From the Library… A Little Light Music

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, or sim­ply vis­it any Cale­don Library branch in-world and press Play on your embed­ded music play­er.

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2 Responses to “From the Library… A Little Light Music”

  1. Neb says:

    I love this “radio sta­tion”!!!

  2. Elrik Merlin says:

    Thank you for your kind words!

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