Sunday, November 22, 2009

Delia Derbyshire, Alchemist of Sound

The amazing Delia Derbyshire, pioneer of British electronic music, demonstrating tape loops. A clip from the documentary "Alchemists of Sound" on the history of the BBC Radiophonics Workshop, where Derbyshire worked from 1962-1973.

Derbyshire is best known for her realization of the original Doctor Who theme-- from Wikipedia: Derbyshire's interpretation of Grainer's theme used electronic oscillators and magnetic audio tape editing (including tape loops and reverse tape effects) to create an eerie and unearthly sound that was quite unlike anything that had been heard before. Derbyshire's original Doctor Who theme is one of the first television themes to be created and produced by entirely electronic means. Much of the Doctor Who theme was constructed by recording the individual notes from electronic sources one by one onto magnetic tape, cutting the tape with a razor blade to get individual notes on little pieces of tape a few centimetres long and sticking all the pieces of tape back together one by one to make up the tune. This was a laborious process which took weeks.

From her web site: A recent Guardian article called her 'the unsung heroine of British electronic music', probably because of the way her infectious enthusiasm subtly cross-pollinated the minds of many creative people. She had exploratory encounters with Paul McCartney, Karlheinz Stockhausen, George Martin, Pink Floyd, Brian Jones, Anthony Newley, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson.

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