Over the last month or so, I have had the great pleasure to curate the music for a conference hosted by Prof Janice Winship for the School of Media, Film, and Music, University of Sussex. Focusing on the last seventy years of the United Kingdom, this was a conference that looked back at the era of austerity of the immediate post-war years and the influence this period of impoverished victory had on the glamour of 1960s London, the stark years 1970s decay, and the neoliberal years of individualism that have followed. Culture flows through and between individuals and institutions, and this was traced through fashion, film, monarchy, and music.
The years on war-time stress and hyper-production were supported with the emerging British Broadcasting Company, and “Music While You Work”. I owe a debt of gratitude to The Masters of Melody which hosts an archive of recordings of the shows, including shows a early as 1942, captured in the long years where the European Arena became deadlocked and the focus shifted to the campaigns of North Africa and Asia.
Additional playlist material was curated from the Billboard chart of 1948, a marketing innovation that became influential on the UK, through the cultural trades provided by the GI army, which was still in post in post-war Europe. This influence included using Radio Luxembourg as a nascent Radio Free Europe, providing an American flavour to soundtrack the Marshall Plan funded European regeneration.
A final flavour for the day was provided by the emerging genre of Trad Jazz. Arguing for an authentic voice in recreating the Jazz canon of the ‘classic’ 1920s, Trad Jazz was privileged by the BBC as the superior form of contemporary Jazz at the time, allowing the home-grown talents of Humphrey Lyttelton and Chris Barber. This collection was central to the soundscape of the day.
The mood of the era was captured completely with the soundscape of the day. I avoided folk music, as while the work of Holst and Vaughan-Williams was busy exploring the historical and rural-nostalgic, the everyday was gaining force and developing it’s own media muscle, in line with our own mediascape of today. To find a sound that set the scene for the twentieth century as a whole, my work has been forced back to the Viennese School and Fin-de-Siecle Europe.