|Birth name||Delia Ann Derbyshire|
|Born||5 May 1937|
Coventry, Warwickshire, England
|Died||3 July 2001 64) (aged|
Northampton, Northamptonshire, England
|Genres||Electronic music, musique concrète, library music|
|Associated acts||White Noise, Unit Delta Plus|
Delia Ann Derbyshire (5 May 1937 – 3 July 2001) was an English musician and composer of electronic music. She carried out pioneering work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the 1960s, including her electronic arrangement of the theme music to the British science-fiction television series Doctor Who . She has been referred to as "the unsung heroine of British electronic music", having influenced musicians including Aphex Twin, the Chemical Brothers and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital.
Derbyshire was born in Coventry, daughter of Emma ( née Dawson) and Edward Derbyshire. of Cedars Avenue, Coundon, Coventry. Her father was a sheet-metal worker. She had one sibling, a sister, who died young. Her father died in 1965 and her mother in 1994.
During the Second World War, immediately after the Coventry Blitz in 1940, she was moved to Preston, Lancashire for safety. Her parents were from the townand most of her surviving relatives still live in the area. She was very bright and, by the age of four, was teaching others in her class to read and write in primary school, but said "The radio was my education". Her parents bought her a piano when she was eight years old. Educated at Barr's Hill Grammar School from 1948 to 1956, she was accepted at both Oxford and Cambridge, "quite something for a working class girl in the 'fifties, where only one in 10 [students] were female", winning a scholarship to study mathematics at Girton College, Cambridge but, apart from some success in the mathematical theory of electricity, she claims she did badly. After one year at Cambridge she switched to music, graduating in 1959 with a BA in mathematics and music, having specialised in medieval and modern music history. Her other principal qualification was LRAM in pianoforte.
She approached the careers office at the university and told them she was interested in "sound, music and acoustics, to which they recommended a career in either deaf aids or depth sounding".Then she applied for a position at Decca Records, only to be told that the company did not employ women in their recording studios. Instead, she took positions at the United Nations in Geneva, from June to September, teaching piano to the children of the British Consul-General and mathematics to the children of Canadian and South American diplomats. Then from September to December, she worked as an assistant to Gerald G. Gross, Head of Plenipotentiary and General Administrative Radio Conferences at the International Telecommunications Union. She returned to Coventry and from January to April 1960 taught general subjects in a primary school there. Then she went to London, where from May to October she was an assistant in the promotion department of music publishers Boosey & Hawkes.
In November 1960, she joined the BBC as a trainee assistant studio managerand worked on Record Review, a magazine programme where critics reviewed classical music recordings. She said: "Some people thought I had a kind of second sight. One of the music critics would say, 'I don't know where it is, but it's where the trombones come in', and I'd hold it up to the light and see the trombones and put the needle down exactly where it was. And they thought it was magic." She then heard about the Radiophonic Workshop and decided that was where she wanted to work. This news was received with some puzzlement by the heads in Central Programme Operation because people were usually "assigned" to the Radiophonic Workshop. But in April 1962, she was assigned there in Maida Vale, where for eleven years she would create music and sound for almost 200 radio and television programmes.
In August 1962, she assisted composer Luciano Berio at a two-week summer school at Dartington Hall, for which she borrowed several dozen items of BBC equipment.One of her first works, and most widely known, was her 1963 electronic realisation of a score by Ron Grainer for the theme of the Doctor Who series, one of the first television themes to be created and produced entirely with electronics.
When Grainer heard it, he was so amazed by her arrangement of his theme that he asked: "Did I really write this?", to which Derbyshire replied: "Most of it".Grainer attempted to credit her as co-composer, but was prevented by the BBC bureaucracy because they preferred that members of the workshop remain anonymous. She was not credited on-screen for her work until Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor . Derbyshire's original arrangement served as the Doctor Who main theme for its first seventeen series, from 1963 to 1980. The theme was reworked over the years, to her horror, because the only version that had her approval was the original. Delia also composed music for other BBC programmes, including Blue Veils and Golden Sands and The Delian Mode.
In 1964–65, she collaborated with the British artist and playwright Barry Bermange for the BBC's Third Programme to produce four Inventions for Radio, a series of collages of people describing their thoughts on dreams, belief in God, the possibility of life after death, and the experience of old age, voiced over an electronic soundscape.
In 1966 while working at the BBC, Derbyshire, fellow Radiophonic Workshop member Brian Hodgson and EMS founder Peter Zinovieff set up Unit Delta Plus,an organisation which they intended to use to create and promote electronic music. Based in a studio in Zinovieff's townhouse in Putney, they exhibited their music at experimental and electronic music festivals, including the 1966 The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, at which The Beatles' "Carnival of Light" had its only public performance.
