Behind The Music | L’Illustration Musicale

Behind The Music illustration musicale Blog | FirstCom Music

As we introduce the newly remastered L’illustration Musicale collection, we’re honored to learn more about the storied history of the library from Anne-Laure Warner, the widow of label Founder, Eddie Warner. Read on as Anne-Laure reflects on the history of the collection, her part in its many successes and some wonderful anecdotes on the foundation of production music in Europe.

Anne-Laure can you tell us how the Illustration Musicale label was born?

L’Illustration Musicale was created in 1965 by my husband, Eddie Warner. L’Illustration Musicale was the name of the publishing company and the brand name was Warner Music. Not to be confused with the major label which has the same name today.

The first vinyl produced by L’Illustration Musicale was released in 1967 but production really took off during the early seventies. We realized that the production music landscape was lacking a collection which celebrated or valued electronic keyboards: more of a French addition to an already vast and excellent English leaning repertoire, which was produced and distributed at the time by L’Illustration Musicale. This is how the records for L’Illustration Musicale were born and created.

L’Illustration Musicale is considered to be the first label of electronic production music in the history of library music.

In fact, the variety of sounds that electronic instruments can offer, from strange or even irritating effects to amusing and enjoyable sounds, helped us build a collection that was as emotive and complete as the more traditional English labels that one could find at the time.

Could you tell us about the media and music landscape in France at the time of the creation of L’Illustration Musicale?

There were libraries such as Chappell France of whom one of the main composers was Paul Bonneau, the renowned conductor of large orchestra who was frequently heard on the radio. The Chappell music library offered orchestral music more in the English style and did not seem to be a competitor for L’Illustration Musicale. The other production music companies (Télé Music, Sonimage, etc.) arrived later. As far as the media were concerned, of course there was French television with its three channels and the radio (RTF until 1964, then ORTF from 1964 to 1974, Europe 1, and RTL), private audio-visual companies and the major industrial companies. We managed to ensure the use of our music. The professionals needed additional music or shorter cues for publicity for example. Our musical library was very practical because the clients would re-work them, make cuts etc.

What was the economic model of library music in France at the time of L’Illustration Musicale? What about SACEM (French copyright management society)?

The works and copyrights were registered at SACEM. We were remunerated on the broadcasting rights and the copyrights, but it was next to nothing. At that time, we didn’t yet have a tariff grid for the licensing rights. Then a group of professionals got together to develop a tariff grid for the use of the music and the retrieval of copyrights.

How did L’Illustration Musicale make itself known to the media and potential clients?

We did the tour of the sound engineers, directors, publicists and radio stations and TV channels carrying our records under our arms. We would hang around in the corridors. Initially my husband did the promotion himself to launch the records.

Who created the logo for L’Illustration Musicale?

The logo was designed by my husband and technically produced by a graphic designer he chose. Production music records were not designed in the same manner as records presented in the shops: you saw the title and the name of the composer but the visual was very low key. L’Illustration Musicale kept everything plain initially, with the sleeves having a central hole (on the first five references). The colored sleeves arrived later. My husband said in this respect “I make music for professionals; the records don’t have to have the same design as records sold in the shops. They should know enough about music to be able to listen to the record: know who the composers are, each with their own skills. They don’t need us telling them a nice story.”

Can we go back to Eddie Warner’s career and in particular how he got his start as a musician?

My husband was born in Germany. Of Jewish origin he had to flee his native country in 1934 because of the racial persecutions. It was thanks to a Jewish organization in Berlin that he was able to study music at the Conservatoire of Strasbourg (piano and trumpet). Then, after many adventures, he found a position in Paris as a Jazz pianist. He was ranked by the Hot Club de France in 1939 as being one of the best Jazz pianists at that time.

The situation at the end of 1939 meant he signed up as a volunteer for the army during the war. He was assigned to the Foreign Legion. Very quickly he became the bugler. Music always saves you…

After the war he quickly returned to music and started a career as a conductor. Promoting South-American music in France with a series of successful songs such as “Samba-Samba”, “Terre Tropicale” and many more. He was awarded Le Grand Prix du Disque in 1948, (the year the award was created). He built up and directed an orchestra of seventeen musicians playing variety music: Eddie Warner and his tropical music, best-seller in dance music with numerous tours throughout Europe, North Africa, Middle-East etc. over fourteen years.

How did you meet your husband?

