BBC Soundtrackers Honoured

Fifty years ago, making effects on a radio show sound believable was considered an art.

Without the use of computers, unconventional items, such as lampshades, champagne corks and cutlery was used in the BBC Radiophonic workshop. No material was too bizarre if it produced the right effect. Tardis, the time machine in BBC Program Doctor Who, was created when an engineer discovered that scraping a key across a bass string from a broken piano produced the perfect sound needed.

While the age of handmade radio sounds has passed, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is releasing A Retrospective in honor of the program’s 50th anniversary. The double disc album will be out November 3 and features over 100 pieces of music and sound effects. The tracks follow a chronological order and include many familiar BBC TV and Radio shows including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Salem’s Lot and The Goon Show.

Many sound effects were first pioneered through BBC Radiophonic. Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, early electronic musicians, discovered new sounds using reel-to-reel tape machines. The composers recorded normal sounds and manipulated them by destroying the original and taping it back together or speeding up or slowing down the pace. Derbyshire is credited with creating the theme song for Doctor Who.

BBC Radiophonic closed in 1997, but will be remembered as a huge influence on electronic music today. While the workshop has released numerous albums over the past half century, this anniversary album promises to feature extremely rare and previously unavailable tracks. Along with Oram and Derbyshire, other contributors include Elizabeth Parker, Desmond Briscoe, Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell.

By Susan Elgin
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