Here’s some very good news from the UK: pioneering electronic music composer, sound designer, BBC Radiophonic virtuosa and Doctor Who theme creator Delia Derbyshire left us more recordings than previously thought. Some 267 tracks of music and documentation were found in her attic. The Radiophonic Workshop’s Mark Ayres – who has been single-handedly leading the charge to make sure the Workshop’s place in history is safe – had been preserving them. But now this archive will be a “living archive,” meaning, at last, we should get to hear them and new music will be commissioned for the archive from musicians and Workshop vets.
Among the treasures found in the archive is a short track of what could easily pass for an IDM cut released last year – except it was produced by Derbyshire in the late 60s, using far more primitive equipment, at a time when nothing sounded like that. When Paul Hartnoll of Orbital tells the BBC “This could be coming out next week on Warp Records,” he’s not exaagerating. Sci fi fanboyhood aside, I still think the endurance of the Doctor Who theme is partly because nothing sounds like it even today.
And there’s more – Hamlet sound design, original compositions, her signature bell tones. Even saying it’s forward looking isn’t really adequate. Other Derbyshire sounds, with their wailing electronic instruments and wooshes of synthesized noise, sound as though they were unearthed from some ancient era of electronica. Blue Veils and Golden Sands, a documentary about the Sahara, could pass for the music the aliens played on their spaceship hi-fis when they visited Earth and told people how to build the pyramids. (I’m kidding, but you get the point.)
I’m working on finding out what the plans are for the full archive as they evolve.
Lost tapes of the Dr Who composer [BBC News, via Radio 4’s Nigel Wrench]
Thanks to Ben Rogerson from MusicRadar for pointing to this first and sending it my way, and to Jim Warrier for the tip.