August 10, 2015


Spy Vibe is dedicated to celebrating 1960s Style in Action and one most important elements of the decade was the focus on innovation and experimentation. During my recent journey to the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff, I had a chance to take a closer look at one of the most creative congregations of artists from the era: The BBC Radiophonic Workshop. There was a corner display room, just on the right as you walked into the exhibit, outfitted like a mad scientist's lab with early tape machines, oscillators, instruments, and various electronic gadgets. The space was devoted to the Radiophonic Workshop, where the wizards of sound crafted eerie sonic landscapes for various dramas, including Doctor Who. The Radiophonic Workshop was founded in 1958 by Daphne Oram and Desmond Briscoe, who had been inspired to explore sound design by the electronic experiments and musique concrete coming out of France. The celebrated Delia Derbyshire first brought her unusual talent to the Workshop in the early 1960s, and is best remembered for her production and assemblage of the Doctor Who theme (composed by Ron Grainer). Beatles fans may be interested to learn that Derbyshire also co-founded an organization called Unit Delta Plus in 1966 to create and promote electronic music. The group played festivals, including The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave (1966), where Paul McCartney's unreleased Carnival of Light had its one public performance. In addition to Doctor Who, Derbyshire also contributed to The Mouse on the MoonDracula A.D. 1972 and John Berger's Ways of Seeing. Working with tight production schedules and staff rotation, the Workshop produced wonderful recordings, often creating much of the atmosphere needed to give Doctor Who that futuristic, mysterious vibe. Those early pieces were literally bits of taped sound woven together and layered, and the hands-on approach gave the work a deep, human quality that was difficult to emulate once synthesizers became de rigueur. For readers who grew up in the age of MP3s and CDs, these old machines (below) played sounds stored on large reels of magnetic tape, and specific sections of sound had to be meticulously cut, spliced, and layered with others to create each composition. The exhibit did a great job bringing the show's 50 years of costume design to life, and it was wonderful to see this vintage music equipment in person, where I could imagine Delia and the other wizards at work. Here are two of my photographs from the sound design exhibit at the Doctor Who Experience. Please visit my related photography series posts from the trip: Doctor Who Experience, Portmeirion, Sherlock Holmes. Learn more: history of the Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire site, Derbyshire:Sculptress of Sound documentary on Youtube, Radiophonic Workshop records at Discogs. Enjoy!  

Selected Spy Vibe posts: Portmeirion Photos, Doctor Who ExhibitFarewell SteedPussy Galore ReturnsDiana Rigg birthdaySherlock at 221BInvisible AgentSaint Interview: Ian DickersonSaint DoppelgängerFleming's TypewriterRare FlemingFleming's MusicIan Fleming's JapanJim Wilson Corgi InterviewFantomas DesignJeremy Duns on BondJohn Buss interviewDiana Rigg eBookAvengers Season 5 TitlesSaint VolvoMod Tales InterviewAgente Secreto ComicsDanger Man Comics 2Danger Man ComicsJohn Drake ComicsDer Mann Von UNCLEGolden Margaret NolanMan From UNCLE RocksteadyPussy Galore Calypso, Cynthia Lennon R.I.P.Edward Mann FashionLeonard Nimoy TributeShatner at 84Bob Morane seriesNew Saint PublicationsThe Saint Complete box setGerry Anderson Box SetsMusic For SpiesThai Bond DesignBond vs ModernismPopular SkulltureArt of ModestyAvengers Blu-ray updateTokyo Beat 1964Polaroid SpyFeraud Mod FashionGreen Hornet MangaNo 6 FestivalAvengers Interview: Michael RichardsonIan Fleming: Wicked GrinJane Bond Hong Kong RecordsRyan Heshka Interview, Comics Week: Man From R.I.V.E.R.D.A.L.E.Comics Week: ArchieComics Week: Robots, Comics Week: Cold War Atomic, Comics Week: SPYMANComics Week: Jimmy Olsen, Shakespeare Spies: Diana RiggShakespeare Spies I, Rodney Marshall Avengers Interview, Richard Sala: Super-Enigmatix, Cold War Archie, Playboy Bunny InterviewThe 10th Victim Japanese and KindleU.N.C.L.E. Japanese Books, Trina Robbins InterviewCatsuits, Batman '66 Green Hornet Interview: Ralph Garman Ty Templeton.

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