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The shoulders of a radiophonic giant.
March 21, 2007 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Create Digital Music has two pieces on the making of Doctor Who's theme song. The second is an introduction to Delia Derbyshire, who is considered to be the "woman behind the men" behind the notability of the song. She pioneered techniques of synthesizing sounds, sampling and looping in the sixties. One WFMU blogger waxes on about Delia, who "was an inspiring collaborator" working behind the scenes of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop. BBC Four produced a documentary about the workshop called Alchemists of Sound which aired in 2005, ten years after the workshop closed due to budget cuts.
posted by boo_radley (19 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Whoops, I left one link out: Delia Derbyshire: An audiological chronology.
posted by boo_radley at 10:07 AM on March 21, 2007


Was there anything the BBC Radiophonic Workshop couldn't do? I'm in awe. I've loved that theme song since forever. There is nothing else like it.

The linked video and posts like this make the internet great. Thanks, boo_radley!
posted by Pastabagel at 10:09 AM on March 21, 2007


what an amazing post. for another, only slightly related, take on the wonders of the bbc radiohphonic workshop, see if you can secure a copy of the hitchhiker's guide radio scripts. The notes accompanying each episode describe in fascinating detail the kind of technical acrobatics douglas adams' weird sound demands would force the guys to go through.
posted by shmegegge at 10:49 AM on March 21, 2007


Cool stuff. Thanks!
posted by jiawen at 11:19 AM on March 21, 2007


Mark Ayres, who composed music for Doctor Who during the '80s, wrote this great piece on the making of the various versions of the Doctor Who theme, up thru the show's original cancellation in the mid-'80s.

Cool thing: The version of the theme used in the current revival of Doctor Who, recorded by Murray Gold, features elements of the original (still the best!) mixed in.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:38 PM on March 21, 2007


Mark Ayres, who composed music for Doctor Who during the '80s, wrote this great piece on the making of the various versions of the Doctor Who theme, up thru the show's original cancellation in the mid-'80s.

Cool thing: The version of the theme used in the current revival of Doctor Who, recorded by Murray Gold, features elements of the original (still the best!) mixed in.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 12:55 PM on March 21, 2007


Her '72 LP "Electro-Sonic" can be downloaded here.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:16 PM on March 21, 2007


The "scream" is easily my favorite single sound I've ever heard. I downloaded the early release of "Rose" and after over a decade of waiting for Doctor Who to come back, the very first thing- even before the TARDIS or the logo or the Doctors name was uttered- was that wonderful, wonderful noise. I damn near cried.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:34 PM on March 21, 2007


I've always been partial to Orbital's take on the Who theme. It's difficult to choose between the Crowdsurfing Dalek at the end of a live performance, or the paintbox madness of the DVD version, however.
posted by fFish at 2:33 PM on March 21, 2007


fFish: did you see the comments on the Crowdsurfing Dalek video? "Whats Doctor who? Was it a hospital drama like ER?"
...
I... I... I feel incomprehensibly, utterly old.
posted by boo_radley at 2:48 PM on March 21, 2007


There's a Doctor Who--the Beginnings torrent (or something like that) around that has an interview with most of the people at the radiophonic workshop--it was fascinating--she's a trip. : >
posted by amberglow at 3:56 PM on March 21, 2007


ditto to what shmegegge said about Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide radio series. You think the Dr Who theme song was mind blowing? You ain't heard nuthin' if you ain't heard Marvin outwitting the security robot. Or the thousands of other tests of mettle that DNA put the Radiophonic Workshop through. Good times. =)

I wore out my copy of the radio scripts. I had the US trade paperback that was published around 1985. Still have the book somewhere, but the spine's gone and pages are falling out. I highlighted and underlined and paperclipped parts of it. Did a version of the play for a presentation during speech and drama contests back in high shool. I sucked at it, but had great fun putting together a solo performance of part of the story. Great book! You get to find out who Marvin was loosely based on and what that guy thought about it. You get to read about the first attempts at a HG2 theatrical production. And yeah the stories of all the principal players in their own soundbooths with tons of sound effect tapes streaming all over the place with just hours before showtime and getting it all down to the wire some nights.

Awesome read. And I don't read books a lot. Loved that one tho.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:12 PM on March 21, 2007


after over a decade of waiting for Doctor Who to come back, the very first thing- even before the TARDIS or the logo or the Doctors name was uttered- was that wonderful, wonderful noise. I damn near cried

Same here. I think I was more sobbing-happy to hear those first few notes than I was to hear the first notes of the Star Wars prequel (and thankfully the new Who is lightyears better than that piece of drek).
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:41 PM on March 21, 2007


I'm so in love with Delia Derbyshire. She was so amazing.
posted by geekhorde at 8:18 PM on March 21, 2007


That was awesome, boo—
On Delia's looped string pluck, I recognized the begining of Loretta Lynne's Portland Oregon from Van Lear Rose — wicked to think Jack White mined Delia. I wouldn't doubt it. Could be my imagination.

I have the Orbital's Dr. Who version, yep, that balloon Dalek was pretty funny.

It also lead me to Karen Dalton, Wow, whadda voice. That's hurtin' stuff, wonderful.
A hella post and thanks so much. Nice tour.
posted by alicesshoe at 8:25 PM on March 21, 2007


Thank you. Thank you so much. You have brightened my day with electronic ambience.
posted by gergtreble at 8:56 PM on March 21, 2007


I hear the genesis of Coil in a lot of what she did.
posted by boo_radley at 9:02 PM on March 21, 2007


Now if only someone would post a documentary on the costume design on Blake's 7, my day would be complete.

Great post.

Just in case some of you clicked through b/c of the Dr. Who, rather than the promise of early synth work, I also thought this model maker was really incredible. The guy did the original model work on Alien, Blake's 7, and a whole bunch of other stuff.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:49 PM on March 21, 2007


How interesting!

The theme tune is mixed into Coldcut's masterful Journeys By DJ, 70 Minutes of Madness - worth checking out, it's sublime.
posted by algreer at 4:06 AM on March 22, 2007


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