The Composers of Doctor Who - Jonathan Gibbs

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Christopher Morley looks at the man behind the music to the Fifth Doctor story The King's Demons.


As we continue our celebration of that most cricket-loving of Doctors, we come now to an interesting musical moment from his tenure! Remember the period-appropriate score to The King's Demons, as the Fifth discovers just how ' Bad' King John can be in two places at once?


The composer behind it all was one Jonathan Gibbs, who served on the staff of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop for just two years- The King's Demons being as his first assignment of four. He'd follow it up with music for Warriors Of The Deep, Vengeance On Varos & The Mark Of The Rani.



To discover just how he got that authentic period sound for the tale of two Kings, time for a little history lesson. Anyone for the lute?



The essay Music Of The Crusades Era should be able to help with a little background-
"European music, prior to Arab influence which came primarily through involvement in the Crusades, was largely sacred and monophonic in nature. Plainsong chant featured almost exclusively in worship. Gradually, due at least in part to the works of travelling minstrels like troubadours and goliards, instrumental accompaniment, harmony and polyphony would become standards of Western music."



We can now turn to The King's Song, written by the episode's writer Terence Dudley & sung by Kamelion's voice actor Gerald Flood to music by Peter Howell, who was originally scheduled to commit to the full score but was only able to see to the lute music parts, Gibbs drafted in to oversee the rest! The credited lutenist  - that is to say, lute player- is one Jakob Lindberg, who was mistakenly credited as a cast member instead of part of the crew, though he does appear on screen, in Radio Times listings for the episode. And he's done plenty besides his brief Doctor Who cameo, too. As his online biography states-
"After reading music at Stockholm University he went to London to study at the Royal College of Music, where he further developed his knowledge of the lute repertoire under the guidance of Diana Poulton, and decided towards the end of his studies to concentrate on renaissance and baroque music; he is now one of the most prolific performers in this field.

Jakob has made numerous recordings for BIS, many of which are pioneering in that they present a wide range of music on CD for the first time. He has brought Scottish lute music to public attention, demonstrated the beauty of the Italian repertoire for chitarrone and recorded chamber music by Vivaldi, Haydn and Boccherini on period instruments."
But whereabouts would The King's Song fit into the music of the time at which it was set? It seems King John fanced himself as a bit of a troubadour! Back we go to Music Of The Crusades Era to better understand why.
"One must remember that many troubadours were professional musicians, and as travelling minstrels, could even be considered portable instruments. The relationships between poetic and musical structure remind us that these were songs, and not simply poems.

Mouvance seems the result of multiple transmitters of songs, where each transmitter took some license with the song's text. Transmission occurred through trained performers, but also friends and patrons of the troubadour.

Troubadour songs, it is recognized, lie at the origin of the Western tradition of high lyric poetry. Upholding the ideals of chivalry translated neatly into zeal for the similar ideals fuelling the European crusaders, and arguably, the direction of influence was reversible.

What troubadours brought back from the fighting, if they returned, was reflected in their songs. The songs themselves often close with an envoi, lines that "send" the song to its audience."
A handy spotters guide for the uninitiated, right enough. And why was the lute such a popular instrument, you might well wonder?
"Brought to Spain and Sicily by the Moors and Saracens, the lute and guitar featured frets which fixed notes on the finger-board. The lute became a favorite of European musicians and was taken north, but prior to Arab contact minstrels used only the harp for accompaniment."
That's not all they took from Jaffa & beyond, either.
"Happily, perhaps, for the troubadours, Arabian taste favored vocal music above instrumental -- perhaps as a natural consequence of their esteem for poetry. Unlike most European music of the same time, however, Eastern melodies were often set to modes or scales, and might be mensural, or set to rhythm.

But the most notable divergence between Eastern and Western music is perceptible by their corresponding notions of harmony. European sacred music (plainsong or Gregorian chant) shared the unison (each voice sings the same note, possibly in octave), linear (the principle of harmony was founded on succession, not simultaneity) features of Arabian music, although this similarity would dissolve with the development of music in Renaissance Europe."

Let us have the lute! The Lute Society are obviously keen to extol the virtues of the instrument. & here's a little of its history.
"The lute derives its name, as well as its distinctive shape, from the Arabic 'ud, an instrument which is very much at the heart of Arabic musical life to this day. 'Al 'ud' means 'the wooden one', a name perhaps coined to distinguish the 'ud from instruments made from gourds or with parchment soundboards.

It came to Europe in the Middle Ages, perhaps brought back from the Crusades, or via Moorish Spain, or Sicily, where the thirteenth century King Manfred von Hohenstaufen was a keen player. Throughout the Mediaeval period the lute, which then had only five 'courses' or pairs of strings, was played with a quill plectrum—again like the 'ud.

Playing with a plectrum limits the kind of solo music that can be performed, and so the lute was often played in consort with other instruments, perhaps improvising over a drone or ground, playing dance tunes, or being used to accompany song."
Whether we'll ever see an Ood with an 'ud remains to be seen!
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