Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Musical Spotlight on "Nightmare"

by Larry Rapchak


Recorded Wednesday, November 20, 1963

The music section (pp. 133-139) of David Schow's "Outer Limits Companion" contains about as much detailed info on the 1st season scores as anyone would need, so I refer the reader to that magnificent tome.  And it's all authentic and accurate, since we had copies of Fronteire's original full scores at our disposal, thus eliminating the typical arm-chair musical analyses and awkward technical descriptions that plague so many film music commentaries.

In the summer of 1984, I serendipitously discovered that the Hollywood music supply company with whom I had been doing business for 8 years was owned by ROGER FARRIS, OL's first season Musical Assistant and Copyist.  I immediately contacted him, hoping against hope that he may still have access to the original Frontiere scores;  "I think they're still all downstairs in my studio," he said, and asked that I call back the next day.

Which I did... and my heart sank when he said "They're not there—-I wonder what I did with them?"  YIKES!  Long story short: he located them, sent me copies of the important cues I wanted to see, three of which I am happy to share here as an WACT exclusive.

The major burning question that I asked of Roger was  "In Nightmare, what was the weird, grotesque, swooping electronic sound in the orchestra???"  to which he excitedly recalled the makeshift, synthesizer prototype created by John Elizalde especially for the episode that looked "like a big studio time-clock";  it was operated by means of a "rheostat-type dial  with the approximate pitches (notes) marked on the dial by masking tape"  and was ingeniously incorporated into the score by Frontiere to produce what is certainly one of the most—if not the most—-unique TV/film scores of all time (this newly invented device was affectionately christened the "ONAFETS", which spelled backwards is......)

Seriously, another score that creates such an unearthly, dream-like sound world, so totally UNLIKE anything that had been heard at that time.  And, in addition to its ground-breaking sounds (which, oddly, share a certain undeniably funky similarity to "lounge" music of the day—with prominent accordion, guitars, and vibraphone) the score is brilliantly conceived for an outre, avant-gard-ish CHAMBER orchestra, to compliment the stylized, expressionistic CHAMBER PLAY on the screen. 

And Frontiere's musical sophistication is further demonstrated by the fact that the instrumentation bears a strong resemblance to the traditional 18th-century BAROQUE orchestral layout——WHAT?!  ARE YOU NUTS?!  But it's true. Frontiere writes for a "keyboard-type" group that plays mostly background harmonies and "busy" figuration, which lends motion and rhythm to the music—just like the Baroque harpsichords and lutes, etc.  But, in the 1963 incarnation we find:  2 harps, an electric guitar, an electric piano, and an acoustic bass serving this function.

Baroque orchestras often featured a group of virtuosic SOLO instruments: take that popular Bach Brandenburg Concerto #2 which has big solo parts for flute, oboe, violin & trumpet.  Yeah, Dominic changed things a bit.....well, a LOT....employing a flute/piccolo, accordion, a violin with an electric microphone attached , another guitar and, for good measure, the creepy, gurgling, groaning, grunting ONAFETS tossed into the mix. So much for tradition!

So brace yourselves: here are portions of three of Frontiere's original score pages. They were obviously written at great speed, then handed over to Farris, who copied each of the musician's individual parts out in his flawless manuscript, just prior to the November session.  If you don't read full musical scores, don't worry; the fun is to see how the visual layout or "architecture" parallels the sound of the music.

#1 shows the opening musical cue, entitled "Galaxies", heard under Vic Perrin's narration.  Each of the horizontal groupings of 5 little lines is a "staff", and contains one instrumental part;  this full score, then, is the "master diagram" which shows all of the instrumental parts laid out vertically. So, as you read across from left-to-right, everything that you see from top-to-bottom sounds simultaneously.

