Delia Derbyshire really does remain the unknown genius of early analog music (unknown outside of Doctor Who geeks and, erm, this site, anyway). And she could beat match on reel-to-reel tape decks — several at a time. This is apparently the year 1968, when such things weren’t exactly commonplace (thanks, Stabilizer; I had to get this one out of comments and onto the main site):

The piece in question is Pot Au Feu, an incredible piece of early electronica that’s, surprisingly, not nearly as far lesser works. To dig into the Delia back catalog, head here:

Delia Derbyshire: An audiological chronology

Or visit the major site with information on her:

There’s a real chance for the Web to create a Derbyshire-mania phenomenon. What we need now is electronic re-releases of the albums, documentary materials, and so on. Word on the street is that BBC is teaming up with YouTube; maybe this could be the first step.

Now I’m going to sheepishly get back to Reaktor programming. It’s inspiring to see the mastery of an early pioneer like her; you begin to see all your tools in a completely fresh light, and wonder what really could be possible with them.

  • Joe

    Delia Derbyshire was certainly a legend!

    I'm sure you know about the BBC documentary on the Radiophonic workshop? Well worth a look… I'm sure this clip is taken from that.

  • I do know about the documentary, but I'm here in the US and it's never been publicly released on DVD in either country.

    Here's the documentary page for people who aren't aware of it:

    You can read people lamenting the lack of DVD availability, as well:

    And there's quite a lot of additional footage, I would imagine, hanging about. The Radiophonic Workshop did a lot beyond Doctor Who, including working with many of the leading UK composers of the time.

    BBC could have quite a DVD following, and I imagine this could also make a decent candidate for online distribution.

    Ahem. Any BBC execs out there?

  • The documentary is a very inspiring watch for sure.. Very well made and surprisingly funny and warm. Not something you'd expect from a doc about sound geeks 🙂

    This was my favourite bit of the doc and the best bit is the bit where she triggers the second loop a bit out of sync and corrects it with a button push or two. I've seen DJ's take longer to get beats in time with vinyl.

  • Michael Pearson

    Is it wrong that my first thought was "Wow, total babe"?

  • Michael Una

    Mad skills.

  • Pete

    The artist page for <a href="; rel="nofollow">BBC Radiophonic Workshop shows that there have been a few CD reissues in recent years, both from the BBC and from the Mute Records sub-label, Grey Area. There's also a slick looking one from Rephlex Records, but sadly it was a limited edition, vinyl-only release on 4×10" vinyl.

  • slabman

    Another unsung heroine was Daphne Oram who actually founded the Radiophonic Workshop. Google the name for any number of references including those to Oramics – a optically controlled sequencer/synthesizer that prefigured software like Metasynth. (One could probably completely emulate Oramics in Max/MSP…). Arguably the most important and under-rated woman in electronic music – ever.

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  • Thanks Peter for this article. I never heard of Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram (thanks slabman!) before.

    What inspiration!

  • Chent

    Delia Derbyshire was a massive influence on electronic music here in the UK. I think her influence is one of a number of reasons that techno/electronica/idm whatever took off in such a bigger way than it ever did in the US.

  • bliss

    Yeah, I have a handful of her tunes in my iTunes.

  • bliss

    Btw, beautiful clip!

  • bliss

    The Radiophonic documentary can be watched here in seven parts: BBC: Radiophonic-Alchemists of Sound.

  • bliss

    Erm, that link didn't work. Here again: <a href="; rel="nofollow">BBC: Radiophonic-Alchemists of Sound.

  • bliss

    Whatever, I guess you have to copy and paste. Sorry 'bout my lack of xhtml know-how. :-/

  • Sorted 🙂

  • Yeah I thought she was pretty cute too, until I looked a little closer at her teeth, what a shame. Leave it to poor English oral hygiene to ruin a hot chick.

  • recombinant

    That is amazing (for 1968)! I've never heard of the Radiophonic Workshop before, so it looks like I have some research to do… Thanks!!! 🙂

  • bliss

    @Andrew Swihart

    Her teeth?! You're worried about her teeth?! C'mon, man, what has she done, what has she contributed? She's beautiful in my eyes––well beyond cute. She's total package material. You can't pick and choose attributes with those kind of women Besides, if I knew her way back then and I was an American, then I'm sure I would've known a good dentist or two that I could've recommended––if she had shown interest in seeing one. Could have bribed her with the chance to record the sounds of a dentist's office. She's way more than the teeth, man.

