Unusual Sounds :: The Hidden History of Library Music

There have been a fair amount of Library Music compilations over the years, but Unusual Sounds may be the most purely enjoyable one of them all. Context aside, it’s just a fantastic mixtape, offering a weird/wonderful alternate universe of pop, jazz, funk, rock and more. The grooves are endless, the moods massive. The tunes here are glorious hybrids, where swooping strings meet superbly psychedelic fuzz guitars, where new age bliss blends with impossibly funky rhythm sections. A world of pure imagination where anything is possible and nothing is forbidden.  

But the context is fun and fascinating, too. Library Music, in a nutshell, is readymade soundtracks for filmmakers, whether the film you’re making is a porno or an educational documentary. It’s the musical equivalent of stock photography. If you needed a churning instrumental to accompany a chase scene in a gritty cop drama, you could just order up something like Stefano Torossi’s “Running Fast” and you’d be good to go. Of course, that means that a lot of it is anonymous, utilitarian stuff – boring, likely. But there are also countless strange gems that collectors like Unusual Sounds’ David Hollander have spent a lifetime digging up. “Imagine this 75-minute DJ set as a movie unto itself, a film without images, dialogue or sound effects,” he writes.

The compilation is the perfect companion piece to Hollander’s dazzling labor of love book of the same name, which uncovers the “hidden history of library music,” tracking down the often-anonymous geniuses who dreamed this stuff up. It also features reproductions of the beguiling cover art in which Library Music came packaged — gorgeously modern works of pop art in and of themselves. Both the book and double LP are amazing, absorbing trips into parts unknown. Don’t miss out. words/t wilcox