EmptyBebe Barron, a pioneering composer of classical studio electronic music who did the eerie score for the 1956 sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet," died April 20 from natural causes at Cedar-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 82.
Barry Schrader, the founder and first president of the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, called the work for "Planet" that Barron did with her husband, Louis Barron, a "landmark in electro-acoustic music."
"At some point it's actually impossible to say whether what you're hearing is music, sound effect or both," Schrader said. "In doing this, they foreshadowed by decades the now- common role of the sound designer in modern film and video."
The Barrons began their experiments with the recording and manipulation of sound material by means of a tape recorder they received as a wedding gift, then worked with vacuum tubes to produce the unearthly "Planet" sound. The couple went on to compose many other works for tape, film and the theater in the 1950s.
Alex Grasshoff, a documentary director and producer best known for being forced to return his Academy Award in 1969, died April 5 at his Los Angeles home of complications from leg surgery. He was 79.
Grasshoff and Robert Cohn were awarded the Oscar when their film "Young Americans" won for best feature-length documentary. Grasshoff also wrote and directed the film, which chronicled the adventures of the Young Americans singing group on a cross-country bus tour.
A few weeks later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences discovered that "Americans" had been shown in a theater in North Carolina in October 1967, making it ineligible for an Oscar for the 1968 calendar year. The first runner-up, "Journey Into Self," was declared the official winner.
Grasshoff, who started at Paramount in the 1950s, received two other Oscar noms as well as two Emmys. He directed a few feature films, including "Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws" (1978), and episodes of such TV series as "The Rockford Files" and "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."
Hazel Court, an English stage beauty who co-starred with the likes of Boris Karloff and Vincent Price in popular horror movies of the 1950s and '60s, died April 14 of a heart attack at her home near Lake Tahoe, Calif. She was 82.
While she had a substantial acting career in England and on American TV, Court was renowned for her work in films including "The Raven" (1963). She co-starred with Price, Karloff and Peter Lorre in Roger Corman's take on the classic Edgar Allan Poe poem.
Corman directed her in five movies. Like other "scream queens" of the era, Court often relied on her cleavage and ability to shriek and die horrible deaths for her roles.
"The Premature Burial" (1962), "The Masque of the Red Death" (1964), "The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957) and "Devil Girl From Mars" (1954) helped propel her to cult status.
Sean Costello, a blues guitar prodigy who went on to play in the Susan Tedeschi Band and record five albums, was found dead in his Atlanta hotel room April 15, one day shy of his 29th birthday. The cause of death has not yet been determined.
Costello, an Atlanta native, was in the middle of touring to support his latest album, "We Can Get Together," on Delta Groove Records.
"Losing someone as young, talented and vibrant as Sean, who has accomplished so much in just a few short years and still had so much potential, is a terribly difficult blow," Delta Groove execs Robert Fitzpatrick and Rand Chortoff said.
Costello's 2000 album, "Cuttin' In," earned the musician a W.C. Handy Blues Award nomination.
Chris Gaffney, a singer-songwriter whose roots- and country-flavored music earned him a dedicated fan base in Southern California, died April 17 of liver cancer at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach, Calif. He was 57.
Born in Vienna and raised in Arizona and Orange County, Gaffney had been a regular on the regional bar scene since the 1970s and toured for much of the past decade with Dave Alvin's backing band, the Guilty Men. He also earned recent acclaim as lead singer of the Hacienda Brothers, a Western soul act.
Gaffney's solo albums included "Mi Vida Loca" and "Loser's Paradise" in the '90s and a double live album in 2000.