What's fascinating here is that this very Bernard Herrmannesque-sounding cue was originally written for a BIG symphonic orchestra; the top 4 staffs show flutes, oboes, clarinets, etc (woodwinds, or "WW" in the left-hand margin), the 5th staff shows french horns ("HN" in the margin), then trumpets ("Tacet al fine"—which, in Italian, means they don't play at all).  Point is that THIS LAVISHLY ORCHESTRATED VERSION WAS NEVER RECORDED; at the "Nightmare" session, Frontiere simply used the instruments at hand, notably the harps (not visible in this scan) to provide all of the "sparkly", night-sky sounds.  Note the 8th staff from the top, labeled (in the composer's hand) for the solo instruments: flute, electric violin, accordion, onafets and 1 guitar....all playing the ghostly melody (as you read across). But notice the difference in hand-writing between this staff and all of the stuff above;  that's because this weird-ass melody was ADDED LATER to the big, pre-existing version, when Frontiere decided to adapt this cue for the chamber orchestra of "Nightmare".  The other thing to notice is the 9th staff, labeled "Bs guit" or Bass Guitar, which provides that heavy "plodding" figure along with the tympani.

NOTE:  You can hear this track on the "La-La Land" 3-cd set: CD 2, track 3. THEN, for comparison, skip ahead to track 8, at 1:42—-and you'll hear this same track as recorded WITHOUT the flute,-violin,-accordion-onafets melody it appeared in the opening of "Feasibility Study" for the infamous heavenly badminton space-ship shots.

#2, entitled "March Out", underscores the scene immediately after the crew have all stated their name and country of origin, and the first of Pvt. Dix's (Martin Sheen) several freak-outs.  He's sitting on the floor, and you can read the screen action "WAND ZAP" at the 33-second mark in the top left corner; in the next measure, we read "MOUTH MOVING" and beneath it, the orchestral outburst that accompanies the "zapping" sound effect; staves 1-3 show the screeching sounds made by the flute (labled F in the left-hand margin), accordion (A), and electric violin (V), the 5th staff shows the "high" squealing of the onafets (ONA), the 8th & 9th staves show the 2 guitars, the funky thing on the 10th-staff is the suspended cymbal that is very prominent in the mix;  2 staves below is the tympani (kettledrum) roll, and at the bottom, the 2 harps—the upper one is adding to the scraping, screechy sounds with quick glissandos, the 2nd is playing undulating arpeggios—all those quick, multi-note figures.

You can hear this jarring melange of sounds on the La-La Land CD2, track 4— at 0:47.

Pretty amazing how much finely-crafted, detailed work goes into this stuff, right?

#3 is for me the highpoint in this unbelievably, deliciously demented score—as the crew draws straws and decides that one of them must "KILL JUNG". Frontiere does the TOTALLY UNEXPECTED here, using that quintet of solo instruments: flute, electric violin, accordion, guitar, and 3-part harmony to create a luminous, alluring, exotica-tinged thing that has always reminded me of Hawaiian music.....does it represent Jung/James Shigeta's onscreen persona?  Or is it just Frontiere's soaring imagination tapping deeper into the phantasmal dream world within which this terrifyingly episode exists?  Only he knows why he did it.

AT the bottom we see the 2 harp parts (even though one is labeled "PIA" for Piano—-note that the composer continually crosses out these pre-printed labels out by hand).  The staves labeled "PERC" (percussion) show the "tree bells" and "B.DR" (bass drum) which together provide a magical, scintillating march-like tread to this otherworldly processional.  At the top—towards the right (at 08 seconds), we see our exotic, languid, haunting melodic group: flute (which often does that cool "sighing, drooping" fall-off of its last note in the phrase), electric violin, accordion, with the onafets and guitar (staves 5 and 8) added to the melody by means of a short-hand indication. (If you think this looks like deciphering hieroglyphics, YOU'RE RIGHT!—Frontiere dashed this stuff off, much of it in a scratchy, code-like musical short-hand that Farris recognized and understood).

This one-of-a-kind musical soundscape can be heard on the CD set:  CD 2, track 7, at 1:49.

