‘A younger generation has grabbed it’: BBC pips composer on his tune’s Glastonbury remix

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When David Lowe composed the BBC news theme tune in 1999, he set out to find a sound that was unique and instantly recognisable. He played around with drums, pips, clicks and chords until he landed on the tune we know today.

At the time, people would ask for extended mixes, or for the snippet to be released as a dance track, but nothing came of it. Could he ever have guessed that 25 years later hundreds of sweaty, sunglasses-clad festivalgoers would be dancing in a tent to a drum’n’bass remix? “Absolutely not,” he says, chuckling.

Over the weekend, that decades-old fantasy became a reality when the BBC’s analysis editor, Ros Atkins, included it in his debut set at Glastonbury festival’s Stonebridge stage.

The pair collaborated with drum’n’bass producer Chrissy Chris to create the mix. “He’s the drum’n’bass man,” Lowe says, “and it’s absolutely brilliant.”

When Atkins approached Lowe with the idea, he says, he thought it “sounds fantastic, but I’m not a drum’n’bass DJ”.

“I was thinking, ‘How do you get from the speed that it’s at, which is 120 beats per minute, to that really fast drum’n’bass beat?’ You know? But he did an absolutely amazing job,” adds Lowe.

It isn’t the first time the theme music has made headlines for its dance potential. To Lowe’s “pleasant surprise”, fans posted videos of themselves playing pretend DJ sets to the tune on TikTok during the pandemic.

More recently, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the track, Lowe posted a video breaking down how he produced it, which also blew up online.

“I’ve always enjoyed watching the way music comes together. And it’s always fascinating to listen to other people’s stories of how they put tracks together,” he says. “I did it for fun, in a way. I had no idea that it would get so much positive attention.”

These viral moments have helped connect the tune with young people too, Lowe says. “It’s suddenly with a younger audience as well, which is amazing. A younger generation sort of grabbed it and heard it and resonated with it.”

Each element in Lowe’s original composition represents the broadcaster’s values and ethos. “The pips are accurate and reliable, and a sort of singular message when everything’s happening all around it. It’s one beat every second, which is obviously like the clock.”

Other elements, such as the chords going from minor to major help to “create a sense of anxiety”, and the pace and low depth, give it “depth and energy … and it’s got the accuracy”.

“It’s not just a tune. It has an underlying message, and that’s probably what resonates with people,” Lowe says. And did it work at a festival? “It looked like a lot of fun.”

“As a composer, as a creative personality, you always want music to resonate. As I’ve done it, over the years, I’ve sort of developed this almost subconscious way of putting something into the music that does resonate with people,” he says.

With live music, the audience has the opportunity to experience it in another light. “I remember seeing Adele [live at Glastonbury] and we’d listened to music that she’d done before that, but seeing it live for the first time just gives you a whole new dimension on that person, that artist.

“I’m not really an accomplished performer. I love performing, but I’m not a good enough performer to do it in a live way because i’ve always focused on the studio side of it.”

The social media breakdowns of the compositions help build that personal connection, he adds.

While Atkins said the show was a “one-off drum’n’ bass’ set” in a tweet, this might not be the last BBC theme mix we hear from Lowe. “We are now talking about possibly doing an album of some of the different mixes in the news themes … some of the ones that are on TV already, things that have become iconic that people love,” he says.

Source: theguardian.com

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