A Little Strange Music: Score Productions and the Music of Maljardin
by Curt Ladnier
Anyone who has ever watched STRANGE PARADISE is unlikely to mistake its distinctive title theme for anything else. With its primitive jungle drums and its eerie woodwinds, the piece is unique and memorable, setting the tone for an offbeat production. In fact, all of the series’ original music is heavily responsible for evoking the proper mood for the show, but little credit has been given to its creators. STRANGE PARADISE could have been quite a different production if not for the musical efforts of Score Productions.
A $260 transaction and a musician’s vision launched Score Productions in the early 1960s, and by the time the outfit was recruited to provide the music for STRANGE PARADISE in 1969, it was already an established name in the entertainment industry. Under the leadership of its founder, Bob Israel, Score continues to thrive in the 21st century, and is known for the ability to create a theme which viewers quickly identify with a specific program. Score’s compositions punctuate numerous well-known shows, past and present, such as THE PRICE IS RIGHT, SEARCH FOR TOMORROW, CNN News, ANOTHER WORLD, FAMILY FEUD, all of ABC’s news programming, and many, many more.
Robert Arnold (Bob) Israel had quite a successful career even before establishing Score. A native of New York, he displayed a love of music from an early age, studying piano and performing in recitals by the time he was five. As he matured, Israel went on to hone his talents in classes at Julliard and Columbia Graduate School, studying under French conductor Pierre Monteux.
As a young man just striking out on his own in post-World War II New York, Israel developed an interest in the city’s jazz scene and the impact of its music. Soon he landed his first job in the recording industry, serving as a production assistant to the Musicraft record label. His ambitions did not allow him to languish in this position for long though, and at the age of 21 he formed his own label, Heritage Records. This venture proved a success, and the company released over 250 albums before Israel ultimately sold his interest in the label in the late 1950s.
After leaving Heritage, Israel spent a brief tenure at MGM Records before going to work for the Society of European Songwriters and Composers as a producer. It was his experiences with the SESAC which taught him the business of the recording industry and “how you made income in music.” During his time with the Society, he produced more than 50 albums under its auspices.
Early in the 1960s, Israel went to work for Talent Associates Ltd, a company run by David Susskind and Alfred Levy which produced high-profile tv movies and series. Working as an assistant to Levy, he received an on-the-job crash course in television production. Then, drawing on his musical background, he proceeded to convince Levy of the advantages of establishing an in-house unit for the production of original music.
In 1963, Israel wanted to spread his wings farther, and saw an opportunity when NBC approached him with a $260 budget to create the music for a pilot in development titled HOUSE OF HOPE. The network soon took the project to full series, with Israel’s music, and it became the long-running daytime serial THE DOCTORS. This success was Israel’s springboard to forming his own company, Score Productions, and he left Talent Associates only to retain them as one of Score’s earliest clients.
Interestingly, it may have been this initial project that eventually led to Score’s involvement with STRANGE PARADISE. Jerry Layton was a producer for THE DOCTORS in 1963, and it is probable that his familiarity with Score’s work on that project was a major factor in his bringing them onboard when he was set to produce STRANGE PARADISE later in the decade.
Over the years, Score Productions has turned out a remarkable body of work, drawing on the talents of a stable of composers which has included Bob Israel himself, Edd Kalehoff, Sheila Cole Israel, Lee Ringuette, and Susan Otto, among others. The company has developed a reputation of producing quality music for television, while remaining within the constraints of a budget. Reflecting on his efforts with Score Productions, Bob Israel once remarked, “I wanted to bring excellence to television music. I’ve tried pretty damned hard and, even if the subject matter was less than inspiring at times, for the most part I’ve succeeded.”
Certainly, if success can be judged from the company’s volume of output, then Score has had it in spades. At the dawn of the new millennium, it was estimated that their music is featured in over 445 separate television broadcasts each week. Not to be limited strictly to music, Score has also opened its own production division, Score Media Productions, for the development of its own television and feature projects. With 45 years of experience behind them, and a fresh century ahead, Score Productions continues to blaze a trail in the entertainment industry.
One final note regarding their compositions for STRANGE PARADISE – shortly after the series left the air in 1970, Score Productions recycled much of the show’s incidental music in the shortlived Canadian science fiction series THE STARLOST. Subsequently, anecdotal comments from fans have reported that much of THE STARLOST’s music later turned up in the television series SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON. So it appears that strains of STRANGE PARADISE have been heard in two totally unrelated productions, in deep space and on another island paradise.
is Strange Paradise?