Occasionally on a Saturday night just before seven, I’ll be slumped in front of the telly, flicking from SBS over to the ABC to keep up my quota of TV news (which is somewhat lacking during the week). I’ll see the end of Gardening Australia, and ponder its tiddily-pom blandly inoffensive music, which conveys pretty much nothing about gardening or Australia, and for most viewers probably sits unnoticed in the background. And while the music plays, the name of its composer will fly past: Rick Turk.
Like other TV and film composers such as Ronnie Hazlehurst and Ron Grainer, Rick Turk has written theme music for heaps of different TV shows, in the UK and Australia, including Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent, and some that aren’t around anymore such as Perfect Match and It’s A Knockout.
Some of the works, like the Gardening Australia theme are, I submit, pretty close to elevator music. But thankfully something like the Four Corners music has a bit more bite to it, helping to express the seriousness of the topics covered on the show.
Like Robert Fripp, the guitarist designing various sounds for the next version of Windows, I suppose anybody in that position would be almost totally at the mercy of their corporate masters. There must be some artistic inspiration involved of course, but it’s confined within extremely narrow parameters — much narrower than most artists would find themselves with, particularly those who don’t create things for money.
Of course, Michaelangelo also did plenty of commissioned works, and is widely regarded as a genius. Though I’m not sure the Sistine Chapel could in any way be compared to the theme music from Gardening Australia.