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New edition of The Music Library forthcoming

Expanded edition of library music compendium to be published by Fuel

An expanded edition of library music compendium The Music Library is set to be published by Fuel. Interest in the area is as strong as it's ever been, as demonstrated by recent compilations of the work of South African producer Tom Mkhize, the esoteric sample sources of the Demdike Stare’s music, and producers like Shackleton and Mordant Music being commissioned by contemporary library music companies to make new pieces designed for use as off the shelf soundtrack scores. To satisfy the appetite for library sounds a second, massively expanded edition of The Music Library, edited by Jonny Trunk, is set to be published this April.

“Masses of obscure labels have come to light in the last decade,” he notes. “Especially from Italy. Some of these labels produced just one or two LPs. Also, for this new edition we’ve included some early 1980s library companies as their output seems to be coming far more relevant these days.”

The first edition of The Music Library, published in 2005 and long out of print, attempted to provide an overview of library music, with information on dozens of labels and reproductions of numerous sleeves. But rather than putting a full stop at the end of a fad, its publication marked the start of an intense new flurry of interest in the area. “The web has thrown up all sorts of new information,“ he explains. “And I think the first book was a real catalyst – it acted as a jump-off point for finding new and at the time hidden information, artists, labels and sounds. Blogs, forums, the usual sales avenues and social media sites have all led to a greater understanding and appreciation of the genre.”

Despite the fervent interest in library music – and the astronomical prices of some LPs – Trunk argues music in this area is still underappreciated and underused. “Library has always been a rich and practically untraceable source for sampling – see Stereolab, Jay Z, Jurassic 5, Gnarls Barclay, Showbiz & AG, The Chemical Brothers, etc” he notes. “But I don’t think anyone has used it in any kind of fascinating way – there have been straight reissues, compilations, bootlegs. But I don’t think anyone has really stepped out of the box. I wish people would come to me for help to score films with it – think about what George Romero did with library music. If you have a good collection of this material it is amazing what can be done commercially with very little budget – you can have Brian Eno, Morricone, John Barry all scoring your film for peanuts!”

Aside from information on hundreds of library music labels, much of the book is given over to reproductions of over 600 sleeves, which makes for a wide-ranging survey of album design over the decades. “I am a fan of this hand drawn one on the Al Capone label,” he enthuses. “All the track descriptions are handwritten and each cue has a little drawing to go with it, in a vague attempt to suggest what you might use the music for – a Buddah, buildings, a bike. I also love the one issued by the label Pinciana. It is orange. It has a white circle on the front. Nothing else. No type, No nothing. Get in there.”

The Music Library will be published in April by Fuel, who have previously released a collection edited by Trunk on the work of Sainsbury supermarket’s design studio. The first 500 copies come with a 10" record of library music pieces – there’s a standard hardbook version available also.

“One side is all KPM – cues like “Image” by Brian Bennet that was originally composed for a Radley Metzger sex film, amazing – beautiful symphonic jazz, plus more obscure classics like the theme from Mary, Mungo And Midge. The B side is all cues from the Selected Sound library and includes music from groundbreaking LPs such as Time Signals by Klaus Weiss.

“I was sad enough to do a tot up recently,” Trunk admits, “and worked out that if you wanted to but the original LPs it would set you back about £800. Insane really. But that’s library music.” Jonny Trunk wrote an Epiphanies column on the pleasures of library music in The Wire 298.