Italian Library Music

The most experimental electronica often comes from some curious sources, most surprisingly perhaps is the vibrant Italian Library Music collections of the 60s and 70s…

I have a pretty large collection of Italian electronic library music. The Italian library music scene is very collectable, especially the funk and soul records that were put out. I have some of those too, and the money they go for is astounding; thousands. The electronic records are less collectable and fetch maybe a couple of hundred pounds.

It was probably the healthiest library music scene in the world in the 1960s and early 1970s. The records are very experimental, it was an art form over there. I’m not sure why Italy produced such good quality library music, but it might have been partly because it had a great film industry, with directors like Pasolini and Antonioni, so there was an established market for high quality library music. Italy also has a history of experimental music going back to avant-garde composers like Berio and Moderna, and the Futurists with their sound-making machines back in 1915. There was also a lot of money pumped into Italy after the war, so they had some very well-stocked studios with the latest equipment.

I can remember watching TV in the 1970s, well before the Channel 4 days, and specifically watching Italian and French art films, mostly in the hope that I’d see a nipple. Quite often those films would use library music and it was often pretty weird. I remember the first time I heard ‘Autobahn’ was in the kids’ TV show ‘Kim & Co’ in the 1970s. They used a snippet, with the bass note booming and the white noise of the synths impersonating cars rushing by; not really music, it was weird, a bit dissonant. That was the way library music was often used, it may as well have been a piece of library music.

In those days it wasn’t listened to as music, it was considered to be sound effects, or ambience, but the library music on these Italian records is totally valid as electronic music. It’s very experimental and uncompromising because it wasn’t being made for commercial purposes, to be sold like pop music or classical music. They were dabbling, not following any classical form or written scores. With the funk and soul records, they would have a very loose chord structure and they are basically jamming, and these are similar, jamming with the electronics.

My favourite is probably ‘Insight Modulation’ by Zanagoria, which was a pseudonymous band name. Every track is brilliant… until the last two which are stupid jazzy things. Gino Marinuzzi Jr, who composed the ‘Music Ed Elettronica’ was a well-known composer who had written an electronic music score for an Italian film called ‘Planet Of The Vampires’ and had invented an electronic instrument, the Fonosynth 2 Elletronico. Pietro Grossi, who made a lot of these LPs (‘Elettro Musica 1’ and ‘Elettro Musica 2’, ‘Visioni Di Vita Spaziale’, ‘Elettrogreca’ and ‘Electronica Soundtrack’), had founded a studio in Venice and worked in computer music in the late 1960s. He was the first Professor of Electronic Music in Italy. Some of this stuff is Holy Grail material for electronic music collectors.

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