Tags: 1960s, background music, electronic music, film music, music documentaries, popular music, production music, radio, radiophonic, soundtracks, sound effects, stock music |
Categories: TheIM Radio Show
Posted by Laura
4/25/2012 1:16 PM |
I've been mulling over this show for awhile now. How can you hear this and not get hooked? So, in a probably futile attempt to sate this latest obsession, tonight I'll be exploring the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, John Baker), electronic music (musique concréte, elektronische musik), stock music, as well as rock band crossovers and hybrids. And this is only the tip of the iceberg for these topics...
Tune in to CIUT 89.5FM tonight at midnight (EST) to listen to an array of this music, along with the usual diverse sampling. If you're outside the station's terrestrial range, you can stream the show live online, or listen to the podcast on the Playlists page starting sometime tomorrow.
If you like what you hear, be sure to check out future episodes as there will definitely be more exploration in these areas to come.
In the meantime, here are some videos, documentaries, and other goodies about some of tonight's musicians:
BBC documentary Alchemists of Sound (2003) (pt1; look in YouTube sidebar for subsequent parts)
BBC Radio 3 radio documentary on Daphne Oram Wee Also Have Sound-Houses (2008)
The original theme music and title sequence for Dr. Who (1963). Listen to all the Dr. Who theme versions here.
Delia explains how to make sounds.
A good overview of the Worksop's history and individual composer biographies.
Play around in a virtual radiophonic workshop here.
I got momentarily excited the other day when I saw a reference to a “licensed DJ.” I knew I'd tricked myself into thinking the impossible – that getting the licence meant that the DJ had to go through a rigorous training program and pass a gruelling final exam – but I went with the fantasy anyway. Imagine if they were regulated, too! Oh, the (completely unrealistic) possibilities: No more cheesy dance hits (e.g., "Macarena," "Chicken Dance") at the party's drunken apex, only one AC/DC track per night, and if you use the same set list at different events in the same week, you get a letter in your permanent record (and you'd have a permanent record). Of course, the reality was unsurprisingly bland. Licensed meant an AVLA licence, AVLA being a music rights society for record labels (because DJs make and use copies of music for their work and the labels want their pound of flesh).
Very boring, and it goes mundanely downhill from there: liability insurance, SOCAN licences for clients, WPIC certification (yeah, that was new to me, too), and professional associations. Note the plural. First, there's the CDJA - “the longest running nationally chaptered DJ association in the world.” Then there's the CPDJA - "Canada's largest and most recognised disc jockey assocation." Clearly, the association with the most superlative qualifiers in their motto wins.
While I have some misgivings about DJs, they do have a role to play and obviously there's widespread demand for their services. A huge part of what they offer is, or at least should be, their personality and MCing abilities. This is what largely sets them apart from music stylists.
Yes, music stylists. From the narrow, murky gap between DJs and background music companies, the music stylist emerged as an occcupation. Or if that's too grandiose a term (profession certainly is), perhaps 'job title' is a better choice. Either way, according to this 2008 New York Times article, music stylist came to fruition somewhere around 2003 when "a handful of music consultants, mostly in New York and London, [began] to specialize in creating custom domestic soundtracks."** This customisation is not, however, built up from clients' existing music collection or preferences, but instead is designed "to match their clients’ décor."
Here the NYT states that "Muzak has for decades created what it calls 'audio architecture' for commercial environments" whilst casting the targeting of the domestic space as done by music stylists as something new and recent. This is wrong. When the delivery system for what later became Muzak was first being patented in the 1920s, it was intended to be a service mainly for domestic consumption along with some retail. Radio at that time was still an unreliable and somewhat expensive technology, so Muzak's early proponents believed the company would succeed on the basis of being a technologically stable and affordable way of getting music into the home via a monthly subscription. But by the 1930s, radio had made adequate technological advances and the price for a receiver came down which led to radio's dominance in the home; it was at this point that Muzak began aggressively marketing to businesses.
A more important point missed by the Times is that Muzak and other background music companies based their services on psychological rather than visual data. No one from Muzak Holdings would ever "visit clients’ homes or look at photographs of them to assess their decorating styles and to understand layouts." One might be able to say that these music stylists are still indirectly using psychology by taking such cues from the interior design. However, if, as the article also implies, the decorating, furnishings, etc. of these wealthy clients were put together by yet another stylist, don't we really have a production circle where stylists are producing for other stylists? Does the individual who's actually inhabiting this space ever have any input?
The answer would seem to be "no, not really," because apparently if the clients didn't have such crap taste to begin with, they wouldn't need to hire a music stylist -- at least that's the message I get when see that music consultant Angus Gibson has said that "some of [the music his clients already have] is truly awful stuff" along the lines of "'love and moonlight' soundtracks from Meg Ryan movies." Then there's Coleman Feltes impeccable logic: "When clients hire me, they are buying into the Coleman brand of taste.” Now we're getting closer to the truth -- this isn't about audio-interior-decorating, it's about coolness capital, which makes me wonder again if this is in fact a case of stylists designing for other stylists -- or even for themselves. Your clueless clients won't seem to know the difference, anyway.
**Note: Even though the NYT uses “music stylist” and “music consultant” interchangeably, I'm going to stick with the former term because I think it's the better label for this type of domestic boutique work. The latter term, on the other hand, has been around longer and used more specifically to refer to people who advise on commercial uses of music such films, live productions, or in public spaces such malls, airports, and stores – even if they are “bespoke.” Maybe stylist and consultant are both part of the same spectrum of music supplying services and I'm needlessly splitting hairs here, but split they are, nonetheless.