The Joy Formidable: Why We Love TV Muzak Of The 1960s

They might be hard-rockers, but Matt Thomas from the Welsh band explains why he loves classic mood music...
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They might be hard-rockers, but Matt Thomas from the Welsh band explains why he loves classic mood music...

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There’s something about a certain music from the sixties; lush, perhaps over the top orchestration coupled with jaunty little melodies and subject matter, which can range from a monkey being a cheeky little fellow to the history of man’s achievements and the challenges wrought upon humankind by space.

I am of course talking quite generally about a genre of music that dominated television and radio themes throughout the sixties-: ‘mood’ music.

Most of the music for television and radio shows had been created by well-schooled classical composers with an interest in modern styles and trends. The man I wish to write about had visited such a school (Trinity), but only for a year in order to brush up on what he had already learned through his own curiosity. He felt he would benefit more from real world experiences.

Leonard Charles Trebilcock was born in England and studied the piano from an early age. Gaining a job at the BBC as an assistant producer at the age of eighteen he furthered his skills in music for media by creating sound effects and playing incidental music.

Shortly after joining the BBC he was drafted into the RAF and worked as a radio operator. He saw active service when he was chosen to complete supply drops and on finishing his service he was offered a place in Cambridge University, but decided to return to the BBC where he took up a new job as a sound engineer.

After taking up his new post in the BBC he really started to flourish as a musician. Being a naturally inquisitive person he would speak with the composers he was recording and quiz them on why they had orchestrated certain instruments the way they had. Using his new found knowledge of composition techniques gained from the top composers of the time he set to work on writing his own pieces.

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Eventually during a recording session at the BBC Leonard plucked up the courage to share a piece he had been working on with one of his peers. Within a month he was recording his score with a full orchestra, but due to the BBC’s policy of not allowing their employees music to be played on air he had to invent a Pseudonym. He chose the name Trevor Duncan.

It was soon after that his piece was played out on air, but with the success he gained from having his first creation let loose into the world, Trevor found a difficult choice was placed in front of him. He could either continue working for the BBC, or go it alone as a freelance composer. He happily chose the latter.

This period of his life saw him in his most creative element writing all sorts of themes, scores and serious orchestral works, which were used for both cinema advertisements and film. As time went on mood music started to fade as a style and so Trevor decided to diversify by composing symphonies. It was at this point he wrote one of his most inspiring pieces named Sinfonia Tellurica, which is an exploration into the elements and man’s struggles and achievements in spite of them.

As a musician and composer you need to have a broad palette at your disposal in order to create your pieces. Inspiration could come from anywhere and this is why to me, Trevor Duncan is an inspiration. He was not afraid to take a risk and create whatever came into his head, no matter how grand or silly it may be. That being said I still think my favourite piece of his has to be ‘Cheeky Monkey’.

The Joy Formidable play at the Camden Roundhouse on the 8th March.  To book tickets, go here