We met quite by chance in the sixties. We were both German. I had left Germany to do my literary studies in Paris. I was aiming to become a translator. He was travelling a lot, touring with his orchestra. It was a short story that lasted twenty years (laughs).

How did Eddie Warner become interested in production music?

Between tours he had to find work for the orchestra, either recording sessions, or live concerts, commissioned and transmitted on radio. Frequently the musical compositions were specifically composed for the programs. The orchestras were selected by the RTF and my husband was one of the contracted conductors as were Roger Roger and Nino Nardini. That’s how they all met and they mutually appreciated each other.

A meeting with the music publisher Jacques Plante gave a slightly different orientation to the musical activities of my husband. The Jacques Plante label represented Berry Music in France which included the Conroy Library catalogue. This type of music didn’t interest Jacques Plante very much and he asked Eddie to take over. My husband quickly realized the potential of this catalogue. We became the sub-publishers of Conroy, then KPM (EMI). KPM had a very avant-garde catalogue, very Jazz and very orchestral. This specific genre made it quite difficult to exploit in France, but Eddie succeeded in promoting it and KPM became very well-known amongst media professionals.

Eddie was also solicited as a composer by English publishers, as was Roger Roger, who had already been working since the fifties on catalogues such as Southern Music in England.

What was your role in the L’Illustration Musicale adventure?

Having always worked alongside my husband since the creation of the label, I became the head of the company from May 1982 until 1999.

Initially I looked after all the secretarial side, typing the titles out to register the works at SACEM and looking after dispatching the records for the provinces. It also happened that I did musical research for clients.

At the beginning of the eighties, with the arrival of new technologies in the sound and music industries, the needs of the professional changed. French production music was becoming less and less attractive. I started looking at catalogues from elsewhere to enable them to become known in France. I was looking for different and new sounds and went as far as Australia. That’s how our company started distributing FirstCom, Music House,  Bruton Music, Cavendish, German and Italian labels. Eventually with L’Illustration Musicale and all the foreign catalogs, for whom we were the sub-publishers, we had to manage fifteen different labels. We were the first to offer classical music with the Forlane label. Then we introduced the sound effect collections which was new for France.

Thanks to this kaleidoscope of different music colors, I was able to grow the company and surround myself with a very efficient and friendly team who had a real sense of service and were music-lovers. We did turnkey musical research and translation of the sound effect catalogues into French, offering classical music (which was new) and created a system of musical research on diskettes to facilitate the use of our repertoires by the clients. In twenty years, I have witnessed three technological revolutions: vinyl, CD and now downloading! For the images we went from diapositives to video. When the CD arrived, I had to be able to offer the music on both vinyl and CD, and even sometimes supply the CD player because not everyone was equipped. Since then, L’Illustration Musicale hasn’t stopped evolving and expanding its repertoire for the professionals in the sound and image industry with the constant objective of “quality and innovation”.

My biggest satisfaction is that L’Illustration Musicale became a permanent share- holder of SACEM during the time I managed the company. Afterwards, L’Illustration Musicale became Zomba Production Music.

How was an album for L’Illustration Musicale created?

The editorial line of the label was streamlined little-by-little with experience; with the new instruments arriving, like electronic keyboards, everyone was having fun without necessarily realizing right away that these instruments had a certain value. But it wasn’t always improvisation; Roger, Nino and my husband did have ideas and themes, they knew they were going to make a record like this or like that, (for children, industries etc.) because the different music had to be classified by genre in order to create a library. I actually still have some of the scores.

In which studio did the recordings take place?

Roger Roger had set up a professional studio at his home in Jouy-en-Josas for all the sound takes with all the necessary instruments; the Studio Ganaro (an acronym of Gaston, Nardini and Roger Roger).

Did Roger Roger, Nino Nardini and Eddie Warner have a routine when they entered the studio?

They used to dine together before disappearing into the studio, where they lost all track of time. They generally played at night and into the early hours.

How was a recording session planned?

We didn’t think about productivity; the first thing to do was to really get to know and to master the instruments and discover what they had to offer. I was sometimes present at these sessions, which wasn’t quite the case for Eva, Roger’s wife, as she was an opera singer and preferred to do other things.

How did the members of the trio decide who did what?

