Until I did some research I had been under the impression that Forbidden planet used the magnetic instrument Theremin and that it was one of the first movies to do so. I have since found out that Forbidden planet actually used ring modulation. And that the Theramin was used in movies as early as 1931. And not only meant for SciFi, as it is used in the 1945 score of the psychological thriller Spell Bound
None the less, I think when speaking of the 1950’s and scifi and really the modern movements in all the arts, one must speak of the Theremin.This site HERE does a wonderful job of giving the history of this amazing instrument.
Much like the jarring and erratic movements that paint on canvas had taken with such artists as DeKooning and Pollack, it seems fitting that the eerie jarring sounds of the Theremin should be associated with the Atomic Age.
Any one who has watched old monster movies on a Saturday morning or watched old scifi is familiar with the sounds. Here is a good example of it in that context.
Yet, the Theremin was not only used for ‘spookie eerie’ sounds. Here in this wonderful segment on the show “You Asked For It” we see a lovely young lady playing it. At first one almost thinks it is the human voice.
This instrument was strange and popular enough to be featured again on “You Asked For It”. This time it was earlier in the decade 1953.
The instrument in many ways really embodies the time. The advancement in technology, the ‘futuristic’ way in which one plays it by touching the air before the machine and the subsequent sounds and compilations were very in tune with composers of the time. I recommend you listen all the way through the video I posted above for the scoring of “the Day The Earth Stood Still” as the piano arrangement has an almost Aaron Copeland quality to it.
Again, this seems another moment when the 1950’s really has that Modern structure that has built up our present day world. Though they may have been amazed at iPods and cell phones, they would have taken them in stride, I am sure. Only their level of common courtesy and overall thrift probably would have had them using those tools very differently.