Monday, February 1, 2010

Bebe Barron (1925-2008)

Charlotte May Wind (Minneapolis, June 16th, 1925 – April 20th, 2008)

Bebe and Louis Barron get married in 1947 and decide to move to New York. As a wedding gift the get a tape recorder from Louis' cousin, a Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing company employee. In 1948 Louis finds interest in Wiener's book "Cybernetics: Or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine"; fooling the featured equations in the manual he starts to build the first electrical circuits that he manipulates in order to create sounds.. By the end of the Forties Bebe and Louis start to take interest into "musique concète"'s environments.
Most part of Barron's arrangements comes from ring modulator, used by Stockhausen in 1958 and in BBC's Radio Workshop in 1963. While Louis elaborates circuits, Bebe selects the tapes:

"it just sounded like dirty noise".

After being cut and edited, the tapes were modified with reverberation and delay. For her accurate work Bebe is considered a pioneer of tape loop.
In 1951 they realize Heavenly Menagerie on magnetic tape and decide to open a recording studio in Greenwich village. With Raymond Scott's, this is one of the first private studio of America. The workshop saw people like Henry Miller, Tennessee Williams, Aldous Huxley and Anaïs Nin, it would be the place where the first audio books were born: readings of famous writers are recorded on vinyl and published for Contemporary Classics, Barron's founded label. The studio, made for the major part by machines built by Louis himself with his cousin's help, launches the couple in New York's avant-garde scene: between 1952 and 1953 John Cage uses the studio for his first work on tape, Williams Mix. The Barrons record over 600 different samples, rearranged and composed under Cage direction, for this piece; this four minutes track took more than a year of work. Cage will eventually work with the Barrons again for "Music for Magnetic Tape", realized with Feldman, Brown and Tudor. The couple achieved to gain celebrity in the New York scene, nevertheless they move to Hollywood to take a chance there.
Bebe andLouis already worked in the field of experimental cinema and in 1956 they realize the first soundtrack created with synthesizers and samplers only. The sci-fi "Forbidden Planet" is the occasion to create some problems: the Barrons are not associates to the Musicians' Union and for this reason their names don't appear on the closing titles' musician section of the movie. The will have to be listed under "Electronic Tonalities". The Union's interferences will also block the soundtrack's nomination to the Academy Awards. The Barrons are not admitted to the special effect's category. Nonetheless, Bebe and Louis influence on the popular cinema with electronic music is undeniable.
In 1970 the couple divorces but this doesn't prevent them to work together until 1989 when Louis dies. From 1985 to 1987 Bebe Barron is the secretary of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music. During their career the Barrons were known for their choice to stick with the old instruments: in 1999 Bebe is employed by the University if California - Santa Barbara in order to create a new piece (Mixed Emotions, published in 2000) using new technologies.

“We were delighted to hear people tell us that the tonalities in Forbidden Planet remind them of what their dreams sound like.” Louis&Bebe Barrons

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