Commercial music producer Benn Jordan (recording as The Flashbulb) stumbled upon David Attenborough’s 1984 documentary series that was, in the creator’s words, “more in touch with nature than any other.” Along with the BBC he and his crew geared up for the endeavor–and they would risk their lives and careers to do so. The result, a TV series called “The Living Planet.” From Wikipedia:

Among the most difficult places, in terms of logistics, was the Sudan, where the crew had to be flown in — despite there being no runways or indeed roads. Conversely, areas such as the Himalayas permitted no transportation at all, so the only option was to walk. In South America, a shortage of boats led to one cameraman having to push his equipment in a rubber dinghy, while he himself swam behind it.

Some subjects proved even more challenging: the production team had to wait two years for news to arrive of an erupting volcano, and had to suspend all other filming in the hope that it would still be alight when they reached it. Elsewhere, cameraman Hugh Miles had to put himself 25 yards (23 m) away from a polar bear in order to film it in close-up.

Benn loved the concept and the film, but said, “the only thing I’m not in love with about this series is the music. A bit too minimal and synthy when perhaps a more cinematic approach is needed.” Taking it upon himself to re-invision the soundtrack, Benn–along with opener and visualist Polyfuse–will re-create live the score to the the first of The Living Planet series: “The Building Of The Earth.”

For this particular live-scoring Benn will DJ the cues to the movie in Traktor with a cue sheet and SMTPE code in front of him. Next month will involve a higher degree of actual instrumentation involving musicians with strings.

It’s a free show at Sonotheque, 1444 W. Chicago Ave in Chicago. The performance starts at 9:30 and will run for an hour, after which Benn will DJ.

Here’s the original video, so you can hear what Benn is refering to by “minimal and synthy”:

And here’s a clip from Benn showing his version:

Benn Jordan Re-envisions The Living Planet
Benn Jordan Re-envisions The Living Planet

  • Art

    The original soundtrack written and recorded by Elizabeth Parker at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

  • Cool, good find!

  • Witte

    It's a cool idea, but I like the original better. Probably because I'm a Boards of Canada fan.

  • Hahaha–I think they both have their merits, but on one hand I agree with Benn. The soundtrack sounds pretty dated…it makes me think of "Look Around You," ie: "Synthesizer Patel"


    On the other…I can see how he would feel a more "cinematic" approach would work better and feel less cheesy. If you look at Discovery Channel's "Planet Earth" it's a well-produced HD version of the former, with less dated music.

  • David Attenborough is my favorite!

  • Well, Elizabeth Parker suffers from what I'd term Claude Debussy syndrome:

    Get so successful at creating a specific sound in orchestration, have such a profound influence on musical culture, that you inspire so many knockoffs and cultural associations, it's hard to ever hear the *original* the same way again. And, of course, the fact that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was THE group churning out the soundtrack for British life didn't help! But I still enjoy that sound, dated or not.

    And then again, all the more reason to hear some new takes on the idea. Ideally, it changes the way you hear both.

    I think it's a terrific idea; hope others run with similar things.

  • Awesome. I've really been wanting to see Benn perform live. I'm going to try and make it. The article doesn't mention the date – it's tomorrow (May 5).

  • Polite

    much, much prefer the original.

  • Polite

    aw, actually that sounds rude of me, i should mention that that era of synth-based music soundtrack totally does it for me.

  • I don't know how representative the clip here is of course, but the drums in the short clip of Benn's new score sound, to my ears, less dated but more hackneyed than the naive 'look around you'-ish synthery of the original clip shown here.

  • It's an interesting idea for a show nevertheless.

  • Simon

    I have to say I'm not keen on either*. The RW version comes from a time when the RW were mass producing loads of bland synthesized music and the updated version sounds like typical Discovery Channel fare. Lose the beats! I'd still like to hear more though as the clip didn't offer much to base a proper judgment on.

    *actually thats not quite true – musically I can't stand the 80's/90's RW output but because I was a kid growing up in the UK I do have a slight nostalgic interest.

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  • rhowaldt

    the original reminds of I think it was White Noise II. concerning the new version, as said before, lose the drums! i think it sounds quite monotonous and un-interesting, which i find especially curious as these are not words i'd use to describe The Flashbulb's music. frankly, i expected something way, way better. but that might be quick judgement from a very short clip.

  • I'm afraid I prefer the original to the new. You see, to my ears, the original actually sounds more interested and, well, original, as I was not exposed to that omnipresent-at-the-time style too much as a kid. The new one, on the other hand, sounds exactly like what I hear for hours a day, day in and day out, on History, Discovery, TLC, and so on.

    That which is old becomes new again.

  • Slight correction to article. Polyfuse is me and I am doing something completely separate from Benn's performance. Visuals for my set will be by Merkaba:

  • TJ

    The description "too minimal and synthy" might be levelled at a great deal of work being done at that time … for example the music for Tron, or Blade Runner, or the entire series "Hearts of Space".

    I can see someone not liking this earlier style, but it was entirely apropos and de jeur at the time … 25 years ago. If you went into stores looking for a synth in those times, you'd most likely have found what they were calling "workstations". Not a very musical descriptive either.

  • Art

    Elizabeth Parker 2001 background interview in Sound on Sound magazine

  • Art

    Sorry for one more, video from 1982 in the studio. Wonderfull interview

  • How did he isolate the soundtrack from the narration?