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Digging Deeper: An interview with Sonor Music Editions

The past few decades have seen a real resurgence in the dusty realms of library music. Vaults of often instrumental productions, composed and recorded specifically for use in various commercial and media works, from TV and film, to adverts and radio, owned by the label and licensed out accordingly. All manner of genres are covered, due to the adaptability needed, everything from jazz, folk and funk, to electronica and rock.

This quirky world of sampling gold and aural originality has become a treasure trove for producers and reissue labels alike. One such label is Rome-based Sonor Music Editions who since 2013 have dug deep into the golden era of Italian library and soundtrack music. Alongside reissuing releases from the prolific ‘60s/’70s heydays, they are also working with a new generation of library music composers on contemporary releases. We sat down with founder Lorenzo Fabrizi and label manager John Henriksson to chat about how it all began for Sonor Music Editions, the nature of the genre and the struggles it brings when licensing and reissuing music from this sphere.

What is the musical and cultural focus of Sonor Music Editions?

Lorenzo: The focus for Sonor Music Editions has always been the golden age of Italian production music as library records and soundtracks, giving it the commercial exploitation and context that it deserves. This is the music that we’re very passionate about and it’s the music we love. It’s an eternal discovery.


Who is the team behind the label and where are you based?

Lorenzo: The team is currently composed of me (Lorenzo Fabrizi) who's the owner and founder of the label and I’m based in Rome. Then the label manager John Henriksson is in Stockholm, and the label producer Andrea Galtieri is in Milan.


Italy has a rich history in composing some of the best and most sought-after library music and soundtracks, what drew you to becoming interested in this world?

Lorenzo: Simply for the love of the music. As record collectors and library music and soundtrack enthusiasts this step came naturally when we started the label in 2013. Back then, a lot of these sought-after library music titles were much less known and less expensive, which gave us the possibility to dig deeper and study this obscure world in detail.


We read that one of the catalysts for the label was down to Lorenzo being given access to a collection of 10,000 records formerly owned by the Vatican’s radio station. How did that come about?

Lorenzo: Yeah, it was in 2010 or 2011, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to come to this place with the remaining stock of the Vatican radio station collection. It was a huge collection containing around 10,000 pieces. This was the first time I saw library records with my own eyes and where I got a taste for it. That’s how it all started.

How long did you have to choose which ones to take? And how did you pick the ones you did?

Lorenzo: I just followed my instinct and picked up records that looked interesting. One of them was Freedom Power on Cometa which became the first release to be reissued on Sonor Music Editions. I still have some records I found at that time in my collection.


Was the goal always to start a label or did that come later?

Lorenzo: Not really. I previously worked with other labels that were doing other genres. It was a big gamble for me. I had no idea if it would work or not. After I pulled out the first releases, I met Andrea and things started to run smoother.


Library music in its very nature tends to be obscure, with small pressing runs distributed to inner circles of music supervisors, journalists and television heads. Given its scarcity, how do you track down the composers/licensees?

Lorenzo: This part has been triggering since the beginning. Sometimes you’re able to track down the composer or his/her heirs, but in most cases, you have to find the original rightsholder which is usually the music publisher. It all depends on the copyright of the specific musical work or master recording, which is often lost and very little has been kept or documented at the time. The ownership of a certain recording might never have been cleared in the first place. It’s all very complicated, but of course, it's part of the game.

Were there production houses making these recordings or more independent producers? 

Lorenzo: Most of the Italian library and soundtrack recordings are commissioned work by music publishers who supported the productions under all the financial aspects and worked on synchronisations for television, radio or films. Most of the original publishers from the past were independent producers making library music for television only, as it was such good business at the time. Movie soundtracks worked differently since they were case-to-case and often handled by bigger labels or publishers who worked directly on film productions.


With such a breadth of genres and sounds encompassed by library music, how do you choose what to reissue? 

John: There are many library recordings from different genres and sounds that are still not widely known and we would like to reissue them to reach a larger audience. However, the decision of which ones to reissue is about the possibility of clearing the rights, which can be a complex and time-consuming puzzle to lay before moving forward with a release.


