De Wolfe Music
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|De Wolfe Music Limited|
|Founder||Meyer de Wolfe|
|Country of origin||England|
De Wolfe Music is a British production music company that became the originator of what has become known as library music. De Wolfe Music was established by Meyer de Wolfe in 1909 and began its recorded library in 1927 with the advent of 'Talkies'. The library consists of over 80,000 tracks, all pre-cleared for licensing and synchronisation. They have been used in thousands of productions including Monty Python, Emmanuelle, Dawn of the Dead, American Gangster, and Doctor Who. Well known theme tunes include Van der Valk, Roobarb and The NFL Today. De Wolfe built and owns Angel Recording Studios, a recording and mixing complex situated at The Angel, Islington, London. Artists who have recorded there in recent years include Adele, Snow Patrol, Cee Lo Green, Labrinth, George Fenton (BAFTA and EMMY winner for his scores to the BBC's The Blue Planet and Planet Earth), Ian Brown, Elbow, The Doves, The Feeling, and Kaiser Chiefs. Its specially composed department is called Inter Angel. De Wolfe is still a family-run company.
De Wolfe Music Publishers have the longest running independent film and television music library resource in the world. Their music can be heard in, amongst others, The Simpsons Movie, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Death Wish, Brokeback Mountain, Dawn of the Dead, American Gangster, EastEnders, Kavanagh QC, The Royle Family, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Great British Journeys, Spitting Image, and Top Gear.
It has provided the hook for advertising campaigns and in recent years has been sampled by the likes of Mark Ronson and Lily Allen, Peshay, Ja Rule, Gorillaz, Unkle and Beyoncé. Countless radio programmes have used De Wolfe for signature tunes, background music, talk show themes, dramatic moments, chart show countdowns and commercials.
The company’s founder, Meyer de Wolfe, left the Netherlands just after the turn of the 20th Century - a graduate of the Dutch Royal Conservatoire of Music, Meyer de Wolfe came to London to work as a musical director, composer, musician, arranger and conductor with the Provincial Cinematograph Theatres Limited. He established De Wolfe Music in 1909 and was responsible for selecting the accompaniment to movies at a time when soundtracks were simply printed as sheet music and played live by musicians sitting inside the late-Edwardian Cinemas, or ‘Kinematograph theatres’ as they were known then. It was in these early years that Meyer de Wolfe offered a sheet music library of original compositions to accompany silent films; he personally selected scores for early silent epics like D. W. Griffith's' The Dishonoured Medal (1914), and Kenean Buel’s production of Rider Haggard’s She (1915), as well as the original Prisoner of Zenda for Adolph Zukor, one of the eventual founders of Paramount Pictures and whose Famous Players Film Company produced an impressive 140 or so silent films between 1912 and 1919.
Meyer de Wolfe’s scores were often produced in collaboration with an extraordinary circle of notable friends from the close-knit orchestral community in London, made up of some of the finest talent of the era, including conductor Sir Landon Ronald, violinist and opera conductor Sir Eugene Goossens, composer Giuseppe Becce and violinist Mantovani, father of the conductor Annunzio Mantovani. De Wolfe Music, as it became known, also encompassed many other related activities such as exclusively importing ‘Wurlitzer’ organs and supplying gut strings for violins, violas, cellos and basses. It was even involved in the manufacture of the Standadt electric organ in the Netherlands which was imported into the UK.
In 1927, following the advent of sound in movies, De Wolfe Music began recording with the ‘sound-on-disc’ technique and ‘sound-on-film’ onto 35mm on highly flammable nitrate film, which was known to explode if improperly stored, as the company discovered when a film which had deteriorated into powder ignited and blew out its Wardour Street basement. To prevent this from happening in the future, much of the stored music was later copied onto ¼” tape. Indeed, as technologies have changed, many of the early compositions have come on quite a journey, transferring to vinyl from 1962, CD from 1985 and currently existing digitally on hard drives and as downloadable files on the internet.
