Dr. Who composer goes back in time: invents techno
mchawk | August 31, 2008 at 03:35 amby
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In the 1960's, the folks behind the scenes of the then-new Doctor Who were really looking to make their mark in television. Scoffers can point their fingers at the wobbly sets and fluffed lines, but the extraordinary theme song remains a spooky and unequaled classic to this day.
The theme song's melody was composed by BBC composer Ron Grainer, but the signature sound of the piece is thanks to Delia Derbyshire. Derbyshire was a composer at the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, a department charged with innovating new audio for radio, and a crucial component in creating Doctor Who's otherworldly soundtracks. Derbyshire actually constructed the Who theme song out of separate bits of tape recorded using lots of non-musical gear. The result is one of the most recognizable pieces of Musique Concrète in the world.
Now David Butler, of Manchester University's School of Arts, Histories and Cultures has revealed for the first time the existence of 267 tapes found in Ms Derbyshire's attic when she died in 2001.
Amongst the recordings is some ethereal whooshing from a 1969 production of Hamlet at the Roundhouse in London; an extraordinary kit of parts for one of her most-admired pieces; and the theme for a documentary set in the Sahara which shows how she used her voice as an instrument.
Most unexpected of all, however, is a piece of music that sounds like a contemporary dance track which was recorded, it is believed, in the late sixties.
Paul Hartnoll, formerly of the dance group Orbital and a great admirer of Ms Derbyshire's work, said the track was, "quite amazing". "That could be coming out next week on [left-field dance label] Warp Records," he noted. "It's incredible when you think when it comes from. Timeless, really. It could be now as much as then."
Delia's works from the 60s and 70s continue to be used on radio and TV some 30 years later, and her music has given her legendary status with releases in Sweden and Japan. She is also constantly mentioned, credited and covered by bands from Add n to (x) and Sonic Boom to Aphex Twin and The Chemical Brothers.
A recent Guardian article called her 'the unsung heroine of British electronic music'.
And this short piece is certainly testament to that.
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