Academic journal article Music, Sound and the Moving Image

Music for Murder, Machines, and Monsters: 'Moat Farm Murder', the Twilight Zone, and the CBS Stock Music Library

Academic journal article Music, Sound and the Moving Image

Music for Murder, Machines, and Monsters: 'Moat Farm Murder', the Twilight Zone, and the CBS Stock Music Library

Article excerpt

On 18 July 1944, Columbia Broadcasting System aired a notorious murder confession created for the public's entertainment. This confession came in the form of a radio drama called 'Moat Farm Murder' that aired on the Columbia Presents Corwin radio series with music composed by Bernard Herrmann. This was not simply a radio drama but a verbatim confession of a real-life 1903 London murder by Samuel Herbert Dougal, played by Charles Laughton. Elsa Lanchester played his victim, Camille 'Cecile' Holland. The play re-aired two years later on The Mercury Summer Theatre on the Air on 26 July 1946. In this re-airing, Orson Welles played the role of Dougal and Mercedes McCambridge played the role of Cecile. Fifteen years after the second airing, The Twilight Zone (CBS, 1959-1964) aired the first of its episodes to use music cues from the 'Moat Farm Murder' radio drama. This episode, 'The Rip Van Winkle Caper', featured a story about greed, science, and murder. Of the radio dramas that had their music re-used in The Twilight Zone, 'Moat Farm Murder' provided more cues for the series than any other CBS radio drama with a total of eleven episodes featuring its cues.

In The Twilight Zone, as well as other television series of the day, cues from various sources were often pieced together to form a new score. Sometimes these cues came from radio dramas. Similar to the cues from other radio dramas and even television shows, the cues from 'Moat Farm Murder' were associated with specific situations that merited their re-use. The re-use of cues from CBS radio dramas in The Twilight Zone, therefore, can form a coherent picture of the ways in which we aurally associate certain music with specific events as well as contribute to an understanding of the ways in which those behind the network music libraries worked to create many scores from one. By using these libraries, music editors and supervisors functioned as hidden authors that allowed the music to add another layer of meaning through their re-use.

Although Bernard Herrmann's scores for radio and television have received some attention, studies of the ways in which his music from one medium was re-used in another have been neglected. This essay discusses the appropriation of radio music in The Twilight Zone, using Herrmann's cues for 'Moat Farm Murder' as a case study. To do this, I first examine radio aesthetics, followed by the creation and use of the CBS network music library, where the 'Moat Farm Murder' cues were kept for television re-use, and concluding with the composition and role of the music in 'Moat Farm Murder'. I then analyse two cues from 'Moat Farm Murder' that were re-used in The Twilight Zone to elucidate the ways in which the original cues' context mattered in their re-use. Through this case study of 'Moat Farm Murder', better knowledge will emerge about the use of the CBS Stock music library in the 1960s, in tandem with the workings of other similar network cue libraries during the same period.

Music and Radio Drama Aesthetics

Dating as far back as the 1920s, radio dramas incorporated music and sound effects in order to achieve a sense of aural realism (VanCour, 2008, p.353). This is because every script direction - dialogue and action - results in sound (Cummings, 2013, p.72). As a result, radio dramas are fully written in sound and require writers to work in two media - literature and sound - at once (Smith & Verma, 2016, p.4). Writing on radio dramas in 1936, Rudolf Arnheim said that the theme of a radio drama must be one that can be realised sonically (Arnheim, 1936, p.44). Both music and drama have a similar communicative function in that they both convey a message through sound (Tannenbaum, 1956, p.93). In fact, radio drama is the only dramatic medium to use a combination of sound sources in order to create imaginary illusions (Rattigan, 2002, p.126).

Radio positions sounds that occur simultaneously and are related to one another, establishing their context (Arnheim, 1936, p. …

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