The legendary pianist, composer, and producer, Alan Hawkshaw, sadly passed away on October 16th. His name is synonymous with library music, which is a genre, I confess, that I know very little about. Nonetheless I do have many favourites from Alan`s vast body of work – mini-masterpieces such as Images Of The Mind and Saturn Rings. I`m also a big fan of his collaborations with Brian Bennett, from 1974`s Synthesizer & Percussion to 2018`s Full Circle. The small amount of stuff that I do know is down to the diligent digging of the labels Be With Records and Trunk, their uncovering and reissuing of diamonds from the catalogues of KPM and Bruton.
Ban Ban Ton Ton wanted to pay proper respects to Alan, and so we’ve called on the help of a friend who’s far better qualified, Kyoto-based musician, Jules Brennan.
Words & selections by Jules Brennan
As a mostly studio focussed musician & producer of music from the UK, but now planted in Kyoto, Japan, Alan Hawkshaw represents pretty much everything a true music pioneer can to me. Firstly he connects me immediately to my childhood – growing up in `70s Britain in what to us now seems to have been the golden era of TV, and certainly the time when library music, as we now know it, was filtering into our young minds and enriching us from the widest pallet of sound imaginable. After all, its very purpose was to create a full spectrum of moods. From the dark and claustrophobic to the super bright and effervescent.
The enrichment that we had through the test cards and TV themes of the time was, I think. unmatched. The timing of this certain cultural convergence couldn’t have been better. Reinforcing and polishing the musical techniques that had come out of the tail-end of the groovy `60s coupled with a burgeoning exploration into unknown frontiers – of space, and Sci-Fi. The growth of technology was blossoming into a worldwide cultural fixation with space exploration, both real and fictional.
Science fiction went into overdrive and a new musical imagination was unleashed. Literature, drama, and film, pushed these new boundaries even further. Music had to both create and reflect an entirely new global psyche. Meanwhile the mood of advancement and propulsion kept the music buoyant and compelling. It was going places and so were we.
To keep up, new synthesizers and studio techniques were being innovated. The marriage between science and science fiction in the studio had begun. An unprecedented meeting of both groove and exploration which blessed us with some of the most experimental and riveting mood music we had known.
With the painstaking attention to detail which the TV medium required, the music’s standing the test of time was ensured. From the worldly and street sharp, to the sublimely otherworldly, Alan’s music will live on and continue to keep us both pushing forward and looking back. His library themes don’t date, rather they fill us with that bittersweet nostalgia for lost futures. Regardless of your generation it’s somehow inherent in the music. Analogue doesn’t lie.
It’s impossible to choose from such a vast back catalogue, where each delectation is a different mood, a different tempo. The very thought of doing so takes me back to a time when I’d go to BBC Radio Sheffield, where my dad would do his weekly jazz show. Before each broadcast he’d go into the padded basement and pick from shelves fully stocked with KPM green-sleeves and candy-coloured Brutons, sound effects records for radio jingles and the like. If only I could be that kid in that sweet shop now!
They’re the sounds that we music makers strive for. Will we ever create music as authentic as those pieces intended for dramatic purposes? Music that is anonymous, entirely without ego, devoid of the pitfalls of self-consciousness. Perhaps not.
Plucky basses & watery synths, tight hi-hats and crispy snares. Funk with a slickness that we hadn’t heard before. Cool and cerebral, yet warm, with complex overtones. From high octane sunniness to unsettling menace. Hawkshaw furnished our young heads with emotion as we sat watching the test card.
These library cats gave us immeasurable riches and we should continue to mine their legacies. Thankfully we are able to access this music once again through extensive vinyl re-issues, and through aficionados and collectors who have helped to preserve Alan’s memory. Special thanks go to Shawn Lee and the makers of The Library Music Film, and my friend Tamás Móricz in Budapest, an extensive collector of library music, who has helped to make more of of it available through his radio shows and Mixcloud page.
A dreamy, underwater adventure, just close your eyes.
Dave Allen At Large
Just one of the many groovy TV themes that Alan scored.
Sublime, sunny, full of optimism.
Synthesizer & Percussion
A sought after album that has it all.
Heavy Moods With Strings
Even the titles were groovy!
An ethereal disco number. ‘The Hawk’ could compose in any musical style he turned his hand to.
Alan Hawkshaw (1937-2021) Rest in Music & Peace.
You can catch up with, and contact, Jules Brennan on Bandcamp and Soundcloud.
You can check Tamás Móricz` amazing Mixcloud tribute to Alan Hawkshaw here…