Given that a lot of the music you are reissuing is 50+ years old, is it a struggle to find good enough source material to restore and reissue from? 

Lorenzo: I understand that this is a difficult task and a part of the challenge. Unfortunately, most of the original master tapes are usually lost. If we are unable to locate the master tapes, we will have to obtain the master ourselves from original vinyl releases. Thanks to this, we became experts in restoring music from vinyl by using some of the best tools available to ensure the highest quality restoration.


Why was the ‘70s in particular such a fruitful decade for this kind of library music?

John: The 1960s and 1970s were the golden decades of recorded music, not just for library music, but for music in general. What made Italy's library music scene unique was that composers had the opportunity to be independent producers, running their music production businesses. This gave them more creative freedom to experiment and expand their horizons in comparison to the production of music made in let’s say the UK or the US during the same period, which is also fascinating, but very different.

If you had to pick any of your releases as personal favourites, which would they be?

John: We are very proud and happy to work with and manage the Sermi Records catalogue (also known as SR Records), which contains some of the titles that have achieved cult status and are the most sought-after among record collectors such as Open Air Parade, Vacanze, Nel Mondo Del Lavoro, Indefinitive Atmosphere and many more. As well as the studio orchestra I Marc 4’s incredible Nelson Records catalogue with its prominent funky Italian soundtrack and library music sound. But also releases such as the previously unknown Rhythm And Sound originally released on the micro-label Ludo by the mysterious Mandrassi & Zollinger that we reissued in 2023. Mandrassi, an alias for Anna Maria Assunta Andreassi, is one of the very first female composers of library music in Italy, while Zollinger is linked to Sergio Pagano, the brother of the famed Italian author, composer, and singer Mario Pagano. This album remained in obscurity for almost 50 years, it’s so rare that only a handful of hardcore record collectors know it. We even doubted it existence, so we are very glad to bring releases like that back into life.


Have you been surprised by the recognition and desirability of these obscure soundtracks?

John: Absolutely! It’s a lot of incredible music and a lot of it aged very well, as well as the aesthetics and often mysterious framing that can be very appealing to record collectors.

You have also released music from contemporary artists. How does the contemporary world of library music differ from that of the past? Is there something new being brought to the table?

John: Yes, there is a lot of great contemporary music coming out now. We are happy to connect the dots between the past and the present and the contemporary scene with library-inspired music. After all, it’s all about the music. There are a lot of new things that are being brought to the table since today’s composers put their work in today’s framework with current trends and styles. A lot of library releases in the past contain tracks that were made to fit the production purpose of that time such as classical music, ragtime and Dixieland, traditional folklore, and so on. That worked for synchronisation and the production music purpose they were made for back then, but not for record collectors. That’s one big difference with today’s scene that contemporary artists can compose more consistent albums, in terms of appealing to that audience.


Do you approach the A&Ring differently when selecting new music compared to classic recordings?

John: Besides being a record label, Sonor Music Editions is also a music publisher and a big part of our work is to manage the catalogue, simply put for library music and sync licensing purposes for film and TV. Hence, the A&Ring often goes hand-in-hand with that.


Outside of your own roster, are there any contemporary composers/artists you admire who are making the type of music you guys represent?

John: There’s an incredibly fruitful scene of composers and artists releasing music today. I think we are seeing a renaissance of the golden age of recorded music today, a lot of great music is being released that is well-produced and recorded, just like in the old days. We are proud that we have somehow contributed to today’s scene with inspiration and knowledge of the releases from the past with the work we are doing with Sonor Music Editions.


What are your future plans for the label?

John: There are a lot of things in the making, everything from exciting releases on the label both from the past and contemporary artists, to various projects and as always the ongoing work of maintaining the continuously growing music catalogue.

Big thanks to Lorenzo and John for taking the time out to speak to us for this feature. Be sure to follow them on Instagram to keep up-to-date with their latest releases.


Photo Credits: Sonor Music Editions