It's also interesting to note that much of this score was recycled for "The MICE" but that, unlike the typical TV situation where pre-existing scores are simply tracked-in to new shows, Frontiere and the guys actually RE-RECORDED a lot of the "Nightmare" cues in a slightly expanded version; very odd that Daystar would have spent the money to re-record the "Nightmare" cues almost verbatim.

And thus we have an opportunity to peek into the secret workshop of Dominic Frontiere who, while racing the clock to meet the Daystar production schedule, managed to produce an unbelievable of mix of magic and mayhem in the process.



This is very likely the ONLY time that Dominic Frontiere's fully-orchestrated Opening/Closing theme music for the Outer Limits has been heard since it was recorded on August 23, 1963. The date, location and identity of this performance will, alas, remain a mystery for now. But I think you will agree that the orchestra played the music with tremendous vitality and conviction... which may have been due to the conductor's love for it. You will also note the maestro's lame Vic Perrin voice-over attempt as he conducted, the words of which rang familiar to at least some in the audience.


  1. Thanks for this discussion of the musical score for NIGHTMARE. It never ceases to amaze me the enormous amount of talent and work that went into some of these scores. How they managed to do such excellent work on a weekly schedule is beyond me. And they really did not have even a week to complete the work, usually more like three or four days.

  2. Great description of and insights into "Nightmare"'s music, Larry -- it's my second-favorite OL score after the more traditional "The Man Who Was Never Born." It's incredible to learn that Elizalde built the proto-synthesizer himself; shades of Chris Carter and Throbbing Gristle. That kind of experimentation and commitment are a big part of what makes the show endure, I believe.

    Interesting too that much of it was re-recorded for "The Mice." I assume this wasn't the case with "The Guests" since that episode was so late in the season, but I'm curious which version was tracked in for it -- the original or the rerecorded one.

    Thanks for the download, and keep these details coming!

  3. Very detailed and enjoyable explanation of this important element of the production, Larry. (Your musicologist's enthusiasm for the process shines through!) I've always been intrigued by the complexity of musical scoring, and your deep research and clear translation for the layman's ear makes this particular score sound more impressive than ever.

    Thank you for this unexpected boon.

  4. As a longtime movie and TV soundtrack freak--and lover of 20th Century orchestral/concert music in general--this is fascinating stuff, Larry. The ONAFETS, the Baroque arrangement--just amazing.

    And thanks for clarifying "The Mice" score.

    Looking forward to the download!

  5. As with most other series, OL started out by recording a major amount of music in the initial session (August 23, '63), much of which would serve as general tracking cues throughout the season...for the many episodes which did not have original scores written for them. Once again, the OL COMPANION lays all of this info out session-by-session.

    In examining Roger Farris' orignal session log/breakdown, a lot of the cues can be identified by title and running time, but many others cannot (I suppose I COULD have asked Roger to send me copies of every single cue...but I didn't).

    The point is the case of the question about the OBIT cue in Harry Townes' hideout, I can't identify it; it might have been one of the miscellaneous "general usage" cues from 8/23/63...or, as in the case of "Soame's Theme", may have been lifted from the Stoney Burke cues. It would take some serious time to go through all of those shows, the OL session tapes, etc to sort all of this out...something which I haven't found time to do.

    In terms of "The Guests", a number of the "general usage" cues from 8/23 were used, along with "Soame's Theme" for the lovers, and the NIGHTMARE "loop" (continuously repeating musical figure)...that weird pulsating thing heard under the shot of the dead Sasha Harden (Krug) and the heart device.

    Incidentally, this cue, running 19 seconds as recorded but capable of being repeated endlessly
    (as it is in the GUESTS' attic scenes with the gelatinous glob), is humorously titled "Betty Loop" by Farris in the session log for the Nightmare recording. Anything to help alleviate the tension.

    More on "The Guests" music when we get there.


