Into the Music Library, Radio 4, Tuesday
Counterpoint, Radio 4, Monday
Late Junction, Radio 3, Tuesday-Thursday
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Sunday 17 April 2011
Fans of Radios 2 and 3 sometimes complain that their stations carry too much talk.
But no one ever complains that there's too much talk on Radio 4. Well, Radio 4 is a talk station. Talk is what it's about. But is Radio 4 underused as a vehicle for music-related programmes?
Last week on Radio 4 there was a really interesting music programme of a kind that wouldn't have easily fitted into either Radio 2 or 3. The subject of Into the Music Library was quite obscure – the incidental mood music that turns up on TV and in film. But it was fascinating – warmly and wittily anchored by library-music aficionado Johnny Trunk, and shedding light on something we're vaguely aware of but have never really thought about. Library music may be anonymous, but this programme showed that it is far from characterless. It's not designed to be performed live, or to buy, but it's not muzak. It's the product of tremendous craftsmanship.
I loved the glimpse we were given of the world of the jobbing music professional – someone who is not in the business to sell records, still less on any kind of artistic journey, but is simply producing music to a specific length and mood. People such as John Cameron, the uses of whose "Half-Forgotten Day Dreams" ranged from the soundtrack of the Emmanuelle movies to the Nespresso ads featuring George Clooney.
"Library tracks are like children," Cameron explained. "They go off and you don't know what kind of trouble they're going to get into." The programme also revealed that theme tunes to such well-known shows as Grandstand and Mastermind also came from the library.
The quiz Counterpoint, one of Radio 4's other rareish forays into music, has just begun its 25th anniversary series, and it seems to be celebrating by dramatically upping the difficulty of the questions. One poor contestant last week managed one right answer over the entire course of the show.
It was an occasion when one missed the light touch of the late great Ned Sherrin, the show's original chair, who would, I think, have taken matters in hand and helped out with clues. The present incumbent, Paul Gambaccini, is a broadcasting eminence but there are more suitable roles for him than this. He never quite establishes a rapport with the contestants, and he can come over a bit forced.
That's not something that could ever be said of Max Reinhardt, one of the regular presenters of Radio 3's late-night music miscellany Late Junction. Reinhardt's voice is laid-back and lightly London accented. It has also has a yearning, spiritual quality. Right now he's my favourite voice on the radio. The music he plays is also great but when, as often happens, two or three tracks are run together, I get impatient for Reinhardt's return.
This is one of those cases of more talk on Radio 3, please. And while we're about it, how about more music on Radio 4?
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