The Pioneers Festival is a celebration of all those who pushed the boundaries in electronic music and helped to shape the sounds that nowadays we are all so familiar with.
Delia Derbyshire was a part of the BBC's groundbreaking Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s and she made her most best-known work during this time - notably the Doctor Who theme, along with so much more. Her legacy continues to inspire new generations of musicians and it seems that it's only decades later that the true extent of the work she and others did within the Workshop can command the acknowledgement and respect that it always deserved.
Our guest for this playlist is Kara Blake, who last year made a short Delia-focused documentary, The Delian Mode, which has already won numerous awards. We are happy to be giving the film a screening on the 12th of March as part of a special documentary night.
Here's the Trailer for the film.
There’s more to Delia Derbyshire than the Doctor Who theme music. Sure that piece was a creative and technical feat that remains one of the most successful and recognizable theme tunes of all times but here are some other tracks that further purport Ms. Derbyshire as a laudable figure in the pantheon of electronic music pioneers.
The Dreams 1964 The first in a series of Inventions for Radio for which Delia collaborated with dramatist Barry Bermange. Voices describing their dreams are set adrift in a wash of electronic sounds which are simultaneously beautiful and frightening. It was this piece that hooked me, made me want to find out more about Delia, and eventually led to the making of my film The Delian Mode.
The Delian Mode (1968) The title track for my film is, to me, the definitive Delia Derbyshire sound. It’s like being led through a secret door and being granted access to unimaginable realms.
Door to Door (1968) One thing that drew me to Delia was the diversity of her work. There’s such a range of sounds, from ominous and otherworldly to beguiling and playful. I think this track is a great example of her wit and humour.
Firebird (1967) Delia co-wrote and created this wonderfully catchy blend of pop and experimental electronica with David Vorhaus and Brian Hodgson for an album called An Electric Storm. Be sure to check out the rest of the album for more “unconventional” sounds...
Dance from Noah (1969) This track was amongst the 267 tapes found in Delia’s attic after her death in 2001. Thought to be created in the late sixties, this piece solidifies the timeless nature of much of Delia’s work and had me wanting to hit the dance floor. Unbelievable!
Sychrondipity Machine (2000) This was a collaboration between Delia and Experimental Audio Research ( a.k.a. Pete Kember) that sprang from many late night phone calls between the two. Delia’s magic touch seems to tactilely bubble to the surface in this piece.
Sculptress (2010) A pioneer takes steps in unchartered territory so as to open the path for those who follow. I think we can safely say that Delia Derbyshire did just that. At a time when electronic music was a barely audible hum, she invented techniques in order to realize her creative ideas and established a legacy of music making founded on experimentation and ingenuity. It is unsurprising that many contemporary musicians cite her as an influence and choose to contribute to a growing list of works which pay hommage to her as this piece by contemporary composer Nicole Lizée does so well. Performed by the Standing Wave Ensemble and recorded live at The Clutch theatre in Vancouver, Canada in 2010.