Words of Welcome...
These pages are a tribute to the many fine composers and arrangers
who built a beautiful body of instrumental work in years past,
particularly in the decades immediately following the "Big Band era".
These men contributed much to the craft of popular music, yet fell
subsequently from appreciation by the mass culture, and in many cases
were abandoned by their former publishers and record companies.
This field of Light Music which once delighted a worldwide audience,
is now dimly perceived as "Elevator Music", or in some extreme cases
as "Lounge Music", or "Space-age bachelor pad music". These terms say
more about the kind of ears which are listening today, or the authors
which try to interpret the music in the context of some wierd social
phenomenon, than the music itself which hasn't changed.
Western Pop music in general has been going through a horific "Dark
Ages", a kind of mass self-destruction from which it is only
beginning to emerge. This period started in the years of the mid
1960s...the years of the VietNam War and the Kennedy Assasination
which drove a rift into our culture between old and young, between
talent and ego, between trained musicians and their audience.
In the United States, this was due in large part to the fact that
music education, once an integral part of the public school
curriculum, was relegated to the "unnecessary frill" category and in
some cases dropped altogether due to budget crises.
The short-sightedness on the part of American educators and
policymakers, and the greed of record company executives contributed
to the public's ignorance about the values of good music, so that the
mass audience cannot separate wheat from chaff, and cares little
about older styles or the craft of music.
It is hoped that, in some way, these pages will help spur the
Rennaissance which is sorely needed to heal the split, and bring our
musical culture back on track. Such a restoration has been too long
About Light Music
The term "Light Music" has been used in Europe for many years,
although American audiences may have referred to the same music
variously as "Mood Music", "Beautiful Music", or "Pop
Characteristics of the Light Music genre can be summarized as
- a strong melody--whether "catchy" in its simplicity, or
otherwise "memorable" in nature
- an interesting musical setting--a unique counter-melody,
interesting chord progression, etc.
- performance by an orchestra or small ensemble--rarely are
- a programmatic association such as a mood, place, or era may
appear in the title and music
- a form for the arrangement which has a sense of direction--a
beginning, middle, & end;
and a sense of balance and contrast--solos balance tutti sectios,
This genre is also can be distinguished by what it does NOT
- no pretense of "serious composition" such as found with
Symphonies, Concertos, etc.
- no long sections of improvisation or noodling which
characterizes so much jazz & rock
- no forum for performer egos; it is a collaborative group of
professionals playing the arrangement
The Light Music Repertoire
Light Music contains an admixture of elements which have become
associated over time. Light Music includes broadly romantic themes
suitable for a main title, happy pizzicato and string fantasias,
clever novelty pieces, tuneful marches, and jazz-influenced
The foundation of Light Music has been created by composers who wrote
original works. But it also includes works of arrangers and
orchestrators who took melodies both from within and outside the
category, and reconstructed them in a Light Music setting. These
arranger/stylists added their own touches of countermelodies,
counter-rhythms, re-harmonizations, and of course their
orchestrations. Any melody was fair game at any tempo, as long as the
arranger had an idea for a musical transformation which held up over
But the common denominator of the light music style is talent:
trained musicians performing in ensembles large and small. Talented
composers and arrangers who took influences from the whole world of
music which had occured before them, and made it into a palatable
form for wide appeal. The popularity of the form between 1935-1965
shows that it was serving a need for less "highbrow" music, and yet
serving a responding public who had a taste for things of
Influences of Other Genres Upon Light Music
The Big Band era of approximately 1935-1950 is distinct from Light
Music, which evolved more from the light classical tradition of
ballet and operetta scores and Broadway musical theatre.
In contrast with Big Band music, Light Music used strings as an
integral part of its orchestration. Light Music composers and
arrangers did however, adapt and integrate some idioms of the Big
Band tradition as time went on, primarily in the rhythmic and
harmonic areas. Lighter Classical compositions such as those written
by Ferde Grofe and George Gershwin in the 1930s inspired the
composers of light music as well.
Another influence was that of "Broadway Musical Comedy" or the "Show
Tune" tradition. This was a "second cousin" of Light Music too, since
it was also an offshoot of Western European operetta scores. Light
Music may have shared some common structural forms with the "Show
Tune". But the Show Tune is primarily a vocal form, which had
built-in limitations due to use within the context of a play.
Light Music is more than either "Dance Band", "Light Classical", or
"Theatre Music". It has always covered a broader range of uses...
It was sometimes mood music or theme music used in Films, Radio, and
eventually Television. It also found an enthusiastic and appreciative
audience which were interested in it for its own sake, who sought out
the music they heard on radio and TV, and created demand for records
and sheet music. This happened during the period of the heyday of
Light Music--from approximately 1940 -- 1960. This in turn inspired a
number of compositions and arrangements which were made specifically
for the commercial Light Music market.
Since one characteristic of Light Music is its tendency to be
descriptive of a particular mood or place or era, it got to be known
as "Mood Music" early on. There were early theme albums associating
the music with romance, nature, novelties, or anything else that the
A & R men of the day thought would make a promotable package.
Recent Distorted Views of Light Music
Although an interest has arisen in Europe in what is known as
"Easy Tune", some unfortunate terms have also been applied to Light
Music in more recent years, such as "Muzak" (when applied to the
whole genre), "Elevator Music" or even the curious invented term
"Moodsong" or "Kitsch", mostly by people who are too young to have
been aware of the scope and quality of the genre in its heydey.
From popular wisdom today, one might never guess that "Beautiful
Music" was the number-one rated music format in all radio markets
through the 1960's and 1970s. The public knew what it liked even
during the early Rock era, and responded by listening, despite the
view of current children of baby boomers who think their parents only
liked extreme exotica or Hi-Fi demonstration records. Those stations
played a wide range of styles which encompass the genres of Light
Some peculiar ideas, expressed in a few wrongheaded articles and
essays in the mid 1990s, with their strange spin on the social
context of instrumental music of 40 years before, inspired a recent
marketing phenomenon called "Space Age Bachelor Pad Music" later
named "Lounge Music." Supposedly this repackaging of old "Exotica"
tracks by arrangers like Juan Esquivel, Martin Denny, and Les Baxter
validates the thereom that the 1950s were an era with repressive
values, which led to really way-out music.
These recent revisions of history distort the picture of Light Music,
by promoting the most eclectic and extreme examples of instrumental
arranging used in Hi-Fi or Stereo demonstration records, as something
characteristic of the whole body of 1950s music, which it was not. In
actuality, demonstration records and "Exotica" were a very small
sub-segment of what was available on disc.
It is unfortunate that record companies, which saw fit to make
orchestral music outdated by foisting talentless rock noodlers on
untrained ears, now bastardize the memory of the genre even further,
by releasing collections including some of the tackiest examples of
arranging, and promoting this stuff to a new audience which knows no
better. It is sad that the picture many young people have of light
music is through the filter of this strange marketing ploy, in which
the ignorant A & R men of today have sought to crank out a few
more bucks with colorful cover art, and bizarre packaging.
The Goal of These Light Music Pages
So it is one goal of this page to begin to correct this odd
skewing of music history from "the blind leading the blind", by
listing the names and biographies of light music composers and
arrangers, and document their achievements. It is hoped that this
will illustrate how widespread this music was, and what a broad range
It is a further attempt to keep alive this genre of music which was
popular when there was real appreciation for music of beauty,
quality, and craftsmanship. At a future point, it is hoped new CDs
will be recorded in this genre which has so much to offer, for those
who know how to listen.