  6. Excellent info, Larry R. It was great downloading and listening to that spirited version of the OL theme. And I assume all of the music from Stevens' INCUBUS was taken from pre-existing LIMITS tracks, with the "Nightmare"/"Mice" scores receiving the most play.


    Here's a lesson in how to immediately derail an audio commentary:

    I know how to prompt a commentary and keep things moving. I know how to interview and prompt subjects possibly rusty on the source material. So here we were, in the sound booth, for the INCUBUS audio track -- me, Conrad Hall, Bill Fraker, and producer Anthony Taylor.

    As soon as the opening strains of "Nightmare"-flavored music came on, I launched into an introductory riff on the music's lineage, which would lead to OUTER LIMITS, which would lead quite naturally to presenting Hall & Fraker ...

    ... whereupon Tony Taylor went ashen and began waving his hands, cut, cut, CUT! He was terrified that any mention of the music would lead to a rights and usage lawsuit ... that any mention of THE OUTER LIMITS would lead to a digression onto the music, again, and, well ...

    Have you ever felt the air just get SUCKED out of a room?

    Right after I experienced the unique pleasure of hearing Conrad Hall say, "Oh, thank god you're here -- YOU'RE MY MEMORY!" I got utterly defanged, plug kicked out, and the commentary never recovered its legs after that. And we only had that one shot, and Fraker had an appointment, and the clock was grinding down. And I wasn't nimble enough to help the commentary recover -- no second chances -- and as a result I found myself in the weird position of holding my tongue through most of it. We got one chance, and it sucked.

    And Tony Taylor? Apparently no one knows what happened to him. His home in Morro Bay is no longer his mail address. His phone's disconnected. His email is non-functional. No one could find him to clear INCUBUS for its recent showing on TCM. Leslie Stevens' biographer drew a complete blank. I fear Tony may have died, and nobody, but nobody, noticed.

  8. Poor Tony. What a shame he couldn't enjoy TCM's showing of INCUBUS, which I'm sure would have thrilled him. Who knows? Perhaps he's still out there, somewhere... Seriously David, your DVD commentary for INCUBUS may have been compromised at the 11th hour, but it still offers a great deal of interesting information, and it was cool to have Hall and Fraker together again.

  9. I hasten to point out that the big, bold, brilliant sections on OUTER LIMITS music in the 2nd edition of the book would not have been possible (or conceivable) without Larry Rapchak's invaluable input. Thank him. We also lucked out and scored a bunch of photos taken during the "Man Who Was Never Born" sessions.

  10. All I want to say (I didn't read the article, but I will, I promise) is that I am vvvvvery happy to hear there is a blog about my favorite series of my life, Outer Limits, keep it up, Ill read everything!

  11. (Note: I decided to switch my on-screen name to my real name instead of Jimbar; it makes more sense. Now, onward...) One of the things about OL that we are very lucky to have is the 3-CD set of Dominic Frontiere's music. We may have yet to get the re-mastered DVD set we all want, but we have the music. The score for "Nightmare" is outstanding; one of the really different ones. Has anyone else had trouble downloading the MP3 with Rapid Share? Is there any possibility of the scores for OL being available as sheet music at any time? As a jump ahead to the second season and Harry Lubin, his CD soundtrack for One Step Beyond is currently available on Itunes for $5.99. Thanks to Larry and DJS (in "the book") for this wonderful inside look at the music.

  12. Hey Jim -

    Let me know what kind of problems you're having downloading the file from Rapidshare and I'll try to help you through that.


  13. You can get virtually every Harry Lubin OUTER LIMITS-related cue you need, want, or never thought you'd consider, HERE:

    1. Steve Mitchell (not the one you know)November 21, 2012 at 1:06 PM

      Nope can't get anything here.

  14. LaLaLand has also just released Frontiere's RAT PATROL music, which includes a lot of recycled STONEY BURKE cues, some of which will be very familiar to fans of "The Zanti Misfits."

