6th May 2022

Author: David Hollander

Publisher: Editions

Unusual Sounds is An unusual book about an unusual archive of music that flew underneath the radar of public awarness for many years. Even this book, sub-titled The Hidden History of Library Music seems, at times, reluctant to pass on too many secrets. The cover is low key and stylistic in a nondescript manner. You don’t know who has even written the thing until you open the cover and flip over the page, whereupon Hollander’s name is there, at the bottom of the page, in the corner.

The book is, therefore, symptomatic of the entire genre. 


Library Music was never meant to be consumed by the public. At least not directly. Indirectly, yes and from that direction library music will not only be familiar but, at times, wholly iconic. 

As Hollander himself states, Library Music was created to serve as incidental music for TV, film and radio either to run alongside or completely replace an original musical score.

Library Music you might know includes famous TV themes such as the former BBC Saturday sports programme, Grandstand and its ITV competitor World of Sport, the football programme The Big Match, the Wimbledon tennis TV theme a heap on music including the UK cop show, The Sweeney, The Two Ronnies, the detective show Van der Valk, People’s Court in the USA and their Monday Night Football programme, Australia’s World Series Cricket plus many films and many TV advertisements.


Library Music was popular to film makers because it was cheap. Original scores cost a packet, Library Music could be had for a fraction of the price. 

Cult horror fans of George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead will have heard lots of library music, for example because he had almost no budget.


Europe was king in Library Music terms. Britain produced many libraries including KPM, Themes and Amphonic and featured talents such as Ron Geesin (who worked with Pink Floyd), BBC Radiophonic workshop lady and creator of the Dr Who theme, Delia Derbyshire plus stalwarts Keith Mansfield, Alan Hawkshaw, Alan Parker and ex-Shadows man, Brian Bennett. Germany had many too (i.e. Sonoton, Coloursound, Gerhard Narholz, etc), Italy (i.e. CAM, Omicron, Flipper, etc), France (i.e. Montparnasse 2000, Tele Music, Yan Tregger, etc) while the USA also had a few. Top stars also produced Library Music. The late Ennio Morricone being one of the most notable.


Library music ranged from orchestral music to electronica. Much of it was instrumental but vocals appeared now and again. Before 1959, that music tended to appear on the 78 format but, after that, on vinyl and generally in sleeves sporting standardised or stylistic covers. KPM, for example, featured the same green cover for many years with only minor text information betraying the actual contents. 

Why? Well again, this was music for an industry. Not the public. They didn’t have to sell it in shops.

The quality of the music itself though is quite sublime. Library music featured some of the most talented musicians the world has every seen at any time in any format. 


Unusual Sounds is a textual and visual history of the genre split into country by country and then companies within each. It arrives as a soft back, spans 332 pages in a relatively large 265 x 205mm format and is packed with both textual history and glorious images, well over 400 of LP sleeves, studio images and mugshots. On that basis, the history turns into an art book with attendant captions because the sleeves provide a sumptuous array of styles but there is plenty of insight from the people who were there and involved in the day-to-day production. Most of the insights tend to come from surviving UK artists although there are European contributions too. The rest features interesting company and personal histories from the author. 

Unusual Sounds is A wonderful tome to read, to admire and gaze at, it also provides a perfect companion for any aspiring collector.


UK – https://amzn.to/3wgvc34

USA – https://amzn.to/3slvTqX

EUROPE – https://amzn.to/3vXzi1n

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