Electronic music pioneers, who composed and performed the score for the film Forbidden Planet, which is recognized today as a milestone in electronic music. Both of the Barrons grew up in Minneapolis, but it appears that they did not meet until they had both moved to New York, around 1945. Bebe received a degree from political science from the University of Minnesota, but she also studied composition there, and she continued to do so on the side after moving to New York. Meanwhile, Louis received a degree in music from the University of Chicago, where he also took some courses in engineering, and acquired an interest in electrical circuit design.
The Barrons formed both a personal and a professional partnership, marrying in 1947. They established one of the first recording studios oriented towards the production of electronic music, in Greenwich Village, where a significant avant-garde arts community existed at the time. At the time, tape recorders were a very new technology; few were in the hands of the public, and recording tape was hard to find. However, Louis had a relative who worked for 3M and was able to get tape for the Barrons. Somewhat to their own surprise, their studio venture became successful, and they established their own record label to publish their own works and works of others who recorded in their studio. They received encouragement from John Cage, who came to their studio to record "Williams Mix", his first work for tape.
Louis had read mathematician Norbert Weiner's book Cybernetics, and it influenced his circuit designs. He regarded his circuits as living beings, and designed them to run as they would, often disregarding circuit specifications -- which led to results that were one-of-a-kind and hard to reproduce, as well as some "magic smoke escapes". Because of this, he and Bebe got into the habit of recording everything. Bebe's role became that of assembling the hours and hours of recorded material into compositions, using tape studio techniques.
Their work drew attention from film makers, and they composed the soundtracks for several short films in the early 1950s. In 1956, the producers of Forbidden Planet came to them and asked them to compose sound effects for a few segments of the film. They were so impressed by what the Barrons produced that they scrapped the film soundtrack that they had commissioned, and asked the Barrons to score the whole film. The result was widely regarded as an artistic triumph; for many people, it was their first exposure to electronic music.
However, a problem soon arose: at the time, the American Federation of Musicians was a very powerful union in Hollywood, but the Barrons were not union members. As a result, they were credited in the film's credts with "electronic tonalities" rather than a music credit; the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences refused to consider the soundtrack for an Oscar, and MGM refused to release a soundtrack album. (The Barrons eventually gained the rights to release it on their own label, which they did in 1976.) Worse, the Barrons offered to join the union, but because they had already done work outside of union membership, the union barred them from joining. This effectively blacklisted the Barrons in Hollywood, and they never did another film score.
However, they continued to do other musical projects, always using Louis' basic same circuit ideas and Bebe's tape studio techniques. They divorced in 1970, but continued to work together professionally, until Louis passed away in 1989. After this, Bebe ceased her music activities, with the exception of one album composed from her existing tape library and released in 2000. She passed away in 2008.