring treatment. It's really a very, very nice piece of music and, quite honestly, its presence vastly enhances the motion picture's dramatic quality.