I recently had the great pleasure of playing on a recording session for Thomas Hewitt Jones, to record music written especially for the 2012 Olympics. He has created a fantastic soundtrack for the ‘Olympics Mascots’ films, which you can hear being played at the Olympic Park throughout the games (or take a look at Tommy’s website to get the album on a CD or download).
As the Olympic buzz (and about 3 million tourists) arrived here in Central London, I invited Wenlock the Olympic Mascot round for a glass of Chateauneuf-du-Locog, where we talked about the emotional effect of musical harmony on unsuspecting Olympics-goers, and how olympic ideals can be expressed through music.
SHJ: So, what was it like working with my brother?
Wenlock: It was a blast. He really spoke our language. He watched us fly about in the sky on rainbows sprinkling Olympic fairy dust everywhere, then translated it all into music for Michael Morpurgo’s films.
SHJ: I’ve seen the videos. Somewhat hallucinogenic! But how on earth do you actually go about translating the adventures of cyclopic lumps of flying metal into music?
Wenlock: Hmm, I’ll take that as a compliment… well, Tommy has a knack for observing the subtleties of different characters. Then he creates sounds that really make you feel what each character feels. He uses tools like harmony and musical pacing to make a complex emotional experience for each listener.
SHJ: Wow… for a Mascot, you know a lot about musicology, Wenlock! But I know what you mean – there are some places in the films where the feeling is really dark; edgy almost. Like the bit where you and Mandeville get trapped in a container and start to be taken away on a ship…
Wenlock: …and the scary music reflects just how we felt at the time – very afraid! But then when the tension resolves… in comes our big tune – I call it the Wenlock and Mandeville signature tune! It’s so catchy, just like a ‘hook’ you get in a pop song. Hear it once and you won’t be able to get it out of your head!
SHJ: You’re right, it’s a serious earworm! But you must have heard it hundreds of times… aren’t you sick of your ‘anthem’ by now?
Wenlock: But you see, that’s the clever thing about this music! Sure, it’s really catchy. But because there are so many things going on beneath the surface – structural musical things, harmonic things – you never get bored of it. Each time you listen, you hear something else in the music. It’s a bit like ‘The Simpsons’ cartoons: children find the slapstick humour funny, but adults also enjoy them for the subtle innuendo and clever wordplay… they’re artforms you can appreciate on many different levels!
SHJ: Nice. So I guess Tommy is trying to appeal to as many different types of listener as possible, right?
Wenlock: Well, he knows a lot of people are going to hear this soundtrack. So I think he wanted to get through to as many of them as possible. Maybe someone who likes the tune and then buys the album will listen to it a few times – and then they are going to start to hear more and more details in the music. At best, this kind of music inspires people to listen a bit more deeply, become a bit more aware of the sounds around them.
SHJ: Are you saying this track will make you a better listener? Is there some kind of socio-political agenda behind all those big tunes?
Wenlock: Well, what’s the Olympics all about?
SHJ: Buying fast food, spending billions of pounds on security, and increasing tourist revenue?
Wenlock: Rubbish! Cynics like you don’t understand: the original Olympic ethos has got nothing to do with all that stuff. It’s about everyone coming together, it’s about the values of participation and cooperation, and it’s about aspiring to be the best you can be. It’s a social philosophy. It’s about how sport can help us develop inter-cultural understanding, peaceful co-existence, and social and moral education.
SHJ: But where does music fit into all of this?
Wenlock: Sport and the Arts can ultimately be a force for good OR ill. It’s up to us. But they can motivate and inspire humanity however we see fit – soundwaves, physical motion, emotion… they’re all extraordinarily powerful energies. So why not make the most of them? That’s why Mandeville and I took up the piano…
SHJ: You’ve inspired me! What can I do to embrace these wonderful philosophies?
Wenlock: You could buy Tommy’s album…
SHJ: I thought you might say that!
Make Wenlock happy! Listen to ‘Rainbow to the Games’ by clicking here: