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Unheard Sounds: Sample Italian Library Music from the 70s & 80s
Label Feature

Unheard Sounds: Sample Italian Library Music from the 70s & 80s

The likes of The Alchemist, Madlib, Prince Paul & Just Blaze all sampled their favorite bits of library music. Even then, there are still a TON of undiscovered treasures out there. Take Flipper Music: an Italian library label boasting instrumental music from deep funk to jazz swing and everything in between.

By DannyVeekens
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"Every time that I meet someone, they ask me: ‘Do you realize that you were making beautiful pieces of music in those days?’,” says Italian bass player and composer Piero Montanari in a 2018 documentary called The Library Music Film. “I then always say: ‘No, it was just a job.’” That’s exactly what characterizes library music: the making of production music for radio, television, and film by musicians, who could do their thing in the studio without the pressure of commercial successes or demands from record labels. That led to an extremely wide array of instrumental music, playful experiments, and sound effects: from dramatic suites to oddball funk, or from the craziest jazz to cosmic space-age synthesizers.

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That’s what fueled the beautifully obscure world of library music in the 60s and 70s. Over half a century later, those records are now sought-after and heavily sampled by producers including The Alchemist, Kanye West, Madlib, DJ Premier, the late MF DOOM, and countless others. Library music was particularly big in the UK, with acclaimed libraries such as KPM (including music by Les Baxter), Boosey & Hawkes (since 1987 known as Cavendish Music), and De Wolfe Music.

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The Italian answer to that: Flipper Music from Rome, established in 1968 by Romano Di Bari when production music in Italy was still in its infancy. Flipper Music quickly became a leading production music library in Italy with music ánd sound effects by musicians and composers including Alessandro Alessandroni, Amedeo Tommasi, Gerardo Iacoucci, Stefano Torossi, Piero Umiliani, Romolo Grano, Daniela Casa, Giuliano Sorgini, Sandro Brugnolini—who passed away late last year—, and many more.

"I had to look up what 'a sample' means in the dictionary. One day, Sean Carter called me from New York. (...) ‘We have a guy called Jay Zet,' I told my friend. He said, ‘You idiot, that's Jay-Z, one of the biggest rappers of all time!’”

—An Italian library musician in 2018's 'The Library Music Film'

Founded amid a long period of social and political turmoil with riots, protests, and violence across Italy in the Years of Lead, that’s what’s noticeable in Italian library music: the works can be atmospheric, dark, and ominous. Generally speaking, it’s much rougher—in the best sense of the word—than music from a library like KPM. And at times, Italian library music is even more experimental and free-spirited than its UK equivalent.

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But with thousands of recordings in the archives of Flipper Music, there’s a whole lot more to be dusted off on top of that. Such as the music of acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, composer, whistler, and library music icon Alessandro Alessandroni (sampled by the likes of Black Metaphor and DJ Premier), who was a childhood friend of Ennio Morricone and can be heard on the soundtracks of many iconic Spaghetti Westerns—and he's the man behind the whistle. Yes, that one.

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