Barry Gray

Barry Gray
Barry Gray (1925-1984)

Born ‘Jack Eccles’, Barry Gray is a man who has had a powerful influence on my composition. Director of Music for Gerry & Sylvia Anderson’s Century 21 Productions, Gray was responsible for writing and directing the electroacoustic music for the television series Stingray, Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, UFO, Space: 1999 and much other film, television and library music.

He was a francophile and one of the first television composers to use electronic musical instruments in his work. With his coining of the term ‘musifex’, he was far ahead in understanding languages of electronic sound and how these related to music as it had been used before. Six years in the RAF brought him precious experience as a military bandsman. His edge was that he could swing – as an example, listen to the way his Century 21 March swaggers and saunters.

What Barry Gray managed to achieve was extraordinary. If you listen to his music today, what is perhaps most striking is the sheer size of his sound from what were often relatively small ensembles. This he achieved however he could: getting as many of the best players together on the sometimes tight budgets he was given, overdubbing where necessary, playing a range of musical instruments himself and by a deep, hard-earned but always humble insight into harmony, counterpoint and orchestration. From Barry Gray I learned resourcefulness.

Gerry & Sylvia Anderson’s Supermarionation worlds risked being laughed at, inhabited as they were by puppets. Gray’s approach and sound left no doubt about how seriously he expected audiences to take the films his music was associated with. If you laugh at Anderson’s puppets, you are missing the point. Gray’s music is the elixir by which these worlds become real for the viewer.

I am proud to have inherited from the Barry Gray estate one of his early Ondes Martenots. I have had this instrument professionally restored and use it on many of my film scores. I also went to study Martenot performance under a treasured pupil of Jeanne Loriod’s at the Conservatoire de Boulogne Billancourt in Paris.

In 1990 while a student, I explored Gray’s composition by arranging and sketching some tongue-in-cheek studies on his music from Thunderbirds and Joe 90. At the time I was more interested in understanding Gray’s notes than his timbres. No acoustic instruments were used. When I finished arranging, I wanted to go into the studio to mix and produce these pieces to finish them off. The studio at the university I was at, was being moved at the time to a new venue. I did not have access to production facilities of my own then, so could not mix the sound. In the end the sketches were released unmixed and unpolished.

Because he was interested, I sent a copy to one of the people who organised ‘Fanderson’ (the Gerry Anderson Appreciation Society). He liked my exercises and suggested Fanderson release them to its members as a novelty item. It went out on cassette (ref. MC MAF3) with a cover, line-drawn by Jonathan Baxter. Andrew Frampton has written these sketches a mauling but fair review at his beautifully-designed Joe 90 website. – I deserved it.

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