18 November 2016

Paddy Kingsland, Electronic Music Pioneer

As I am wont to do, I've been thinking about Paddy Kingsland recently. Kingsland is probably my favorite composer of the classic era of Doctor Who, a member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop that gave us the scores to serials such as Full Circle, Mawdryn Undead, and (best of all) Logopolis. He also did the music for the radio and television versions of The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I love it all, from the melancholic death theme for the fourth Doctor, to this groovy bit:

Interestingly enough, Kingsland recorded a few albums of stock music back in the 1980s that are still used to this day, on shows such as Spongebob Squarepants! I wonder how much money he makes off that-- if any. As far as I can tell, no one's ever asked him about Spongebob in an interview. At least, not in any interview that I can locate on-line.

Kingsland in 1974. He was employed by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop from 1970 to 1981, though he still contributed to Doctor Who afterwards.
courtesy The White Files
Kingsland did much of his work on the Moog and other synthesizers; he released an album called Moogerama even. I am really fascinated by this era of electronic music. Though in the 1960s, the Radiophonic Workshop did groundbreaking things with tape splicing, by the 1980s, synthesizers had come in, and they were writing music that took advantage of its abilities. The doom-laden score of Logopolis is hard to imagine any other way-- as is K-9's jaunty theme from Full Circle.

When searching to see if Kingsland ever talked about his Spongebob work, I found a number of interviews, and I want to combine some of them here to create a sort of mini-oral history.
When you’re doing music to order, if somebody says ‘I’ve got this pay, it’s very, very sinister, uneasy atmosphere, something awful is just about to happen’; you can almost hear the music before you start. If somebody says ‘I’ve got this wonderful project, we’re asking five musicians to make any kind of music they like, you can do anything you want, you can hire an orchestra you can do it on a banjo, you can do it on synthesisers, electronics, lampshades, anything you like and we’re going to pay you for it’; what usually happens is you just kind of go into a daze and you find yourself unable to produce anything. Whereas if somebody says ‘I need this and I need it by Thursday, that’s something that allows you to work and it makes you work. [source]

The synthesisers were a great labour saving device but when they first came in, they were kind of research tools, in a way. You had to plug everything up and make the sounds yourself. But, later, presets made sounds for you and all you had to do was push the button and you got the sound. That was unfortunate because everybody started sounding the same. I don’t mean at the Workshop necessarily, I mean generally speaking. People were buying synthesisers at home and using them at schools. [source]

"Moogerama" was a library album produced by Syd Dale for his company Amphonic Music, which is still around today. Again we recorded session players at Lansdowne studios and I wrote out parts for them including the synth parts. It was more of a conventional library album featuring synth than an electronic music project. [source]

The KPM albums [the library albums, such as the ones used on Spongebob] are still in use, I am happy to say and most of them feature conventional musicians recorded either in my studio or elsewhere. [source]
If you search his name on YouTube, there's a ton of stuff from his various albums-- many of which have only ever been released on vinyl. It's really diverse stuff, most of it not really like the morose mood stuff I'm used to from Doctor Who, more like his K-9 or chase themes. You have this jaunty little adventure tune:

And this even more upbeat one:

On the other hand, you have this piece which sounds like the opening to a 1980s sitcom:

Though I really like this piece, which is very wistful:

Some of his work is actually on iTunes and Amazon Digital Music; I need to check it out.

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