Friday, June 05, 2015

The Early Music of Tomorrowland

Looking Back at Tomorrow

There's some things, in terms of theme park music, that you can pretty much rely on. The specifics may shift, but they're always gonna be playing Japanese-sounding music at the Japan Pavilion in EPCOT. Main Street USA has always had its gay nineties waltzes. They're always gonna have movie music playing on Hollywood Boulevard. These are easy things to guess.

But wait. What does "the future" sound like?

That's a moving target. If you asked somebody in the late 1950s they may have given you an orchestral score laced with theremin music. In the 70s it may have been experimental Moog synthesizers, and in the 90s it could have been ominous, New Age-inflected atmospheric tones.

When I first began my work gathering up theme park music, the musical history of Tomorrowland was a total blank slate. There's a track that's well known to park goers because it played all through the 1990s during the age of the "New Tomorrowland"; it's well known for including the classic park anthems "Bubble Shuffle" and "Behind the Waterfall". Many a young sci-fi nerd made indelible memories listening to Bubble Shuffle while cruising past the Tomorrowland Speedway in the TTA car, and perhaps also noticed the same tracks playing at Wonders of Life and Fountain View Espresso at Epcot. Behind the Waterfall by David Lantz is one of the few immortal Disney tunes not written expressly for the company, joining Baroque Hoedown in an exclusive club.

The Disney internet was still too small to mourn the passing of the "Bubble Shuffle" New Age loop in fall 2003, when it was replaced with the music which as of this writing currently plays in Tomorrowland. Made up of classic Tomorrowland music cues like "Miracles From Molecules" and arranged in a pleasingly spacey style by composer Dan Foliart, it also currently plays in Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland, and Hong Kong Disneyland. But that was where the knowledge ran out. If you wanted to know what played in Tomorrowland before the "New Age" loop, you were out of luck.

So it's with a measure of pride that I can present this early musical history of the area to you. It's been a long time coming.

In the Beginning: 1972 - 1975

It actually took a good amount of work to confirm that there was any music playing in Tomorrowland to begin with. As I've covered in this blog before, many areas of Disneyland did not (and still don't) have formal area loops. Jack Wagner was hired to provide the park background music in 1970, but the west coast Tomorrowland did not receive a full area loop until 2005 - and it was the Dan Foliart loop. Nobody I talked to could remember far enough back, and good luck finding somebody who thought to bring a tape recorder to Magic Kingdom and do some documentation back in 1973.

Despite this, I was convinced that something had played. Check out this late 1971 photo:

See those tall, brown speakers bolted to the central light columns? Disney wouldn't bother to run audio cable underground and up through a light pole for no reason. Something had to be playing, or at least was supposed to be playing, even if nobody really noticed it.

I heard all of the theories. Some thought the original Tomorrowland loop was music from Kaleidoscopic Vibrations: Electronic Pop Music From Way Out, which was the Perrey and Kingsley record which Baroque Hoedown was originally released on in 1967. This had some appealing logic to it, but then of course nothing much on the album sounds very "spacey", Baroque Hoedown included. Did Disney really have an electronic version of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg playing in Tomorrowland?

One former Cast Member claimed that the early area music was the entirety of Wendy Carlos' Switched-On Bach, which is such a specific memory that I still think this famous and recognizable record could have played in one of the area shops, which had their own music sound systems. But this seemed to get me no closer to the area music.

Thankfully, Mike Cozart had been in touch with Jack Wagner before he died about the early Magic Kingdom area music and had ended up with some materials Jack had compiled for his own records of his work for Disney. As it turned out, Mike not only had Jack's list but had already identified the source music for a few of the tracks!

