A Love of Retro Production Library Music

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So, as May brings us the end of another school year, and I was reminded by a friend of mine who is about to graduate film school what a mad rush it was to finish your opus before finals. I really cherish my days back at the University Of Miami Motion Picture Program.

Back in 1995, we were still cutting 16mm workprint on 6 plate flatbeds. The plates refers to the actual amount of platters that sat on the flatbed. So, if you had a six plate, it meant you could put on one film track (two plates = a feed and a take-up) and two audio tracks (the other four plates).

Now, as you cut your film, you would generally have more than two audio tracks because there would be dialogue, music and sound effects. HOWEVER you could only cut with two magnetic tracks — so you would edit your dialogue tracks and then once you had those edited, you would take them off the flatbed and put on your music and eventually sound effects mag and work with those. Eventually, once those were edited, you’d spool them all up on an interlock system that had a projector and several dubbers. You would line up all the marks on each dubber, turn on the motor and — in a sound not too dissimilar from the T.A.R.D.I.S. — the motor would get all the dubbers and projector up to speed and you would mix that tracks down to one track.

These days, the kids get to do that all on an AVID, Premiere or Final Cut Pro using Pro-Tools or Logic to mix. They have no idea how good they have it.

Anyway, one of my favorite parts of the post production process was composing music for my films. Now, I wrote a lot of music in film school, however sometimes I would want to pull something from our school’s music library. And man, did we have the most AWESOME music library. It had been donated to us by some closed film production company in Miami and it was LOADED with great KPM and Music De’Wolfe discs. These were the classics from the 70s. The stuff that Tarantino would drool over and uses today. Tons of raw percussion, Moog-ish synth jams, lush strings, walls of sound and all around groovy tunes.

(In fact, libraries like Music De Wolfe were responsible for a majority of the music in Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead. And those tracks were made available a few years ago to purchase. Well worth it if you are a lover of the movie. I even know people who hunted down the original albums to get all the tracks.)

So, my film school chums and I used to fire up the record player in our school’s mix theater and pour through the hundreds of vinyl’s we had – jamming out to the tunes and acting out scenes to the music. You know, stuff cool kids do.

And when I left school, I took it upon myself to grab one of my favorite discs. I recently pulled it out, ripped a track and have posted for your enjoyment – the creepy roller rink anthem, Banana Split.

And you can learn more about the entire album here.


8 Responses to A Love of Retro Production Library Music

  1. Doug says:

    I must be really warped by 60s and 70s exploitation films, because I hear this and I think, “Uh oh, something really horrible is about to happen to somebody.”

  2. Doug, that is exactly right. Violence is about to ensue…very graphic violence…

  3. Charles Kramer says:

    Those were the days. I miss getting my hands on the film!

  4. Chris says:

    That song will probably be stuck in my head for days now. Love it.

  5. VicSage says:

    Fantastic post, Patrick! In a few short years I’m sad to say we will probably have ‘projectionists’ that have never touched film. Sigh.

  6. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I bought the Dawn Of The Dead production music album the minute it came out, and it’s one of my greatest gems.

    Hearing The Gonk without the zombie moans is just as creepy.

    I prefer the longer Director’s Cut of DOTD with these tracks, having seen this version first on the big screen (possibly the french-dubbed import from Europe showings).

    I find the indistinct nature of the creepy and odd (such as the well-placed, informative, yet disturbing use of “I’m A Man” in the movie) selection adds to the feel of desolation, whereas Goblin’s terrific and catchy music in the Theatrical Cut brings modern gothic sounds of excitement to the experience of gut-ripping doom.

    And it’s great, cuz I can watch either of the three versions and get a different feel every time.

    I grew to love those instrumental library albums I could find in the past few years – they’re the beating heart to my inner child of the 70s
    Great article, Patrick!

  7. I’m glad you liked it Atari! That means a lot.

    I’ll probably post more from that De Wolfe album. I actually had in my hands the De Wolfe album that had the ice rink track and the dinner music. But a bad breakup happened and the album magically disappeared during my move out. Sigh.

    I too love library music. In the work I do now, I currently have access to the APM library which still has the KPM tracks and I’m always sampling some of the great music. I even found some of the NOLD (’68) stuff on the KPM site.

    Also, one day when I have the time or energy, I will tell you how that Johnny Trunk DOTD CD came about because of me and a friend of mine. It’s upsetting because we did a lot of legwork for years without any credit.

  8. Atari Adventure Square says:

    I’d love to know the track listing for NotLD.

    Sorry to hear about the resulting omission from the Incidental Music album, Patrick.
    Would’ve been dreadfully easy to add a thanks in the insert.

    Some of the most stimulating sounds I’ve heard in the recent years were from instrumental soundtrack albums.
    Peter Thomas’ work on Chariots Of The Gods, in particular, has become a loop reel in my head.

    Maybe that’s cuz I expect to spot flying disks in the sky, any day now.
    With off-screen narration from Leonard Nimoy, of course.
    ( I know, he didn’t narrate Chariots, but rather In Search Of…)
    Hey, it’s my fantasy. Those disks would be flown by Shatner clones wearing pointy ears, anyway. And be emitting weird production music as they float about.

    Maybe that presenter from Sightings could make an appearance too.

    Then I’d wake up, all pleased and sweaty.

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