Examples of early compositions from that time include pieces like Keep Your Face To The Sunshine (1926) by Arthur Crocker, Odiele, performed by Ivor Novello from the film The Rat (1926) and Policeman’s Holiday from 1931 by the prolific and popular composer Montague Ewing. There was also Autumn Serenade and Mia Bella by Giuseppe Becce, who scored the classic Frankenstein in 1931, as well as many of Meyer de Wolfe’s own compositions. Among the film scores completed during the era were Horace Shepherd’s compositions for The Prince and the Maid (1925) and The Iron Horse (1924), an early western directed by John Ford, as well as the score for Two White Arms (1932), starring the debonair Adolphe Menjou, nine-times Best Dressed Man in America and idol of the 1930s sartorial opulence. De Wolfe Music went on to score Clothes and the Woman (1937) directed by Albert de Courville, Silver Blaze (1937), based on the famous Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Conan-Doyle and The Vicar of Bray (1937) which starred Stanley Holloway and included a score by famed composer Harry Baynton-Power.
During the 1930s, De Wolfe created soundtracks for newsreels that were shown in cinemas in between the feature films and B-movies of the day. Working closely with Pathé, British Movietone News, and British Gaumont Cinemas, De Wolfe provided scores for many thousands of newsreels right across Europe. This would continue during the Second World War and well into the 1960s. In the meantime, Meyer's son, James de Wolfe, joined the company, initially starting in 1940, just after war had begun. James served with the RAF from 1942 to 1947 then upon his return spent much of the fifties and sixties travelling in order to establish the company as an international business. At that time De Wolfe Music were producing scores for popular features like 1946’s Curse of The Wraydons and Roy Boulting's 1947 political drama Fame is the Spur starring Michael Redgrave, the first soundtrack composed by John Wooldridge, who had flown as one of the RAF Dambusters during the war. John Wooldridge also composed the music for the film Edward My Son (1948) which starred Spencer Tracy, while another of De Wolfe's composers, Frank Spencer, scored Mrs. Christopher (1950) and Fall of the House of Usher (1952).
In the late 1940s, the company took steps to expand into North America, where a partnership with two film editors from Paramount Pictures named Corelli and Jacobs laid the foundations for a new venture in The States. The proliferation of television sets during the fifties also added a whole new market for De Wolfe’s music and with it a unique piece of TV history. The company provided the music for the U.K.’s first ever television commercial, a minute long advertisement for Gibbs Toothpaste in September 1955. Since then many advertising commercials and campaigns have been broadcast featuring either De Wolfe library tracks or specially composed pieces. These vary from the famous British Airways ‘World’s Favourite Airline’ and Audi Quattro ads of the eighties, to recent commercials for Lucozade, Adidas, Chrysler and the Britannia Building Society. Meanwhile, a quite different type of information was also flourishing in the UK. Out of the 1940s and into the 1950s music was provided and scored for a number of training films. Clients included The Ministry of Information, National Coal Board, British Rail and the Armed Forces; while topics covered everything from road safety to what to do in the event of a nuclear attack.
The library began distributing 10" vinyl records in 1962 and soon after produced the now collectible 12" records, complete with their trademark experimental cover designs by Rolph Webster and award-winning Canadian artist Nick Bantock. This era also saw the company providing the scores for the original black-and-white Tintin series and being awarded an Ivor Novello Award for the theme to the TV series The Power Game starring Patrick Wymark. Music was also provided for classic episodes of Doctor Who, while in the 1970s De Wolfe scored The Sweeney, Monty Python's Flying Circus and cartoon theme tunes for Roobarb & Custard and Henry's Cat. Eye Level, the theme music for the television detective series Van Der Valk, became a million-selling number one single in 1973. To composer Jack Trombey’s surprise, Eye Level topped the charts for six weeks and saw Simon Park conducting his Orchestra week after week on Top Of The Pops alongside glam superstars Wizzard and Sweet. It was the first TV theme ever to hit Number One, and proved so popular the Simon Park Orchestra actually outsold The Beatles in the UK for a whole week. Much of De Wolfe’s music from that era has since become cult among record collectors and music enthusiasts all over the world.
