The Almeida, London, staged the first official stage production of The Twilight Zone in 2017. It was adapted by Anne Washburn from the classic 1960s CBS television series and is directed by Richard Jones.
I was composer and sound designer on this production – a job which required me to re-edit the extraordinary, orchestral underscore of the original series and dovetail it with original sounds and music of my own. I created the new material by radically stretching, pitch-shifting, distorting or otherwise processing or augmenting the show’s original sound and music. This enabled me to make a striking 21st-century counterpoint to the 1950s and 60s underscore that had strong sonic cohesion with the original.
A highlight of this project was the chance to work with the the archive of Bernard Herrmann – the composer responsible for the soundtracks to Psycho, North by North West and The Day The Earth Stood Still. The production also included music by Marius Constant (composer of the show’s unforgettable theme tune), Fred Steiner, Nathan Van Cleave, among others, as well as my original work. Access granted to edit and adapt the music of Herrmann, Constant and others was unprecedented and we were grateful to be given the rights from Sony CBS.
Creating a new underscore for the show was a painstaking exercise. It took months to edit the scores and refine the cut, working closely with Richard the director, as well as the choreographer and actors in the rehearsal room. It was particularly fascinating to find ways to make the original score slip in and out of my contemporary sounds. Sonically I was keen to avoid any form of pastiche – I wanted this show to conjure that underlying sense of jeopardy and dread people felt when they first saw The Twilight Zone on TV.
The original soundtracks to The Twilight Zone were made at a time of technological change, the emergence of electronic music, the beeps of Sputnik, aural paranoia in bugged phones and dials tuned for sonic interceptions of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Herrmann and others formulated their own vision at CBS for the series, building sonic futures rooted in tense orchestral compositions that reflected these Cold War anxieties. Their work stood in contrast to the tape-manipulated sounds of contemporaries at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I wanted to create sounds and music that made the most of both these traditions – sonic visions of the future on both sides of the Atlantic.
This show also required me to write a 60s-style song and dance number. It pops out of nowhere towards the end of Act 1 and it involves a cat woman, a heady dream and a deadly roller coaster.
Fairground: nightmare in reverse Here an elaborate scene change plays in reverse as our point of view is sucked back from a fairground, through the city streets and into an apartment where there’s a knock at the door and a visitor who imbues a sense of dread.
Why is this cigarette burning? In this example, I’ve added my own extemporised piano figure to some existing music from the series (The Lonely by Bernard Herrmann). The piano accompanies a discarded cigarette that mysteriously begins to burn unattended in the ashtray of a bar. There are also some vocal sounds, barely distinct, of a girl trapped in another dimension – an effect created with reverse reverb.
Star Dread Music to underscore a futuristic scene in which a woman comes back from suspended animation to discover she’s a stranger in her own world and her lover is now an old man. To suggest dread and suspension, I stretched some semiquaver harp music 16 times or so then augmented it with long, foreboding pedal notes. The music I stretched appears several times earlier in the show to underscore a story about a bandaged lady.
- Fairground: nightmare in reverse Sarah Angliss 1:08
- Why is this cigarette burning? (B Herrmann feat S Angliss) B Herrmann and S Angliss 0:35
- Star Dread Sarah Angliss 2:43
Read an interview about my work on this production in The Stage.
In a production that’s rich in extraordinary sound, I was grateful to be joined by fellow sound designers Christopher Shutt and Zoe Milton in the final weeks of the project. Set design was by Paul Steinberg, choreography by Aletta Collins and lighting design by Mimi Jordan Sherin.