"A Trip to the library" Some of Anthony Phillips' library albums examined by Alan Hewitt.
Library Music is one of those weird areas which you sometimes hear mentioned in connection with some musicians and composers. To most fans however, this is an area shrouded in mystery so what exactly IS library music?
There are several Library Companies within the UK and elsewhere of which Atmosphere and Themes International are perhaps two of the best known. Their purpose is to provide a resource or "library" of music available for use in Television projects: advertisements; documentaries; drama series and films. This is rather like buying clothes "off the peg" to a certain extent in as much as the music is compiled on discs under categories such as "Horror, Tension and Suspense" "Sport And Leisure" etc…The resultant discs might contain the work of more than one composer although Anthony's work has usually predominated on the discs which he has recorded. These discs are, if you like - samplers of work in a certain style or with a certain theme running through them from which a TV/Film producer can select music which forms the best accompaniment to his/her project. Much of this music is, by necessity, short and episodic, sometimes little more than a series of synthesiser drones or echoes; not always great listening, it has to be said! The sad thing for fans is that these discs are not commercially available to the public, although Anthony has tried to redress the balance by compiling some of the better pieces on his "Missing Links" series of albums.
Anthony has been a recognised library music composer for the
better part of twenty five years and his music has appeared in a variety of
projects and frequently crops up in adverts and occasionally in television programmes.
What follows here is a brief outline of some of the albums he has released in
Nature + Wildlife The Natural World (Themes International TIM 31 CD)
As its title suggests, this album is based around the world
of nature and its infinite variety. Some of the music from this album was co-written
by Anthony with Joji Hirota and several pieces have been issued on the third
Missing Links album although there are many more here that also merit a general
release as far as I am concerned.
Total Movie (Atmosphere ATMOS-CD125)
A totally different disc to the one above, this is dramatic
music with the emphasis firmly on suspense. Not an album that sits easily with
your views of Anthony's more whimsical acoustic stuff. This disc is a shared
effort with composer Murray Munro taking just over half the writing credits.
Sport + Leisure (Themes International TIM 25 CD)
Ironically, this album will undoubtedly be familiar to fans
of the Sail The World project, because a LOT of the music from that album appeared
here first! There are many alternative takes to the tracks on that album as
well as several that did not make it onto the finished result at all. Perhaps
the most interesting track is The Victors which was co-written by Anthony and
Mike Rutherford as the theme for the Anglia TV show jumping programme that Mike's
wife Angie commentated for!
Catastrophe (Atmosphere ATMOS-CD115)
Back to high drama for this one and this album features several
other composers apart from Anthony. One for the completists only, I think!
Travelogues (Atmosphere ATMOS -CD44)
This CD is a delight if you can get hold of it! But don't panic
too much if you can't because many of the tracks have found alter-egos as part
of the Missing Links series. That said, there is still much good music from
this album which should appear on a future project. Anthony is aided and abetted
by Joji Hirota and Chinese flautist; Guo Yue whose playing gives this album
an added dimension - definitely one worth hunting out!
Horror Tension Suspense 2 (Atmosphere -CD55)
This is one album I have very vivid memories of mainly because
of hearing Anthony trying to get one piece right in his home studio and hearing
it abut twenty times! By the end of it I was probably about ready to turn into
an axe murderer so God alone knows how Ant felt about it! Once again, the album
is shared with several other composers and the music certainly lives up to its
Soundscapes (Atmosphere ATMOS-CD80)
Funny… I have heard this title before?! Don't worry I am not
losing the plot… This disc appeared several years before the recent AP compilation.
This one takes its turns through several areas: "Dramatic/Grand" to
"Mystery/Threat/Drama" such are the categories for which this music
is composed. Another worthy addition to a collection if you can find it.
English Pastoral (Atmosphere ATMOS-CD117)
At last! A library disc of music which features Anthony at
his best. This one features a delightful mix of acoustic and orchestral music
including an alternative version of one of the movements from the Tarka album
with Harry Williamson under the title of "Oceans" another recommended
addition and one which I am sure will delight the fans.
Classical Spirit (Atmosphere ATMOS-CD4)
A precursor of the above album, this one is in a similar vein
and features many interesting variants on the Tarka material with Harry as well
as many more wonderful moments from Anthony himself.
That rounds up this look at the library albums which
Anthony has contributed to and which have found their way into the TWR/Pavilion
archives. There are numerous others which I have not had access to including
some vinyl editions from the early 1980's which will try to document in a future