by Nick Cooper © 2005-2017

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1936 Decca 78 rpm Gramophone Records

Not only was Things to Come the first sound film to have a specially-written score, it was also the first to have that score released commercially, but the history of the recordings is almost as elusive as some other aspects of the production. The composer, Arthur Bliss, conducted the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) on 3 March 1935 at the Decca Studios in London in recording ten movements, although here are eleven pieces of music in the film. It seems that the original intention of these recordings was as a guide for production staff, since the music actually used on the film was conducted by Muir Mathieson (also with the LSO), and it was not until February 1936 - coinciding with the film's premiere - that four pieces were made available commercially on two mono 78 RPM discs (one per side):

Ballet for Children (the Cabals' Christmas party)
Melodrama: Pestilence (1966 segment as Dr Harding reflects on the Wandering Sickness)
Melodrama: Attack (Gordon pursuing his sister through the ruins)
The World in Ruins (lead-in to the 1966 segment)

Two further movements were transferred on 18 February 1936 from the Mathieson-conducted film recordings, and released on a third disc:

March (1940 mobilisation/war preparations)
Epilogue (close of the film, although with the choir singing different words)

Bliss also arranged and published a concert suite comprised of six movements, which he also performed and recorded himself:

Ballet for Children*
Melodrama: Attack
Melodrama: Pestilence

Reconstruction (a.k.a. Epilogue)*

The three pieces marked with an asterix were also published as simplified piano scores (see below), along with Prologue, some time after which the original score was lost. Luckily, The Building of the New World survived under a different title in Bliss's ballet Checkmate, while the manuscript for Attack on the Moon Gun was found after Bliss's death by his widow. This still left two movements - The World in Ruins and Excavation - that existed only in recorded form, until they were rescored by Christopher Palmer (who also elaborated on the piano score for Prologue and brought Reconstruction/ Epilogue back more in line with the soundtrack) and Philip Lane in 1976 and 2001 respectively.

In 1991, test-pressings of Bliss's 1935 recordings of Prologue, March and Reconstruction/Epilogue came to light, although the 1997 Symposium CD (see below) used only the material released by Decca in 1936. In 2000, Pearl's second volume of British Film Music reproduced only the Bliss-conducted movements (see below).

[Damaged original of the third (Mathieson) 78 disc in the author's collection, with thanks to MJ Simpson]

Sheet Music

The music publishers Chappell produced a set of three pieces of sheet music with simplified selections from Arthur Bliss's score: March, Ballet for Children, and Prologue & Epilogue (Reconstruction). Each measured 256mm x 355mm (10" x 14") and featured the same basic cover design. [Originals in the author's collection]

Decca 78RPM Gramophone Records 1959 RCA SRC-7025 45RPM 7" EP Vinyl Record

The longevity of Bliss's work on the film is reflected in this 1959 recording of a stereo version of the above-mentioned suite of six movements by the LSO, conducted by the composer. [Author's collection]

1997 Symposium 1208 Compact Disc

This compilation of early recordings of the works of five different composers includes the four movements conducted by Arthur Bliss and the two by Muir Mathieson released by Decca in 1936, although some six years after the discovery of three more by Bliss (two of which were the Mathieson ones, anyway). The photograph is of Peter Warlock, one of the other featured composers. [Author's collection]

2000 Pearl GEM0101 Compact Disc

This compilation of British film music features early recordings of the works of seven composers on nine films. It includes the four movements conducted by from Things to Come released by Decca in 1936, along with the three unreleased test recordings made at the same time. The latter were Prologue, March and Epilogue, the last two "replacing the Mathieson-conducted versions originally released by Decca, although his version of Epilogue was much shorter (in fact, Bliss's took up two disc sides). While the Symposium CD effectively contains all the material commercially released in 1936, the Pearl disc contains all of the 1936 recordings conducted by Bliss himself. [Author's collection]


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