As it turned out, the tracks that Mike had were from the Capitol Media Music line. Media Music was a line of production music releases produced by Ole Georg and released through Capitol, where Wagner already had contacts. Production music LPs are a fascinating subset of music releases, in that they are intended to be licensed on an individual album or track basis and used for things like television commercials and radio station segments. Many filmmakers who cannot afford to hire composers use production or library cues to fill out their films. This was a frequent practice of George Romero who filled out the entirety of Night of the Living Dead with library cues. Probably the most widely seen film to make heavy use of library music is Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where the tinned, slightly cliche quality of the library tracks add to the comedy of that film.

The Capitol Media Music releases themselves are still the gold standard for library music, and they're extremely evocative. All of the goofily retro music heard in Ren and Stimpy came from Ole Georg's back catalog, and the tracks are still in use today by any production wanting to evoke a vintage atmosphere. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Jack Wagner used the Media Music releases to create a handful of the most evocative psuedo-futuristic area tracks ever created.

None of this makes it any easier to actually figure out the Capitol Media Music line, however. Each piece of the Media Music library was sorted into "Releases", which were numbered. There could be two or three "Releases" a year - say Release No. 5, Release No. 6, and Release No. 7. Within each "Release" would be twelve to fifteen individual albums, each grouped to a theme. Capitol sold these to production houses as entire "Releases", in which case the purchaser would receive the full raft of fifteen LPs. They also loaned each disc out individually, and would require the discs to be returned upon completion of the order.

In other words, if you're looking for a specific track from the Media Music library, you need to remember a lot of easily confused data: the "Release" set, the individually numbered record from the Release, and the name of the track. This is why, when I finally get to listing the music here, you're going to be seeing things like "Capitol Media Music Release 12 Number 6".

To make things even stickier, these same pieces of music were released at least three times more. Some of them reappeared in the "Hi-Q" 45 RPM series, with new and different releases interspersed. Then, the new Capitol production music line in the 1970s - "The Professional" - included the original Media Music tracks with yet more updated tracks and styles. And Ole Georg himself is now selling rights to some of, but not all of, the tracks through CDs.

Okay, so that's where the music came from. Now the trick was to figure out how to get it.

Thankfully Jack's document included the run times of each track, so matching the track to the release had an additional check on authenticity. Thankfully, I also at the time was living in Los Angeles, which is the best place in the country to find old production library LPs because as the production houses closed or moved to newer sound formats they sold off their old records. So with help from Michael Sweeney, C33, Mike Cozart, and me driving around in my car, I can finally allow you to read, and hear, the earliest Tomorrowland music.

This is dated March 1972, and it's likely that there was simply no music in Tomorrowland for its first few months. Please note that the loop is incomplete; the bottom of the list indicates that it's continued on a second page which is now lost.
Tomorrowland Area Music 1972 - 1983
Running Time Unknown

01) Primary Project (3:29)
   MM R11 06 Tom Eliot

02) Jet Propulsion (1:27)
   MM R4 06 Dan Kirsten
03) Tomorrows Machinery (1:20)
   MM R4 06 Dan Kirsten
04) Cosmic Labs (1:46)
   MM R4 06 Dan Kirsten

05) Valley in Bloom (3:17)
   MM R15 02 Jan Kimberly

06) The Great Epic (2:18)
   MM R15 02 Jan Kimberly

07) Point of Vista (3:16)
   MM R14 04 Jack Mayborn

08) Roots Revisited (3:38)
   MM R14 04 Jack Mayborn

09) Majestic Mountain (3:36)
   MM R15 02 Jan Kimberly

10) Sea Living (2;02)
   MM R5 01 Dan Kirsten

11) The Valley (1:56)
   MM R5 01 Dan Kirsten

12) Majestic Scenery(2:05)
   MM R9 03 Henrik Neilsen

13) A Proud Nation (1:43)
   MM R9 03 Henrik Neilsen
14) National Geography (2:37)
   MM R13 04 Jan Kimberly

15) Fast Western (1;17)
   MM R5 01 Dan Kirsten

16) Dignity of Man (1'12)
   MM R9 03 Henrik Neilsen

17) Clean Environment(:30)
   MM R9 03 Henrik Neilsen
18) Nature in Motion (1:50)
   MM R9 03 Henrik Neilsen


