I found this week’s Feedback on Radio 4 very entertaining.
A correspondent had written in to complain about the use of a particular piece of incidental music in several different drama and documentary series on Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra across a single evening.
That piece of music in Facades by Philip Glass…

Now here’s the thing. I first became aware of it when I heard it used as the theme music for Nick Fisher’s excellent series of Julie Enfield mysteries (one of which is being repeated right now on Radio 4 Extra – the Feedback correspondent didn’t mention that one).
At the time – and this was the mid-nineties – short of knowing someone at the BBC, there was little way of finding out what the music was. I assumed that it was composed especially for the series. The Radio Times wasn’t a great deal of use either.
Kids – we didn’t use to have Shazam!
Then one day I heard it used as the bed of a report on Newsnight. I phoned the BBC helpline (not that one), but the nice lady only had more common requests. Eventually I did manage to email someone at Newsnight and a production assistant told me! It was by Philip Glass and called Facades.
Now all I had to do was track it down. I found it in the classical section of the Virgin Megastore near Tottenham Court Road station. It was on a recent compilation album called Minimalist (now sadly unavailable – at least on Amazon. However there’s a decent Glass compilation that includes it called The Essential Philip Glass).
The Julie Enfield series ran for a few more series, and I’d discovered not only a new piece of music, but a new type of music.
Incidentally, what’s Nick Fisher writing for radio – if at all – these days? Is he the same Nick Fisher who was on Saturday Live last week? And I’d love to track down The Wheel of Fortune that was broadcast in 2001 simultaneously on Radio 3 and Radio 4 over two nights, with listeners choosing which version they heard.


  1. I came across your reference to Nick Fisher – not the one on Saturday live – when searching for information on his radio plays.
    Nick suffered a serious head injury in an accident in 2006 and is only just beginning to write seriously again.

  2. Lana,
    Many thanks for your comment.
    I’m very sorry to learn about Nick’s accident. I trust that the fact he’s now writing again means he’s along the road to recovery.

  3. How funny to stumble upon a post of yours while looking for the official ‘Glass-watch’ list of all known R4 uses of the piece!
    I understand someone has kept a log but have not been able to find it.
    I was amused to hear the particular Feedback edition you mentioned, since although it seems to have been something of an inside joke for years that the Glass track is a go-to for producers, I hadn’t realised the public at large were picking up on this fact.
    Your post here sparked memories of the complex research process involved pre-Shazam/SoundHound days. Now you can go from IDing/tagging a track to having your own copy in moments, yet I still occasionally mourn the loss of that Virgin Megastore as the place to find obscure tracks. To young kids this is already the stuff of legend!
    It also reminded me of calling a TV station Duty Office as a teen to ask for track info and being given record label names like “KPM”. Shops would tell me with complete conviction that they didn’t exist and show me industry directories which proved it. So when I first entered a radio station and found hundreds of KPM CDs in the library I did a double take! Even now if I spot an old library LP at a record fair or on eBay I smile at the memory of the Hi-Fidelity-OCD record shop assistants and their certainty that I was inventing it all (or that I meant “K-Tel” or KLF!).
    Final point – if you’re a fan of Glass, I’d recommend watching the documentary films in the Qatsi trilogy featuring his music. In particular Naqoyqatsi (from 2002) which is spooky & beautiful in equal measures and features hypnotic Glass themes throughout!

  4. Thanks for that Drew. Feedback continued to run Facades-spottings for a couple more weeks. They did notice its use on Julie Enfield.
    On many occassions you’d hear something used as a bed on some production or other, and simply had no mechanism to find out what it was. Facades took me years to track down.
    These days I do use things like Shazam to identify music. A case in point would be the montages they edit at the end of sports events – in particular ITV’s coverage of the Tour de France. On more than one occassion I’ve attempted to identify tracks that way (their production team is particularly good at choosing music in my view). As it happens, at the end of last year’s Tour, someone at the production company actually posted a comprehensive list of music cuts. But that’s a rarity.
    It’s interesting that you talk about library music because I suspect it’s still just as hard to track down as it’s ever been. Do the music ID services log it? I’m not sure. It’s certainly not easy for a regular consumer to buy. And there’s an awful lot of it. There was a decent Jonny Trunk-voiced documentary on the subject last year.
    Thanks for the Qatsi recommendation. I think I’ve seen one of the films.

  5. Not sure about Shazam, but SoundMouse will be tracking & tagging library for PRS reporting eventually. Not sure how it’ll cope with music that’s:
    a) intended to be edited as desired
    b) often spoken over or punctuated with fx/actuality
    c) sometimes on for only a short burst
    d) these days (sadly) increasingly dependent on loop libraries including Apple Loops. While the combination of those with added elements can seemingly justify it being registered as an original composition, I’ve spotted commercial tracks and library tracks using the very same loops to begin a track so false positives could be expected. I fear coders would either not want the match algo to return multiple IDs (meaning “it’s one of these”) since it would reduce the number of successful auto-matches seen by end users. Of course it also depends whether the match routine can even return anything other than a single ID but that’s getting geeky now 😀
    Here’s a fun thing – I recently dug out some very old cassettes including many excerpts recorded from TV which I liked as a kid, but could rarely be identified. Shazaming/SoundHounding those clips has managed to resolve some mysteries!
    Has there ever been a site which allows you to let others ID audio? Maybe too much of a copyright nightmare (or abused by those who want to promote their music by drawing attention to it in that way!)

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