  15. Bbcversus-
    Welcome! Glad you found us. We're looking forward to your input.

  16. Great article. I love Frontiere's music for The Outer Limits.

    Also, DF wrote (and re-used) some great music The Invaders ... now THERE'S a CD I'd want!

  17. I was such a fan of the show and the music that I actually called Frontiere in Beverly Hills back when I was in college in Florida (mid 70s) and spoke with him. Besides praising his music, I asked if he had any plans to release a recording. He said no, and that he had donated all the TOL material to his alma mater, the University of Wyoming.

    I called the curator of the museum more recently. There are 18 boxes of archival musical material donated by Frontiere at the American Heritage Center at the University of Wyoming. These boxes include all the musical scores or sheet music for The Outer Limits as well as other television projects he worked on between 1952-1975, including The Invaders. Here's the durable link to his catalogue page:

    What's not known is whether or not there are actual audio tapes of these scores. When Frontiere said he donated his music to the University of Wyoming, as a composer, he was most probably referring to his actual handwritten music sheets, etc. This is the material that anyone wanting to re-orchestrate his music today would use. There are 905 leaves of music sheets on TOL alone here.

    Whether this information gets us any more TOL soundtracks, I doubt, but if anyone’s interested, here’s where to look.

  18. Thank you for that Larry, listening to the download gave me some of the same spine-tingling pleasure as catching the original show. Marvellous.

    By the way, there is an online interview with Frontiere covering his OL work here:

    Might be an idea to post up the link in the links box.

    1. This link is dead, also. I feel like I'm missing out on everything.

    2. Good News: Googled [ harry lubin music ] and found , where I then found[{%22field%22%3A%22composer%22%2C%22value%22%3A%22Harry%20Lubin%20%28BMI%29%22%2C%22operation%22%3A%22must%22}]

      Loads of Harry's stuff is here-and often in stereo, like a lot of Dom's is, of course (my priceless Crescendo & La La Land CDs).

      i listened that suite used in Expanded Human, and the one
      under Vic Perrin's outro in Soldier. I've little doubt that the analog masters used to produce these mp3s at least rival or equal those of Dom's.

      Bad News: When i tried to download these two tracks i only got some kind of lullaby, presumably a free sampler of Harry's. I then emailed APM and was told that none of their music is for sale.
      It can only be licensed to produce a specific project. One can call (323) 461-3211 to inquire about those fees.

      So, of course this begs the question: Why aren't all of us who love much of Harry's OL music (except when he went berserk on that Theremin a'la Probe, Colonel Barham and Expanded Human), pressing La La Land Records or Neil Norman's Crescendo Records to buy those APM licenses for a Harry Lubin OL soundtrack 2 CD set? Or if they decline, maybe Shout Factory. Shout is a Universal label, which acquired EMI which owns Harry's catalog. A CD release is probably the only we stand any
      chance of getting Harry's music into our collections. Dom's music will sound truly awesome through the speakers I'm building. Maybe someday Harry's will too.

  19. The download was amazing. It's always weirdly revelatory to remember that music is like a recipe, and that a skilled chef/maestro can recreate the magnificence that's down on paper, especially when inspired. So wonderful! Thrilling, actually!

    Great article! Thanks for sharing your special expertise here with us all!

  20. THANK YOU for that Harry Lubin production music link -- the "Paranormal" themes are one or two notes off from the OL cues, but still the same old chill...

  21. Steve Mitchell (not the one you know)November 21, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    The link for TOP SECRET OUTER LIMITS MP3 is dead. I would really love to hear this if it's posted anywhere else. Frontiere's OL music has never been anything but incredible.

  22. I second that request for that TOP SECRET sound file-though an uncompressed FLAC or WAV file of an uncompressed master would be ideal. Speaking of sound quality, does anyone know the names of the studio and engineer(s) who recorded most or all of Dominic Frontiere's music? And for Harry Lubin's 2nd season music?

