Tuesday, August 26, 2008

freddie phillips: the mystery box



here is a box... a mystery box.

"Here is a box,
a musical box
...
Wound up and ready
to play.
But this box can hide

a secret inside,

Can you guess what's
in it
today ?"


- Briant Cant.

Freddie Phillips was commissioned to produce this music for a childrens' tv series on the BBC in 1966. With a script narrated by Brian Cant, "Camberwick Green" and the "Trumpton" series ran on repeat well into the 1980s and was Britain's unintentionally hallucinogenic "Twilight Zone" for three generations of children under the age of five.

The broadcasting bastion of traditional moral values, the BBC was babysitter to the nation. An institution of Orwellian proportions; entrusted with the wellfare of the young and vulnerable. That's not to suggest that there was anything inherently sinister with these particular programmes. There was, however - during the 1950s and 60s in particular - a unique edge to childrens' tv as produced in Europe which draws from a deep well of culturally informed fairytale and folklore. Those individuals directly involved in developing this tiny area of programming, too, were pretty much allowed creative free reign in return for successfully bringing in their production on a miniscule budget. Like their independent counterparts in the music industry, the end result was, more often than not, inspired and defiantly original.

A pioneering exponent of multitrack recording technique, Phillips - who enjoyed a formal career in a number of highly regarded European orchestras in tandem with his work for radio and television - was responsible not just for the accompanying music but for the provision of the equipment on which to record it:

"...putting the M&E tracks together, to meet a deadline, followed by longer days feeding them to Brian Cant (who didn't read music) in the recording cubicle through ear-phones.

Gordon Murray (creator and director in charge) called his contributors his "Cottage Industries" and that is what we were. All animation was done in a "small back room" as, I believe, were the set designs. An upstairs room in my house was divided by sound-proof partitions; two thirds for the machines, one third for the recording cubicle. I supplied all the recording equipment including Wright + Weir, Brenell, Revox A77, Revox A700 master mixer, speakers, Senheiser mikes, reverb/echo boxes, etc, specially for work on Trumptonshire."

His work for the BBC throughout this entire period is the stuff of legend. As influential as The Beatles, perhaps, Freddie Phillips deserves to be celebrated as a national treasure in his own right.
 
BRIAN CANT & FREDDIE PHILLIPS: THE MUSICAL BOX from "Camberwick Green" BBC TV (BBC) 1966 (UK)
FREDDIE PHILLIPS: CAMBERWICK GREEN from "Camberwick Green" BBC TV (BBC) 1966 (UK)
FREDDIE PHILLIPS: CHIME & CLOCK THEME from "Trumpton" BBC TV (BBC) 1967 (UK)
FREDDIE PHILLIPS: TRUMPTON from "Trumpton" BBC TV (BBC) 1967 (UK)

STOWAWAY ON A BUS TO TRUMPTON
BUY "HELLO CHILDREN, EVERYWHERE" CD

2 comments:

Peewit said...

Now my trip to Wales left me aching to see Ivor the Engine again. I was retelling the stories to my 5 year old but for the life of me i couldn't remember the name of the Dragon (I've now looked it up it's Idris) You have now planted another theme for my you tube wanderings later this evening (That is if I ever catch up on 2 weeks of missed blog reading)

ib said...

Ivor The Engine was exceptional, I have to agree. I was doing a bit of research on it years back ; the first episode kicked off way back in 1959, which seems incredible.

The bloke who played bassoon on the intro to the opening theme and sting was called Vernon Elliott.

Mind you, I would have had to look up Idris the Dragon.

I miss storytelling now my son is a bit older. You were in exactly the right celtic setting for those kind of tales. Very atmospheric. Does Llantisilly actually exist ? As in the railway line.