“Untamed World”: Top TV Theme

Unless you were a nature nerd in the late 1960s to mid-1970s, chances are you have never heard Mort Garson‘s mysterious and exotic instrumental theme for the CTV television series, Untamed World.

“Untamed World Theme”     Mort Garson     196?

Uncanny emulation of steel drums that is/are undergirded by a percolating, undulating rhythm track — but what about those flute sounds, are those electronic, too?  Ditto with the reverberating drum you hear in the final seconds of the opening theme.

I am hardly the only one, as it turns out, to have been entranced by this 60-second composition, as the comments attached to this YouTube video clip attest:

  • “Growing up in the late 60’s, this was one of my favourite TV shows of all time. After all these decades, I still remember the tune nearly note-perfect. Thanks so much for posting, and bringing back such wonderful memories!”
  • “That song has been ruling my world for 35 years!”
  • “thank you for posting. been wanting to hear it a long time big childhood memories. maybe a little creepy sounding but great to hear it again after 40 yrs or so”
  • “thx so much for posting this. Haven’t heard this for years…gave me goosebumps!!! what a simple wonderful thing from childhood. thx for the memories”
  • “Ok raise your hand if you & your brother used to do weird jungle dances to this song.”
  • “I feel like crying. Huge memories of my childhood!”
  • “One of the best music intros for a tv show of all time”
  • “Genius indeed, but that opening, especially when one was a little kid, was 1000% SCARY!!!!! :O”
  • “Sensational musical theme!”
  • “THANK YOU! I remembered everything about this intro but could not for the life of me remember the name of the show! I remember my mom and dad watching this in the mid-1980s…I think either on Saturday or Sunday nights. I guess it must have been in re-runs by that time.”
  • “yeh something eerie about it for sure…..”
  • “Yes, it’s been exactly the same for me. So great to hear this again.”
  • “This song always makes me want to run naked through the forest.”
  • “Fantastic, trippy ’70s graphics and a great “tribal”-sounding theme that makes you wanna dance wildly around the living room. So glad to hear and see this again after many, many years – thank you!”
  • “Oh, those were the days. Life was simple then, watching an old B&W Zenith TV with 2 channels, and the other choice was usually some religious show. Being 6 yo I chose the animals.”
  • “Love the awesome wipes!” [technical term]
  • “one of those songs that sticks to your brain after all those years….up there with Rocket Robin Hood and Ultraman…”
  • “I always thought this was traditional African music It is computer generated”

YouTube contributor, Warren Jay, rightfully chides the program’s producers:

  • “Just look at those untamed Africans and Balinese.”

One Canadian contributor to IMDB’s jazz impressions as a lad:

  • “Sundays at 5:00 on CTV were a time of wonder and discovery.  The fields with their chaff-like growths blowing in the wind signaled the start of a highly informative and haunting half-hour documentary.  The thin straight lines speeding in a single direction, albeit staggered, brought us the silhouettes of images (offset by pink, orange, red, and teal backgrounds) that would have been lost in time if not for a YouTube account.  And then the announcer, one Alan Small, would finish off almost every episode with “the Untamed World.”  I remember being scared half out of my wits by, yet strangely drawn to, these simple images (all of which repeated in the outro accompanied by five others) and Mort Garson’s haunting theme, but now that fear seems just silly and ridiculous.”

Produced by Canadian Television (CTV), Untamed World was shown regularly between January and August 1969, according to IMDB, and then went into syndication – broadcast in the US through the mid-1970s and beyond, perhaps.

Fifty years or so ago, Billboard would report in its December 28, 1968 edition, under the banner TV Doings:

Mort Garson scoring 26 half-hour Untamed World shows for Metromedia, utilizing an electronic synthesizer.

Behold Untamed World‘s equally intoxicating outro theme:

Untamed World Outro Theme     Mort Garson     1967?

Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia vs.Stevie Wonder’s Secret Life of Plants

“Full, warm, beautiful mood music especially composed to aid in the growing of your plants,” Garson’s conceptual and all-electronic Mother Earth’s Plantasia from 1976 would predate Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants by three years.  Mother Earth’s Plantasia sells for an easy three figures at auction.

