[Library Music] – ‘Les Bibliothécaires’ Box Set (1967-1982)

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(This stream is a 1-hour sampler of the full box set. Full download below.)

For music obsessives, discoveries usually come one or two at a time–a new artist here and again, maybe a new corner of a subgenre now and then. But discovering Library Music amplifies that many times over: it’s not really a genre, not a scene, but rather a whole mirror world, familiar and yet unknown, reminiscent of the one we spend our lives in, but shifted and skewed in incredible ways. Most of the ingredients are recognizable from the funk, jazz, rock, disco, pop and folk musics we love–bass guitar, drums, bongos, piano, organs, brass instruments, synthesizers–but the proportions are different, the emphasis a bit unusual, the production a little alien. The beats are punchier, the bass more emphatically bouncing, the guitars often secondary, as if from a reality where harpsichords were one of the more popular garage band instruments. And then there are the strings, sometimes orchestral, often at a chamber scale, soaring above and around in a dance with the drums and the bass, not just reemphasizing the chord changes like we expect when they show up in pop music. If you love ‘Melody Nelson,’ or “Apache,” or golden-age Hip-Hop breakbeat samples, you’ve had a glimpse of this world’s sounds echoing into the regular music world, and you’re in for a treat.

Library Music, and Library musicians in the late 60s, the 70s, and the early 80s seem to have collectively decided they weren’t going to take sides in a world of ever-increasing possibilities: they were often classically trained, and many clearly spent their formative years in the jazz world, and yet rather than being snobs about it, they jumped head-first into funk and psychedelic rock and pop and crazy tape music and new electronic gadgets. They created a true fusion, of musical styles and traditions that was reflective of their diverse points of origin–especially France, Italy, Germany, England but almost always with one foot in America and at least a toe in the rest of the world–and yet one which aspired to be trans-national.  The music they made came from the optimistically imagined future, as much as from any actual place. They created music that was on one hand literally functional and literally commercial: intended to be hired out, to run behind everything from film and TV shows to radio advertisements.  And yet, on the other hand, it was utterly free of commerce: the music was almost never made available for retail sale, and while it was heard by thousands or even millions, its creators were about as far from pop stars as possible.  They were to almost everyone (then and now) essentially nameless, faceless craftspeople, and the composers among the often further embraced obscurity, using humorous pseudonyms as often as their actual names, and in either case whatever name they used would usually be reduced to the small print on the backs of the record sleeves. From that functional, anonymous, almost mercenary starting point, Library musicians could’ve created what you would expect: pale imitations of passing fads, crass jingles meant to hammer home blunt financial imperatives. Instead, (and why is frankly a mystery to me, but a fantastic one) so many musicians found total freedom in the apparent strictures. They created music of inexhaustible passion, skill, craft, playfulness, groove, catchiness, pleasure, excitement, and surprise.

When I gained entry to the Library world (beyond unwitting chance encounters) it was thanks to the few labels fostering a steady trickle of retail reissues, and thanks especially to the nearly anonymous collectors who pay top dollar and then set the music free to the freaks who would listen.  And it was a paradigm shift for this music geek, adding a whole new level to the decade-and-a-half musical years I already love most of all.  For a dozen years, I’ve been buying every reissue I could, and occasionally downloading the collectors’ generous gifts, all the while squirreling away favorites with the intent of creating a series of Library-only mixes.  Some of these tracks have been featured alongside more traditionally available music in Musicophilia’s mixes right back to the start of the blog–especially on the ‘Le Tour du Monde‘ mixes and the Broadcast tribute ‘La Diffusion‘.  But for many reasons, it took me a decade to finally engage the Library series, though once I started a few months back I couldn’t stop.  So here it is, my love letter to the mirror world of the Librarians (and the contemporaneous soundtrackers, often one and the same) all at once.  ‘Les Bibliothécaires‘ is made up of twenty-eight thematically distinct little mixes, presented as 13 “LPs” and a C60 in total (give or take). Believe it or not, I feel like I’ve barely set foot into the vast Library world, and what may seem like a deluge will soon have at least some of you scouring for more.  I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Musicophilia’s first decade: a huge inspiration for starting the blog was the heady excitement I felt in discovering this magically lost-and-found musical world, and the blogs who shared its sounds. For those who know it already, I hope you’ll feel I’ve done Library Music justice, for an introduction.  And for those lucky people who barely know it or don’t know it at all: welcome to the mirror world, and I hope you enjoy your stay.

Most Library Music remains commercially unavailable, but please support the artists, labels, and few awesome shops like Dusty Groove that sell it and buy the music–and hurry, because it almost never stays in print for long!  To post a tracklist would be impossible, with somewhere around 240 tracks and dozens of artists represented.  But you can download just the “booklet” with all the tracklists here.  My recommendation: take a listen to the sampler mix, and if you dig it, just dive in.  If one “side” isn’t your bag, the next one probably will be.  And if you dig it–let others know, because this music really deserves to be heard.  Thanks, and enjoy!

Download just the Tracklists & Artwork | Download the ‘Les Bibliothécaires’ Box Set (1.3GB)

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14 thoughts on “[Library Music] – ‘Les Bibliothécaires’ Box Set (1967-1982)

  1. Fantastic write-up and amazing collection. Your effort and hard work are greatly appreciated! I’ll be doing a deep dive on this tonight… Thanks!

  2. Hi Dan–this is just a fan-made mix seeking to promote awareness of this music and the artists. Library Music is rarely available commercially (it never was, originally) but your best bet for finding it these days when it gets reissued is Dusty Groove in Chicago (www.dustygroove.com). There are occasionally some good compilations released commercially, too, but when you find them, buy them, because they rarely stay in print. If you really get deep into it all, you can buy original LPs on the collectors market. Best of luck, and enjoy!

  3. I haven’t left a comment on a blog or website in years, but I feel obligated to reach out and say thank you so so much. I haven’t heard something this immediately striking, fascinating and sonically satisfying since maybe my first forays in to world music when I was a teenager and found the Holy Warbles blog. This is just all so immediately beautiful to me and is something I realise I’ve been seeking out unconsciously for years in all my musical expeditions and digging. Thank you! David

  4. David–this is thrilling to hear, thank you!! That’s the dream when undertaking these projects, to give someone the pleasure and excitement you’re experiencing, to share what I experience in hearing the music. Thank you again!!

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