  23. This is fabulous! A crony just informed me of this blog so I am late to discover it. As editor of the JOURNAL OF FILM MUSIC, the first scholarly journal devoted to the topic, I can only wish we received papers which are as good as what I have read here, which would come under the heading “source studies” in musicology. For years I have heard rumors that legendary Edward B. Powell had worked as orchestrator on OL, as he had orchestrated for DF previously (being as DF had been a protégé of Alfred Newman, whose mainstay was Powell). But that doesn’t seem to gibe with the modus operandi described above which I know from Marlin Skiles was often used by composers of B films in the 1950s as a cost and time saver, in which a skilled music copyist would extract the orchestra parts directly from a detailed sketch, rather than from a full score, thus eliminating the need for an orchestrator.

  24. A seldom mentioned used of the onaphets seems (and I say seems because I am no expert) to occur in THE ZANTI MISFITS during the early scene where the soldiers first communicate with the Zanti Regent's voice and translate what he says. The moment that scene starts (with the soldier saying to General Hart : ''Communication established Sir !'') we can hear a very melodic onaphet-like wailing sounds on the soundtrack, which lasts for the WHOLE sequence ! Listen for yourself and tell me : is this the Onaphet ?

  25. So no one has a clue for what studio (s) and engineer (s) recorded Season 1 music?

  26. It may have been recorded at Goldwyn Studios but this information can most likely be obtained from the Daily Musician records preserved in the Local 47 Musicians Union archives. If the music was recorded at Goldwyn most likely it would have been recorded by their long-term music recordist, Vinton Vernon.

  27. Top Secret MP3 available yet? still

  28. Great site. Got here on a search. A buddy on Ham radio back in the states was asking me if I knew of this episode, since I'm often asked about old TV and movies. For the life of me I couldn't remember the title of this one, and thus, got here from a search. Thanks for the fact filled fun!

    Marathons are a load of fun, and remember fondly when TNT (when they were a good station) aired their OL marathons, I think around Thanksgiving, as me and my buddies were in a college campus hotel in Massachusetts and videotaping it all while a party raged on. Ah, college days. ;) It was always fun when networks would go the extra mile in promoting and celebrating shows like OL, Star Trek, TZ, etc. Nick, TV Land, TNT, and the station formerly known as SciFi Channel back in the day all had great marathons/chain reactions, etc. that reignited interest in these works as well as garnered tons new fans. Sadly, most of these channels no longer do this or are interested. Luckily sites like yours play a part in keeping the love alive. ;) Though watching things with others at the same time, the shared experience, makes all the difference. I have many friends who have vast libraries of old TV series collecting dust on shelves, because it loses its fun if you are the only one watching. These shows were meant be seen together, with others, in the household and better yet, out there, in the great beyond. There's a magic to that, one that can't be replicated and one that is clearly missing in many people's lives. Cheers from Tokyo.

  29. When are we going to get creative with this very special website again-at least musically? For starters, there absolutely needs to be a Stoney Burke TV series COMPLETE original soundtrack boxed set. Any first season OL TOS fan who loves Dom Frontiere’s music should know that there’s LOADS of music from the same cues and suites which John Elizalde drew from Frontiere’s library (which Quinn Martin had years earlier commissioned Dom to compile for use on future projects; fourth season Fugitive, Invaders) which were never heard anywhere but here.

    It’s sad that there will likely be fewer and fewer next gens ever bothering to review OL TOS even once, much less care to post their thoughts about it here. But before Frontiere’s pre-OL TV music library-if it does still exist-goes the way of the countless masters lost in Universal’s fire (however “accidental” that was), we owe it to ourselves and to posterity to persuade a reputable soundtrack label to have all of Dom’s Stoney Burke scoring expertly digitized and issued, if not in a CD boxed set then available as 24 bit downloads from the label or from stores like this one.

    I have my choice cuts/per scene/per episode in an Excel file for those interested. Let’s make it happen.

  30. I tried those chords marked "piano" and they are very evocative of tragedy. Half a step above resolution with painful discords.


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