Oram's technique
September 27, 2003 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Daphne Oram, Godmother of Electronic Music • During WWII, Ms. Oram worked for the BBC as a sound engineer while indulging an obsessive curiousity of experimental audio in her free time. In 1958, she finally convinced the BBC to open the seminal Radiophonic Workshop, which also fostered the talents of sci-fi composers Delia Derbyshire and Ron Grainer. During that period she developed a technique known as Oramics: manipulating 35mm film to create electrical charges and thus, editable sound.
posted by dhoyt (6 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
its interesting to learn about the Radiophonic workshop. But how did this directly affect what later became electronic music? The story I've heard told is more often that of Scott and Moog building the clavivox here in america (or scott's electronium)
posted by vacapinta at 1:27 AM on September 27, 2003

But what would Dr. Who have been without the "electronic" music from the Radiophonic Workshop? The Beeb never had the budget to make the Doctor's worlds look very futuristic, but they sure sounded futuristic!
posted by wendell at 2:58 AM on September 27, 2003

Vacapinta - it sort of depends on what you mean by "what later became electronic music". For a start it was electronic music then. Is there a specific modern genre that you would identify as the end result?

The Radiophonic Workshop had a huge effect on what people in Britain thought of as electronic music. Those people included many musicians of the early 70s, including Pink Floyd and Brian Eno who went on to influence other musicians. I think it also had a direct effect on Richard James and his generation. A lot more than just a footnote, more like a user-friendly IRCAM.
posted by Grangousier at 4:20 AM on September 27, 2003

As someone who has studied academic electronic and computer music, I am surprised to have never heard of this woman. Apparently she did meet John Cage (albeit some years before I was blessed with the opportunity).

It would be very easy to dismiss "my ignorance" as paternalistic teaching practices, except somehow I managed to learn about such people as Fanny Mendelssohn (you may be more familiar with her brother Felix, since anybody who has been to a traditional wedding has heard his music) or Clara Schumann (not as popular as her husband), Lili and Nadia Boulanger, and even Lili'uokalani (Queen of Hawaii).

She might well have had a deep and lasting impact on soundtrack writers, sould engineers, sound effect wizards, and heck maybe even modern techno.
posted by ilsa at 9:39 AM on September 27, 2003

But how did this directly affect what later became electronic music?

Disclaimer: My title was a bit tongue in cheek, and I didn't mean she was necessarily the godmother of all synth-based electronic music. But Oram and the Workshop definitely have plenty of loose disciples in electronic music with Fennesz, Matmos, Nobukazu Takemura, Oval, Cristian Vogel, Panasonic, Microstoria, Pole, Atom Heart, and various soundtrack composers.
posted by dhoyt at 10:36 AM on September 27, 2003

She's been called an influence by a lot of Glitch artists, too.
posted by dhoyt at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2003

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