In 1966, she recorded a demo with Anthony Newley entitled Moogies Bloogies, but Newley moved to the United States and the song was never released. After a troubled performance at the Royal College of Art, in 1967, the unit disbanded.
In the late 1960s she again partnered with Hodgson to set up the Kaleidophon studio in Camden Town with fellow electronic musician David Vorhaus.The studio produced electronic music for London theatre productions, and in 1968 the three produced their first album there as the band White Noise. Their debut, An Electric Storm , is considered an influential album in the development of electronic music. Derbyshire and Hodgson subsequently left the group, and future White Noise albums were solo Vorhaus projects.
The trio, under pseudonyms, contributed to the Standard Music Library.Many of these recordings, including compositions by Derbyshire using the name "Li De la Russe" (from an anagram of the letters in "Delia" and a reference to her auburn hair) were used on the 1970s ITV science fiction rivals to Doctor Who: The Tomorrow People and Timeslip .
In 1967, Derbyshire provided sound design alongside Guy Woolfenden's score for Peter Hall's production of Macbeth with the Royal Shakespeare Company.The two composers also contributed the music to Hall's film Work Is a Four-Letter Word (1968). Her other work during this period included taking part in a performance of electronic music at The Roundhouse, which also featured work by Paul McCartney, the score for an ICI-sponsored student fashion show and the sounds for Anthony Roland's award-winning film of Pamela Bone's photography, entitled Circle of Light. She composed a score for Yoko Ono's short film Wrapping Event, but no copy of the film with the soundtrack is known to exist.
In 1973, Derbyshire left the BBC and worked briefly at Hodgson's Electrophon studio,where she contributed to the soundtrack to the film The Legend of Hell House .
In 1975, she stopped producing music. Her final works included two soundtracks for video pioneers Madelon Hooykaas and Elsa Stansfield on their short films Een Van Die Dagen ("One Of These Days") in 1973 and Overbruggen ("About Bridges") in 1975.
Following her music career, Derbyshire worked as a radio operator for a British Gas pipelaying project, in an art gallery, and in a bookshop.In late 1974 she married David Hunter. The relationship was brief, although the couple never divorced. She also frequented the LYC Museum and Art Gallery established by Chinese artist Li Yuan-chia at his stone farmhouse in Cumbria and where she worked as his assistant. In 1978, she returned to London and met Clive Blackburn. In January 1980 she bought a house in Northampton, where four months later Blackburn joined her. He remained her partner for the rest of her life.
In 2001, she returned to music, providing sounds used as source material by Peter Kember on Sychrondipity Machine (Taken from an Unfinished Dream), a 55-second track for the compilation Grain: A Compilation of 99 Short Tracks, released by Dot Dot Dot Music in 2001. In the liner notes, she is credited with "liquid paper sounds generated using Fourier synthesis of sound based on photo/pixel info (B2wav – bitmap to sound programme)".The track was released posthumously and dedicated to her.
Derbyshire's later life was chaotic due to struggles with alcoholism. She died of renal failure brought on by cancer, aged 64, in July 2001.
After Derbyshire's death, 267 reel-to-reel tapes and a box of a thousand papers were found in her attic. These were entrusted to the composer Mark Ayres, who had salvaged the tape archive of the Radiophonic Workshop, and in 2007 were given on permanent loan to the University of Manchester for preservation. The tapes consist primarily of material from Derbyshire's freelance projects (e.g. works for theatre productions, films and festivals), some of her BBC work (the majority of Derbyshire's BBC work, including the original version of the Doctor Who theme, is housed in the BBC Archive Centre at Perivale), off-air recordings of interviews with Derbyshire and recordings of music by other composers and musicians, including Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Can. Almost all the tapes were digitised in 2007 by Louis Niebur and David Butler, but none of the music has been published due to copyright complications.In 2010, the University acquired Derbyshire's childhood collection of papers and artefacts from Andi Wolf. Subsequent donations to the archive have included items and recordings from Brian Hodgson, Madelon Hooykaas, Jo Hutton and Elisabeth Kozmian. These collections of material, including Derbyshire's working papers and digitised transfers of the tapes, are accessible at the John Rylands Library in Manchester. Material from the archive was used in the Radiophonic Workshop's score for the 2018 film Possum and provided a source of inspiration for Cosey Fanni Tutti in her soundtrack to the film Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And The Legendary Tapes (2020).
In 2002, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a radio play entitled Blue Veils and Golden Sands as part of its Afternoon Play strand, telling the story of Derbyshire and her pioneering musical work.The play starred actress Sophie Thompson as Derbyshire and was written by Martyn Wade.
