A Century of Jazz: The De Wolfe Music Story

Meyer De Wolfe
Meyer De Wolfe conducting in London, 1910.











Established in 1909 by Meyer de Wolfe, De Wolfe Music is undoubtedly one of the founding fathers of production music. In 1909, soundtracks were printed as sheet music and played live by musicians sitting inside cinemas. Back then, Meyer was responsible for selecting the accompaniments to films. It was in these early years that Meyer de Wolfe decided to change the game by offering a sheet library of original compositions to accompany silent films. With the advent of sound in movies in 1927, Meyer began recording these compositions with the sound-on-disc and sound-on-film techniques.

This marked the beginning of the production music industry.

However, times have changed since then.

“The biggest difference between our establishment in 1909 and present time is definitely the speed of delivery”, says Stephen Rosie, Senior Music Consultant at De Wolfe.

“Producers, editors and production managers can now simply log on to our website and use a few keywords to access over 100,000 broadcast quality tracks. Within a few minutes a track can be downloaded and placed within a film, TV programme or online ad. That’s very different from the time when industry professionals would book time with our music consultants and sit and audition tracks and once a music track had been selected, they took their choices with them on an ¼ tape or a 16/35mm stock.”

Due to the time consuming process it was to compose a track, the relationship with film and TV clients was different. When Meyer de Wolfe met a client, he would initially play them some music. If the client didn’t like the music on the 3rd attempt, Meyer would offer them a pencil and manuscript paper and ask them to write out what they wanted.


A Family Vision

Following the footsteps of Meyer, his son James de Wolfe joined the company in 1940. However, being in the beginning of the Second World War, James first served with the RAF (Royal Air Force) from 1942 to 1947. He spent the 50's and 60's travelling the world and building De Wolfe Music. During the fabulous 70's, De Wolfe scored classics such as Monty Python's "Life of Brian" and "The Holy Grail". De Wolfe's score for George A. Romero's groundbreaking "Dawn of the Dead" (1978) was reused in "Shaun of the Dead", a British homage to the zombie-film genre, more than 20 years after its creation.

Warren de Wolfe, James' son, joined the music company during this period. Initially joining the editing and transfer department, Warren later went into management. He remains the managing director of De Wolfe Music to this day.

Stephen came into the industry and joined de Wolfe in 1976. Initially he was a messenger/general assistant, but later progressed as a transfer/tape-op/sound engineer. In 1980 he was offered a position on the production and publishing side of the company. He has been doing that ever since.


3 generations of De Wolfe. From the left: Meyer de Wolfe, James de Wolfe, Warren de Wolfe and Stephen Rosie.
3 generations of De Wolfe. From the left: Meyer de Wolfe, James de Wolfe, Warren de Wolfe and Stephen Rosie.









In the Footsteps of History

De Wolfe's choice of music has been highly affected by the fact that they're been around since the dawn of jazz.

One of De Wolfe's prides is DWMIL. DWMIL is a small catalogue of CD's from the early 1900's through the 1950's. It features authentic music that was recorded throughout the 20th century. De Wolfe saw a lack of authentic music recorded in those decades, so they divided the music into decades. That way, if clients are looking to make a documentary or feature taking place in the 1950’s, they'll have no problem finding original music from that era.

The same idea applies with the DWJazz label. DWJAZZ covers all styles of Jazz from Ragtime and Dixieland to Smooth and Acid Jazz. Each album chronicles the music development in jazz throughout the decades from the beginning of the 1900's to 2000.

The RPO Classical Moods series brings some of the world's greatest classical compositions into a unique production music label. Each album is arranged by mood or theme: from dramatic and whimsical to pastoral and stately. That way the client can easily find the exact classical piece that fits their production. The series contains works by most of classical music's greatest composers as well as arias and duets from beloved operas. All pieces are performed by the legendary Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in London.


Periodic Music Paved the Way

De Wolfe's focus on periodic music has made them popular across the pond. Their music features in high-end periodic TV productions such as "Mindhunter" and "Feud: Bette and Joan". Lately they've had music placed in Andy Serkis' feature film "Breathe" starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy.

"I’m proud if all our placements right across the media industry (too many to mention!). However, In particular there was a TV series in the UK called “Town” where we supplied the front and end title music as well as the incidental music throughout the series. I really enjoyed the subject and found it interesting", Stephen says.


You can find, download and license De Wolfe Music's jazzy library at Findthetune.com. Apply for a login on Findthetune or get in touch with us.