They either co-composed or each one composed on their own. It was more or less Roger who was at the helm. Nino was First Prize of Rome on the piano. As far as my husband was concerned, he had an absolute ear for music and easily managed to master new instruments. When we went on holiday in the camper, we always took his electric piano, a long and heavy keyboard that we put on the seats (laughs). Once we arrived at our destination, he installed himself on the beach whilst I paddled in the water. This piano ultimately stayed in the studio…

Everyone got on very well until the end. Everything stopped when Eddie died in May 1982.

Was there an in-house band of musicians, as it existed in the commercial labels (Barclay, Motown, for example)?

No, there were no group sessions. They did everything as a trio; Roger, Nino and Eddie. We did release tracks by other independent musicians; John Randoll, Bernard Fevre, Jacky Giordano and Yan Tregger. Also Johnny Hawksworth, who composed mainly for KPM, also worked on some records for L’Illustration Musicale.

Did Eddie Warner, Roger Roger and Nino Nardini have any pseudonyms?

My husband had several names he would use; Eddie Warner principally, which comes from his first name Werner Blumann. This pseudonym was indeed on his passport. He also used Peter Bonello, Archie Gum, Anthony Cadogan or even Terence Redcliff. As far as Roger Roger was concerned it was his real name. But sometimes he signed under the name of Eric Swan and Cecil Leuter. Georges Teperino was the pseudonym of Nino Nardini.

Why were there no songs, just instrumental titles?

It had to be almost anonymous music; it couldn’t become music that one could memorize. The music had to exist without disturbing anything, it had to stay neutral. It couldn’t be a melody that was too loud or too present. We called it “background music”. The name “background” is very denigrating because in fact this type of music was not considered as a major art form. For a long time, it was looked down upon by the majors before they understood its value. The name “Production Music” seems to be more appropriate for me.

Lalo Schifrin took part in some of the recordings: what was the nature of his relationship with Eddie Warner?

Lalo was the pianist and arranger of my husband’s orchestra for two years. During one of the tours he was picked-out by Dizzy Gillespie who took him to the States where he had the famous career we know about.

On which albums/titles did Lalo Schifrin work on?

Lalo took part in the album Night Life which came out at the time of the big fashion for disco. It was disco with a big orchestra. This album was not initially scheduled for the library. It was destined for the commercial circuit.

Why weren’t we allowed to use his name when the reedition of the recordings from Night Life on the album Disco Never Dies (GAL077) came out?

Lalo didn’t want to be reminded about his modest début: a young Argentinian musician with little money, who played in Parisian jazz clubs. He tended to deny his past, which takes nothing off the immense talent he had, the talent my husband discovered as soon as he heard him for the first time, one night in a club.

What place has L’Illustration Musicale left in the history of production music in France and how do you explain the increasing interest of new generations for library catalogues such as these?

L’Illustration Musicale found a place in history because it was the first label dedicated to electronic production music. Current generations don’t know these instruments, which were new at the time, and today’s new instruments have a completely different sound. It is blessed bread for the DJs who use this music to mix and sample. It’s the miracle of music; it can be revived at any time; we just don’t know how or where.

What’s your opinion on production music today?

There are things I really like and others which exasperate me a bit; each period has its demands about sound and image…There are also moments of nostalgia… The proof; we are now looking for seventies atmospheres and admire the pioneers, who traced the path and brought prominence to this “minor art”.

How was the opening music for the famous French program ‘Les Chiffres et les lettres’ chosen?

“Western Patrol”, which is on the album Medium Orchestral Beat (IMLP-3) was chosen by the sound illustrator and producer of the program; Armand Jammot. The name was changed to “Alabama Trail” for the credits. The longevity of these opening music is crazy. The public has always wanted it to be kept, which didn’t really please the channel who didn’t get any royalties on it. They tried to modernize it several times by ordering new arrangements, which were more or less a success.

What has happened to the original tapes of L’Illustration Musicale?

Nobody knows what has happened to the tapes, which is a bit sad for me. All the material was stored at Roger Roger’s in the Ganaro studio because the room had the perfect temperature for conserving the tapes. When my husband died, I had other preoccupations on my mind and I didn’t think about them at the time. When the

L’Illustration Musicale session took place at Zomba Music, I tried to retrieve the tapes from Roger Roger’s widow, but it didn’t happen.

Finally, to the best of your knowledge were there any female composers of production music at the time?

As far as I know, there was only one female composer who worked for the Burton label; the English lady Zoe Kronberger, who used the pseudonym Zoe de Sousa. She lives in France and is, in fact, a fantastic painter.

Interview by Delphine Joutard, Senior Production Manager at Universal Production Music France.

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