In October 2004, the Tron Theatre in Glasgow hosted Standing Wave, a play written by Nicola McCartney focusing on the life of Derbyshire. This was produced by Reeling and Writhing, directed by Katherine Morley, score by Pippa Murphy.
In 2009, Canadian filmmaker Kara Blake released The Delian Mode , a short documentary film about Derbyshire.The film won the Genie Award for Best Short Documentary Film in 2010.
In 2013, the BBC showed a television docudrama depicting the creation and early days of Doctor Who in 1963, called An Adventure in Space and Time , as part of the celebrations for the programme's 50th anniversary. Derbyshire appeared as a character in it, portrayed by actress Sarah Winter.
Episode 5 "Derbyshire" of the BBC children's science TV programme Absolute Genius with Dick & Dom is an exploration of Derbyshire's creation of the Doctor Who theme recording using her techniques on equipment archived from the Radiophonic Workshop.
Coventry-based theatre company Noctium Theatre produced a play named Hymns for Robots about Derbyshire's working life, [ citation needed ]which played at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe festival.
In 2017, a short film by Caroline Catz, Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And The Legendary Tapes (2017) was screened at the BFI London Film Festival.It has been expanded into a feature-length movie that debuted in October 2020.
The 2020 documentary Sisters with Transistors touches on Delia Derbyshire's work in electronic music and the composing of the Doctor Who soundtrack.
Her hometown Coventry named a street after her in November 2016, the "Derbyshire Way".
A blue plaque was unveiled at Derbyshire's former home of 104 Cedars Avenue, Coventry, on 15 June 2017 as part of a BBC initiative celebrating important musicians and venues.The ceremony was performed by former Doctor Who actors Colin Baker and Nicola Bryant along with BBC Coventry & Warwickshire presenter Vic Minett.
On 20 November 2017, Derbyshire was awarded a posthumous honorary doctorate for her pioneering contributions to electronic music, by Coventry University,who also erected a plaque honouring Derbyshire, on their Ellen Terry Building. Adjacent to it is a mural depicting Derbyshire.
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The Doctor Who theme music is a piece of music written by Australian composer Ron Grainer and realised by Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Created in 1963, it was one of the first electronic music signature tunes for television. It is used as the theme for the science fiction programme Doctor Who, and has been adapted and covered many times.
Paddy Kingsland is a composer of electronic music best known for his incidental music for science fiction series on BBC radio and television whilst working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Educated at Eggars Grammar School, Alton, in Hampshire, he joined the BBC as a tape editor before moving on to become a studio manager for BBC Radio 1. In 1970 he joined the Radiophonic Workshop where he remained until 1981. His initial work was mostly signature tunes for BBC radio and TV programmes before going on to record incidental music for programmes including The Changes, two versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, as well as several serials of Doctor Who. His work on the latter series included incidental music for several serials in the early 1980s.
White Noise is an English experimental electronic music band formed in London in 1968, after American-born David Vorhaus, a classical bass player with a background in physics and electronic engineering, attended a lecture by Delia Derbyshire, a sound scientist at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson, then both former members of electronic music project Unit Delta Plus, joined Vorhaus to form the band.
Brian Hodgson is a British television composer and sound technician. Born in Liverpool in 1938, Hodgson joined the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1962 where he became the original sound effects creator for the science fiction programme Doctor Who. He devised the sound of the TARDIS and the voices of the Daleks, which he created by distorting the actors' voices and feeding them through a ring modulator. He continued to produce effects for the programme until 1972 when he left the Workshop, leaving Dick Mills to produce effects for the remainder of the show's run.
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BBC Radiophonic Music is the first compilation of music released by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It featured music by three of the Workshop's most prominent composers, John Baker, David Cain, and Delia Derbyshire. The album was originally released by BBC Radio Enterprises in 1968 to coincide with the Workshop's 10th anniversary and later re-released in 1971 on the BBC Records label.
Out of This World is a 1976 British commercial LP release of atmospheric sounds and effects from the library of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The album was divided into four sections, each representing a different theme: "Outer Space", "Magic and Fantasy", "Suspense and the Supernatural" and "The Elements".
BBC Radiophonic Workshop – 21 is a compilation by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to celebrate their 21st anniversary in 1979. It was compiled as an overview of their work both old and new, showcasing the changes in the Workshop as they developed from backroom sound effects suppliers for BBC Radio to full-fledged in-house music composers for the whole of the corporation. It demonstrates the move from the musique concrète and tape-manipulation techniques used in the early days, to the synthesiser works of the 1970s. The first side of the album consisted of material from 1958 to 1971, covering their early work creating jingles, sound-effects and some incidental music. This side includes the first material by Workshop founder Desmond Briscoe to be commercially released, as well as sound effects from The Goon Show, Maddalena Fagandini's interval signal that later became "Time Beat", some of Delia Derbyshire's experimental work and the pilot episode version of the Doctor Who theme music. The second side of the record covered the period between 1971–1979, including Richard Yeoman-Clark material from popular BBC series Blake's 7 and Peter Howell's vocoder heavy "Greenwich Chorus" theme for The Body in Question. It was reissued on CD by Silva Screen Records on 22 April 2016.
