‘Light Music’ – what is it? The line between what we today refer to as light music and classical music is a difficult one to draw, and the music we will be featuring this week crosses it back and forth all the time.
‘Light Music’ – also known as ‘mood music’ or ‘concert music’ – is very much a British phenomenon, referring to a popular and tuneful style of orchestral music that had its origins in the seaside bands of the 19th and early 20th century. The style peaked around the middle of the 20th century and then fell from favour: on the one hand eclipsed by rock ‘n’ roll (many of its exponents by this time were the leaders of the Big Bands whose doom arrived during this period), but on the other continuing in hidden guise, in the form of ‘library music’ – music recorded for use in films, radio and later television – right up into the 1960s.
Light Music composers might at once have written for the British film-makers of the 1940s, the BBC Light Programme after the war, and perhaps for the emerging British independent television companies who required themes to open and close a day whose broadcasting hours were limited by statute. And at the same time, their work might be found in production studios on discs from the Chappell, deWolfe and KPM music libraries, unavailable to the public but often used for newsreel voiceovers, radio programme themes and, later, as music to play while British television was showing the Test Card outside broadcasting hours.
Light Music is characterised by a predominance of melody – generally memorable melody – which is one reason why it is a perfect companion to broadcasting, providing themes and even incidental music to drama, documentary, news and current affairs, and game shows. Often, people can recall the themes that punctuated their lives many, many decades ago.
Last week we featured music from the Queen’s Hall Light Orchestra, which was very well received, and we will be hearing more from them this week. In addition we will be hearing a good deal from composer/arranger/conductor Mr Gavin Sutherland, one of the primary exponents of light music and related material in Britain. More or less single-handedly (along with Brian Kay on BBC Radio 3) he has brought British light music back from the grave and renewed our appreciation of a range of composers such as Richard Addinsell, William Alwyn, Eric Coates, Robert Farnon, Charles Williams, J Malcolm, Ronald Binge and many others. In addition to strict ‘Light Music’ we will be featuring material from the same composers in different veins, such as film scores; and lighter ‘miniatures’ by more familiar names.
If you would like to read more about some of the composers featured in this series, please visit the Index of British Light Music Composers.
From the Library is produced by Radio Riel in conjunction with the Caledon Library in Second Life; this week’s programmes from Monday to Thursday inclusive feature music from the library of Elrik Merlin.
For more information on the Caledon Library, current exhibits and the work of Second Life reference libraries in general, please visit the Caledon Library Web site, or one of their locations in-world. Listen to the program now at http://music.radioriel.org, or simply visit any Caledon Library branch in-world and press Play on your embedded music player.