Many more obscure De Wolfe scores lurk in the thousands of cult classic Kung Fu movies by Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers, including The Mighty Peking Man from 1976 and 1979's Return to the 36th Chamber, as well as many popular TV shows from the 1970s like Miss Jones and Son and Man About the House. De Wolfe's music also graces some of the highly popular and relentlessly bawdy British comedies like Zeta One, Eskimo Nell and Adventures of a Taxi Driver, but there is no doubt the best known work from the end of the seventies can be found in the Monty Python surreal classics Time Bandits, The Holy Grail, The Meaning of Life, Jabberwocky, and Life of Brian.
The seventies saw De Wolfe expanding its library with the addition of The Rouge catalogue in 1975, run by Rosalind de Wolfe, wife of James de Wolfe and one of the company's directors. This popular catalogue itself recently[when?] expanded with the new Club Rouge and a Jazz series, both of which have been very successful. The roster of companies under the De Wolfe umbrella currently includes Commercial Breaks, the De Wolfe Jazz label and a Classical RPO series which features pieces recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Many of the very earliest De Wolfe compositions are still available in its Millennium series, while the company also owns the Classic Hudson label, originally acquired in the thirties to release 78s of popular dance music, and which now exists as a niche and eclectic production music library. Sylvester Music Co Limited has also been part of De Wolfe since the early days, originally existing as a song sheet publisher and whose subsequent LPs included talents like jazz icon Martial Solal and film score composer Vladimir Cosma. One of the newer additions to the De Wolfe Group has been the sound effects department, dedicated to designing and supplying effects for film, TV, and games productions. De Wolfe SFX is run by Janine de Wolfe, James de Wolfe's daughter.
The third generation of the De Wolfe family started at the company in 1978. Meyer de Wolfe's grandson, Warren de Wolfe, began in the Transfer and Editing department at the company's old premises in Wardour Street. Warren joined at a time when the company was developing its own Angel Studios complex in Islington in 1979. Recording began in 1982 and by 1983 Angel was already attracting acts like The Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees, who hired the studio commercially. After opening a third studio at the complex in 1987, the premises developed further into a significant business for De Wolfe, not only allowing its composers access to a world class studio, but also supplying a facility for today’s leading artists. Ian Brown, Goldfrapp, Kaiser Chiefs, Funeral for a Friend, Elbow, The Feeling and Karl Jenkins (for his acclaimed Adiemus project) are amongst those to have recorded there, while most famously, and fittingly, it was also where Robbie Williams recorded parts for his worldwide smash hit Angels.
The Angel Studio’s expansive orchestra room also ensures its popularity among film score composers like Éric Serra who scored Léon and the James Bond film GoldenEye there. George Fenton used the studio to record his award-winning scores for natural history shows The Blue Planet and Planet Earth, while other projects have included Alex Heffes for Touching The Void, Maury Weston for Nine (2009 live-action film), Ann Dudley for The Full Monty and Craig Armstrong, who scored Moulin Rouge! and Romeo + Juliet. Among Angel Studios impressive roster of other blockbusting soundtracks are classics like The English Patient (1996), The Crying Game (1992), Buster (1988), Memphis Belle (1990), Pride and Prejudice (2005) and The Lion King (1994). In order to maximise the potential of Angel Studios as a resource for De Wolfe’s bespoke compositions, the company also operates a separate department. Inter Angel enables De Wolfe clients, Angel Studios and the roster of composers to work to highly specific briefs. In recent years these have included the composition of music, themes, beds and idents for a range of high profile, mainstream television programmes including The Weakest Link, Richard & Judy, The Price Is Right, Saturday Kitchen, House Doctor, How to Cheat at Cooking and Fame Academy. When ITV proposed a new arrangement for classic TV theme The Bill, the people they entrusted were Inter Angel.
