Various Twilight Zone: 40th Anniversary Collection

At its most banal, soundtrack composition is the musical equivalent of a hockey commentator: they tell you when to look up. And there’s no denying that such drearily predictable moments do occur on this 4CD set of music from the original Twilight Zone science fiction TV series, some 156 episodes from 1959 to ‘64. But for the most part, this is an excellent example of some cutting-edge composition that helped define the work of countless composers since; it’s also a curious window into an obscure aspect of TV’s past. Most famous for work with Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, Bernard Herrmann is the most distinguished name on a list that includes longtime film composer Jerry Goldsmith. Herrmann composed the first season’s original theme, different from the simple melody that has become synonymous with spooky. For the second season, the “famous” theme was actually constructed from two different compositions by French avant-garde composer Marius Constant, both taken from the extensive CBS music library. In fact, much of Herrmann’s first season work wasn’t original to the show, and instead was drawn from that library. In later seasons, composers begin to fall into the Twilight Zone themselves, becoming eerie shadows of earlier work — long, low cello and bass notes punctuated by high theremin and flutes, like a faded carbon copy of Herrmann’s score for Psycho. At four CDs, it’s a bit much, but there’s some good digging to be had in this corner of history. (Silva)