“I Know You Aries”: Mort Garson Asks, What’s Your Sign?

How nutty to release 12 albums of Moog synthesizer music simultaneously, one for each sign of the Zodiac.  And yet Mort Garson somehow convinced A&M to do so in 1969 –Signs of the Zodiac

I Know You Aries,”  the lead-off track on the Aries LP, could have been the A-side of a 45:

I Know You Aries – Mort Garson

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play “I Know You Aries” by Mort Garson.]

From Garson’s obituary in the January 11, 2008 edition of the Los Angeles Times:

Beginning with The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds in 1967, Garson created numerous albums using the Moog synthesizer, including Electronic Hair Pieces, a 1969 version of songs from the hit Broadway musical “Hair,” and Signs of the Zodiac, a 12-volume 1969 series featuring one album for each astrological sign.

Garson was making The Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds album for Elektra with writer Jacques Wilson when an orchestra member said he knew engineer Robert Moog, who had invented the first commercially available electronic music synthesizer a few years earlier.

“I met him, got interested in his invention and immediately put it in Zodiac to add a sweetness to the sound,” Garson told the Los Angeles Times in 1969.

“That was the first album ever to use the Moog synthesizer and a live orchestra together,” said Bernie Krause, who was at the “Zodiac” recording session.

Krause said he and his music partner, Paul Beaver, had introduced the Moog synthesizer to pop music and film in Hollywood in 1967 and were selling the units and teaching classes on how to use them.

Zodiac is a very influential cult album from the ’60s,” said Trevor Pinch, co-author of Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer, a 2002 book that featured a 1969 photograph of Garson and his Moog synthesizer on the cover.

Zodiac influenced all sorts of people, including the Moody Blues,” Pinch said. “They came up with ‘Nights in White Satin’ after listening to Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds.”

Garson said in the Times interview that he didn’t use the Moog synthesizer in “a very sophisticated way” on the 1967 Zodiac album.

But by the time he and Wilson did the 1968 A&M album The Wozard of Iz: An Electronic Odyssey — a hippie-style parody of “The Wizard of Oz” in which Dorothy proclaims that “Kansas isn’t where it’s at” — he said he had learned most of the techniques.

“His albums were fabulous examples of New Age music and really kind of kicked off the New Age genre — and they were enormously popular,” Krause said. “It was part of the texture of the whole San Francisco flower scene and all the rest of it in the late ’60s.”

At the time of Garson’s interview with The Times in July 1969, his Moog synthesizer music was about to be heard by millions of Americans who would be glued to their TV sets watching history in the making: the Apollo 11 mission to land on the moon.

At frequent intervals during coverage of the mission, CBS aired a 6 1/2 -minute commentary-free film produced by Chuck Braverman with music by Garson.

Garson completed the score for the film — a doctored and edited version of NASA films from previous space flights — in a week in the small studio in his home in the Hollywood Hills.

“The only sounds that go along with space travel are electronic ones,” he told The Times. “The Apollo film shows different facets of the flight — blastoff, separation of the stages of the rocket, scenes of the moon at close range, of the astronauts playing games in the ship and of earthrise.”

The music, he said, “has to carry the film along. It has to echo the sound of the blastoff and even the static you hear on the astronauts’ report from space. People are used to hearing things from outer space, not just seeing them.

“So I used a big, symphonic sound for the blastoff, some jazzy things for the zero-G game of catch, psychedelic music for a section that uses negatives and diffuse colors on shots taken inside the ship, and a pretty melody for the moon. After all, it’s still a lovely moon.”

Born July 20, 1924, in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, Garson attended the Juilliard School of Music and was a pianist and arranger with dance orchestras before serving in Special Services during World War II.

He most recently composed a suite of music about San Francisco, his home since 1993.

“He was just putting the finishing touches on it,” Darmet said. “We were going to digitally record it; we still will.”