Since the 1980s De Wolfe has been scoring and sourcing music for some of the best loved television programs. Minder, Max Headroom, Spitting Image, Jupiter Moon, and the US version of Jamaica Inn with Jane Seymour were all completed in a decade where fast-developing digital technologies also came to the fore, the most significant being the evolution of the compact disc (CD). This provided yet another market leading moment for De Wolfe – the world's first digital production music library. Released in 1985, it consisted of a series of 6 CDs and consequently led to De Wolfe ending the production of its vinyl series in 1988. Today, the libraries are more accessible than ever, with clients able to obtain the whole library on customised USB hard drives or download tracks in broadcast quality format directly from http://www.searchdewolfe.com/.
- 2000s and beyond
The combination of the library's cult status among record collectors and the increased availability of sampling since the eighties has also meant that many De Wolfe tracks appear regularly on commercial releases by internationally renowned artists. Beyoncé used a track for her song "Woman Like Me" from the 2006 film The Pink Panther, and Gorillaz used the intro from Dark Earth featured in Dawn of the Dead to start their Demon Days album. However it’s in the Hip-Hop genre that De Wolfe samples are most prevalent, appearing on albums by the likes of Fat Joe, Jay-Z, Cam'ron, Stereo MCs, Mos Def, Ric-A-Che, The Nextmen, among others.
Having reached its centenary year in 2009, De Wolfe continues as both a family run company and an industry leader, with James de Wolfe as Chairman, Warren de Wolfe as Managing Director and Rosalind de Wolfe as Director along with senior members of staff, Alan Howe, Stephen Rosie, Frank Barretta and Chris Clarke, each of whom has been with the company more than 16 years. The company is the world's largest independent production music library, with offices and agents based in 40 countries from USA to Russia, and as far flung as South Africa, Australia, and Japan. The company is represented in seven countries by EMI and boasts an ever-expanding roster of composers. De Wolfe's roll call includes some of the UK's leading talents, both past and present: Jack Trombey, Simon Park, Tim Souster, Andy Quin, Alex Heffes, Stanley Myers, Stephane Grappelli, John Altman, Stanley Black, David Bradnum, Frank Mcdonald and Chris Rae, Paul Lawler, Frederic Talgorn, York Bowen, Johnny Hawksworth, Steve Sidwell, Ivor Slaney, Reg Tilsley, Ronald Binge, David Kelly, Hampton Hawes, Basil Kirchin, Alan Parker, Roger Webb, Ivor Novello, Colin Kiddy, Howie, David Hubbard, Nigel Mullaney, Danny Davies, Jonathan Jowett, Simon Stewart, Troy Banarzi, Ross Hardy, John Leach, Paul Leonard-Morgan, Terry Keating, Ian Boddy, Paul Lewis, Karl Jenkins, Terry Gadsden, Hermann Langschwert and Nick Ingman.
Selected credits include: Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Brokeback Mountain, Grindhouse, Michael Moore's Sicko, The Prestige, Adventureland, Octopussy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Fourth Protocol, The Cider House Rules, Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, The Living Daylights, Grumpy Old Men, and the classic Emmanuelle. Similarly, De Wolfe music features on countless TV productions including Spitting Image, Coronation Street, Inspector Morse, Neighbours, kids favourite Balamory, Great British Journeys, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Churchill's Bodyguard, and Crimes and Trials of the 20th Century. All have been enhanced by production music from De Wolfe's library, along with vast numbers of TV commercials, computer games, and documentaries. Similarly, the corporate market has also benefited, from its early origins in those information movies of the 1950s, through slide projectors to "the audio visual show" and then video.
- de Wolfe, W. and Robertson, S. (2008). From Nitrate to Bitrate - 100 Years of de Wolfe Music
- De Wolfe Music Compact Disk Catalogue, 1988, The Abrose Press, 01-518 6638