  • Chent

    Never trust people with good teeth.

  • Okay, if there are any women left out there, we definitely need you to speak out ASAP.

    For what it's worth, though, my girlfriend says her first thought when watching this video was "wow, total babe!", too. And now she wants a few reel-to-reels.

    Everyone loves Delia Derbyshire.

    Daphne Oram = also truly an awesome force in the history of music and sound. And oram.max needs to happen. I'll see what I can do. 😉

  • Ok, seriously how is it that the same week I start on my story on Delia you beat me to the punch with this great video?!!

    Totally made my week. Thank you so much for posting it! 😀

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  • *heart*

  • The percussion groove reminded my very much of Matthew Herbert…. wow!

    Thanks for making me aware of Ms. Derbyshire!


  • I have seen the whole documentation and have 2 BBC Radiophonic Workshop CDs which I orderd from Amazon UK not so long ago.

    What really amazes me besides from her skills and creativity, that some of her tracks EXACTLY sounds as they come from Residents' Mark Of The Mole like the piece in the video POT AU FEU, just 10 years before. I guess they use simular techniques and gear, and/ or maybe they are big fans of her.

  • bliss, looking forward to your 10th post on this article.

    Now that you mention it, yeah, I think her teeth are lovely, makes me wish I could suck on them.

  • alice

    Cool. That looped plucked string sound is similar to the opening of Portland Oregon by Loretta Lynn from Van Lear Rose.

    Who else is mining her work¿

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  • Hell, I think Brian Wilson based his whole Pet Sounds album on this demonstration by Ms. Derbyshire.

  • William G

    You can download the Alchemists Of Sound documentary in all it's full-resolution glory here:

    Warning: 700MB file.

    Peter: Please remove this link if it will get you into trouble!

  • richard

    Is there anychance someone could send me a mpeg version of the alchemists of sound docu that i could play on my ipod? thanks! please email me if you can help!

  • Delia be supa fly, she could tweek me all night long… wonky teeth and all, she rocks my world!

    William G, props for the avi, this documentary is most cool. It has an interview with Maddalena Fagandini, which is niiice… sadly , although there's a picture of her in passing, Daphne Oram is a bit slightled by this doc. Sad, she was radiophonic workshop original founding staff and an inventor to boot.

  • Dee

    Well im current doing music production and watched Radiophonic-Alchemists, was totally amazed! Delia, shes a genius! gave me a real eye opener.

    Shes the Lisa lashes of her days, if she was still alive im sure her music production would be non short of sheer top class prefection!!

  • I'm a big fan of Isaac Isaiah's electronic music. It reminds me of Delia's compositions, but perhaps even more structured.

    You can hear some of it here:

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  • i was born in '67 and brought up on Delia's music, from the Dr Who theme, to the incidental music in educational programs made for schools. The thing that always impressed upon me was the emotional charge in many of her pieces, even entirely electronic compositions like "that" theme managed to transport me to other places, (kraftwerk had a similar effect on me when i first heard them) beyond the initial beeps and whoops is a depth of soul that seems lost in a lot of today's music, it's as though every sound was carefully considered not for it's musical merit, but for it's atmospheric values… Consider the serenity that is Blue Veils, the bad acid that is White Noise, the impending adventure of that theme… And on top of all this, she was as cute as a button and a true geek, apart from the drink problems she'd have been the ideal woman (or at least, that's what i'd be thinking if i weren't already involved (damage limitation mode disengaged))…

    for anyone interested, our tribute to Delia's genius can be found on our myspace page here <a href=";

    we pale in comparison to Delia, but hope to have done her memory justice and helped people "discover" her…

    I'd urge all of you to google John Cavanagh's interview with Delia, recorded shortly before she passed

    bobbi iddod

    poppi iqqoq

  • acremonious pigeon

    idea, causing machinery to make music, rather tha, an atempt to create an idea using machinery.

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