Doctor Who: The Music is a 1983 compilation of music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop featuring incidental music from the popular science-fiction television series Doctor Who. The album was the first full-length to feature solely music from the programme. The collection was produced by Workshop member and long-time Doctor Who sound-effects creator Dick Mills. It featured the original Delia Derbyshire arrangement of Ron Grainer's theme tune and music by Malcolm Clarke from the 1972 serial "The Sea Devils", which was only the second to have an incidental score provided completely by the Radiophonic Workshop. Most of the music included came from serials from the previous three years to demonstrate the recent composers' works. For the album, each serial's incidental music was reassembled into short "suites" and although most of the music had been recorded in mono it was, for this compilation, remixed into stereo with sound effects added on to some tracks. The album was re-released in 1992 by Silva Screen records as Earthshock - Classic Music From The BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 1, with bonus tracks including "The World of Doctor Who", a track recorded by Mills as a B-side to Dudley Simpson's 1973 "Moonbase 3" single, which featured a mix of music from the serial The Mind of Evil with sound effects from Planet of the Daleks before finishing with Simpson's "Master's Theme". Selections from both this compilation and its follow-up, Doctor Who: The Music II, were also re-used on the 1994 Silva Screen compilation The Best of Doctor Who Volume 1: The Five Doctors.
Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 1: The Early Years 1963–1969 is the first in a series of compilations of Doctor Who material recorded by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Compiled and remastered by Mark Ayres, the album features mostly sound effects and atmospheres from the first six years of the programme. Although some incidental music tracks do appear, most of the album's content is by original Doctor Who sound effects creator Brian Hodgson. The compilation also features three Radiophonic Workshop realisations of early Doctor Who composer Dudley Simpson's work.
Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 2: New Beginnings 1970–1980 is the second in a series of compilations of BBC Radiophonic Workshop music from Doctor Who. The album collected various incidental music from the 1970s including, for the first time, the complete Malcolm Clarke score for the 1972 serial The Sea Devils, only the second scored completely by the Radiophonic Workshop. The compilation also featured a few of Dudley Simpson's compositions as realised by Brian Hodgson, some Delia Derbyshire music as featured in Inferno, two Peter Howell demos from 1979 and a selection of Dick Mills' sound effects from the era.
Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop Volume 3: The Leisure Hive is the third in a series of compilations showcasing the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's work on the science-fiction programme Doctor Who. The album focused mainly on the Peter Howell synthesiser score for the 1980 serial The Leisure Hive, which received its first full release here. The compilation also collected some Dick Mills sound effects from the story as well as some effects from other 1980 serials Meglos and Full Circle, whose music would be the subject of the fourth volume in the series. The final track was a new remix of the original Delia Derbyshire version of the show's theme tune by series compiler Mark Ayres.
Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is a 2003 limited edition 4X10" vinyl compilation collecting and re-ordering the compilations BBC Radiophonic Music and The Radiophonic Workshop, including the bonus tracks from their 2002 CD re-releases. It featured the remasters provided by Mark Ayres for the original re-releases. The tracks were ordered in such a way as to provide Delia Derbyshire and John Baker with the first records dedicated solely to their work. The album was released on electronic musician Richard D. James' Rephlex Records label.
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Doctor Who: Devils' Planets – The Music of Tristram Cary is a compilation of music by Tristram Cary for the television series Doctor Who. It features all the musical contributions Cary did for Doctor Who except for his music for Marco Polo and "The Ballad of the Last Chance Saloon" from The Gunfighters which was left off due to space reasons. The ballad eventually saw commercial release on the TV soundtrack release of that serial. Due to the folding of the BBC Music label, this album was available only for a limited period and now fetches high prices on auction sites such as eBay.
Forever Alien is the third studio album by British space rock band Spectrum, a project led by Peter Kember under the pseudonym Sonic Boom. It was released in August 1997 by Space Age Records. After the band's preceding EP Songs for Owsley (1996) moved them away from guitar-oriented music and towards electronic music, Forever Alien furthered this approach considerably, as Kember aimed to create a predominately electronic album that sounded organic and analogue in style. The record is dominated by vintage analogue synthesizers, including the EMS VCS 3 and EMS Synthi AKS. Kember had become fascinated by the synths as he felt they presented him with more musical possibilities than guitars.
The story goes that on listening to playback, he enquired of Delia, "Did I write that?". To which she replied, "Most of it!".
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