Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“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 reported 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.

Two weeks later, Billboard would fork over the details in its January 11, 1969 issue (pg. 66) —

Garson Into TV With Electronics

LOS ANGELES — Mort Garson, who has begun recording electronic music for A&M, has now expanded his electronic technique into scoring a television series.

Through his recently formed Em Gee Productions, Garson has a number of projects planned for A&M.  LP of electronic music will be The Wozard of Iz.

Garson is at present involved in creating the background sounds for Untamed World, a weekly half-hour series on NBC Saturdays.

The series is the first to regularly blend electronic music with conventional instruments.  Garson estimates he’ll create three to four hours of original electronic music for the 32 shows, using a $9,000 Moog synthesizer which he owns and operates in his recording studio in his Hollywood Hills home.

This studio is equipped with an 8-track console.  The synthesizer is hooked directly into the tape recorder to provide a direct feed on sonic impulses.  The synthesizers can duplicate the sound of an instrument or create new tones and timbres through modulations changes.

Garson creates his score on the synthesizer, so in effect he is creating, playing and recording at the same time.  If he was working with “conventional music,” he would first write, arrange and then have it played by instruments.

Through a series of filters and oscillators on the synthesizer, Garson “manipulates” the path of an electronic signal to create his tones.

He feels the utilization of electronic music in the popular idiom opens new avenues for new sounds.  “You have the infinite possibility of expanding a note from A to B in many different ways,” he said.  “You can also alter a note in many spaces in an interval.”

On the planning board for Garson are an LP of themes from the TV series, scoring a full length feature film and getting into advertising commercials — all utilizing electronic music.

Photo from Billboard‘s January 11, 1969 issue

Behold Untamed World‘s equally intoxicating outro theme:

Untamed World Outro Theme

Mort Garson


Mort Garson’s Mother Earth’s Plantasia


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.

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