In Everytown, which resembles Central London, it's Christmas. Crowds are rushing round fancy shops lit with new-fangled neon lights. In the sound track, a choir sings the carol "God rest you Merry Gentleman" on the phrase, "May nothing you dismay", the brass fanfares scream and the pace slows to rigid march. Newspaper headlines warn of war. At a family party, kids play with new toys while their elders discuss progress. "If we don't end war", says young Mr Cabal (Raymond Massey), "war will end us". "War stimulates progress" says his optimistic guest. Suddenly, bells are heard, ringing. Not for Christmas, though. Sirens sound, and gunfire. Everytown (and the Battleship Dinosaur) is being bombed. The country mobilizes for war. Diagonal shots, people running in different directions, rows of soldiers superimposed on one another. Nothing new for those used to Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927 - please read more here) and other futurist films, German, Russian, French and Italian. Smoke, explosions, bombs, tanks, more aeroplanes together than could fly safely in formation, and poison gas. For Brits, who came to art film later, this must have been thrilling stuff. Wonderfully discordant music - not what you'd associate with Arthur Bliss. Here's he's wildly uncompromising. He had, after all, seen war up close. Bliss made a Suite based on the soundtrack, (see below) which premiered before the film was released. Clearly, he knew he was on to something good.
Antheil's Ballet mécanique or Mosolov's The Iron Foundry or practically anything Varèse, but still.... Had Bliss done more of the same, one wonders where he could have gone. This would have served him well in the brave new world of the Festival of Britain and 1950's progress.
Please also see my Gunshots fired at the Royal Albert Hall which shows how different Bliss's achievemnt was from "ordinary" music written for film. In Things to Come, Bliss's music was part of the concept : it was more than music created to provide a soundtrack