Capitol Media Music Release 4 Number 6 World of Progress
Capitol Media Music Release 5 Number 1 Scenic
Capitol Media Music Release 9 Number 3 National Parks/Environment
Capitol Media Music Release 11 Number 6 New Industry
Capitol Media Music Release 13 Number 4 Huge Nature
Capitol Media Music Release 14 Number 4 Grand Scenic
Capitol Media Music Release 15 Number 2 Majestic Vistas
I believe that the loop is missing only one track. It comes out to a running time of about 38:30, which is just enough time to include one of the many tracks on the Environment/Ecology or National Parks releases. This would bring the run time up to an even 40:00, which is the average length of many of the original Walt Disney World loops (Caribbean Plaza, Frontierland, probably Main Street, etc). Regardless this must be regarded as and will always be a partial playlist - although the tape master still exists, it has decayed beyond the point of usability.

It's a unique loop. Wagner took his cue from the majestic architecture of the area and crafted a loop of grand, sweeping music not too far off from the sort of music which would play ten years later outside EPCOT Center.

The WEDway Peoplemover: 1975 and 1976

Now, in researching this loop I watched home videos, listened to live recordings, and spoke to everybody in a position to possibly remember, and everybody tells me that the main sound heard in Tomorrowland that they can remember is the echoed music coming from the Peoplemover.

My best guess is that the 1972 loop would have been audible through the summer of 1975, when the WEDway came online. It's clear that once those blue cars started rolling, that whatever music was intended to play down on the street level was drowned out totally, and Disney may have turned the 1972 "Concourse" music way down at that time, or even removed it. The WEDway music became the defacto music of Tomorrowland.

When the ride opened in Summer 1975, it used a Jack Wagner created the Peoplemover loop with music from Capitol Media Music. Disneyland's Peoplemover got a similar treatment in 1976, and those tracks have been floating around online for years in various forms.

Finding the correct tracks and moreover track names for the east coast park was trickier, and Michael Sweeney and I pretty much ended up buying every Media Music LP we suspected could have a match. As it turns out, a track which had previously been identified as "Outdoor Life #1" is actually "Outdoor Life #2" and was re-named when Ole Georg released the tracks to CD in the late 1980s. Our list uses the track names for the original LP releases.

The WEDway continued to use this loop until it closed in 1993 to make way for the "New Tomorrowland". As part of the conversion to New Tomorrowland, the WEDway speakers were taken off their unique loop and changed so that they played the same music heard in the rest of Tomorrowland, and it has remained that way ever since.

WEDway Peoplemover BGM 1975-1993
Running time Approx. 13:30

01 Neutral Strings #2 [3]
   Comp. Neil Amsterdam

02 Neutral Strings #3 [3]
   Comp. Neil Amsterdam

03 Outdoor Life #1 [1]
   Comp. Henrik Neilsen

04 Outdoor Life #2 [1]
   Comp. Henrik Neilsen

05 Monorail Song [4]
   Comp. George Bruns / Walt Disney Productions

06 Nation on Wheels [4]
   Comp. George Bruns / Walt Disney Productions

07 Industry in Motion #1 [2]
   Comp. Neil Amsterdam

[1] Capitol Media Music Release 7 Number 8 "Outdoor Life / Supersoundic Strings"
[2] Capitol Media Music Release 8 Number 5 "Industry in Motion" 
[3] Capitol Media Music Release 8 Number 7 "Neutral Strings in Motion"
[4] Walt Disney Productions / Disneyland Forever

 1983 saw Tomorrowland's first big image make-over, and with it came a new loop and the era of "New Age" Tomorrowland began, but that's a story for another time. Perhaps our next post?

Ready for more? Visit the Passport to Dreams Theme Park Music Hub.
Or, hop a monorail to the past and spend a full "day" at the Walt Disney World of the 1970s by downloading Another Musical Souvenir of Walt Disney World.