DD DAY 2021 Masterclass 2 – trustee takeover
David Butler, Mark Ayres and Jenna Ashton
Welcome to the transcript from our second masterclass/expert talk session for our DD Day 2021 programme. Next up were DD Day trustees David Butler (chair and DD researcher), Mark Ayres (DD Estate and current The Radiophonic Workshop band) and Jenna Ashton (treasurer, artist and lecturer in Heritage Studies). They unpacked the DD Archive housed at John Rylands Library, Delia’s work at The BBC Radiophonic Workshops and other key aspects of her work and legacy. This was a chance to find out more about the archive and how Delia worked.
With grateful thanks to Arts Council England for supporting this year’s project, whose theme was imagination.
Jenna: Welcome and thank you for joining us. I’m Dr Jenna Ashton an artist, lecturer in heritage studies at the University of Manchester and I’m a trustee of the Delia Derbyshire Day charity. Tonight’s second DD Day 2021 masterclass is an all trustee affair. I’m joined by David Butler and Mark Ayres, who I will introduce in a moment. The theme for this year’s programme of activities is “imagination”.
This year, the DD Day team have compiled this series of talks and masterclasses to make the most of our circumstances and, hopefully maybe more people might be able to access our work internationally, especially at the moment, limited to geography. This was a way for us to share some of our passion, knowledge and learning further afield.
I mentioned the funders, thanks to Arts Council and Sound On Sound Magazine for supporting this activity, and to the Granada Foundation supporting the commissioned artist this is year for the DD Day 2021 programme.
In terms of tonight’s structure then, we will hear from our first speaker for about 15 minutes, we’ll then do a five-minute Q&A. Then we’ll move on to the second speaker and repeat the process. Then we’ll move into the wider Q&A in response to attendee questions.
Now I’m going to move on and introduce our two amazing speakers. So, first up it’s going to be David Butler. David is a senior lecturer in drama and screen studies at the University of Manchester. He has written widely on the relationship between music, sound and image in film and television. He’s one of the lead researchers working on the Delia Derbyshire archive after helping to bring the archive to Manchester in 2007.
After David, we’ll move on to Mark Ayres.
Mark is a composer and an arranger and sound designer, mixer and mastering engineer. The life-long interest in film, music and electronics. Mark took an eccentric joint degree and holds a BSC honours in music. He started his life as a sound engineer at UK Breakfast TV station TVAM – who can remember that?! Turning freelance five years later. He wrote incidental music for Doctor Who in the 80s during Sylvester McCoy’s tenure, and wrote the music and sound design and mixed the reconstructive Lost Tom Baker adventure Shada. He’s composed for numerous television and film schools and until recently Mark was a Director of The Ivors Academy of Music Creators and chaired the Media Music Committee.
Of course, importantly to this talk, Mark was involved in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s final days and went on to become their archivist. As a personal friend of Delia Derbyshire, Mark was entrusted with her personal archive after her death in 2001 which is now on permanent loan to the University of Manchester at John Rylands Library and accessible for study.
His devotion to the Workshop after Doctor Who ceased broadcasting in 1989 proved vital in the regenerating interest in their work. He is now the driving force behind their live revival on the festival circuit and in the creation of new works. Both David and Mark are the two founding trustees of the Delia Derbyshire Day charity along with my humble self. I’m going to hand over to David.
DAVID: Yes, hello everybody! In the 15-minute slot I’ve got, I’m going to give you a, kind of, use this as an opportunity to clarify some of the myths around the nature of the archive and what is actually in it, what isn’t in it perhaps more to the point. How it’s developed since it arrived in Manchester in 2007 because there have been various subsequent donations made to it since that initial core collection which came from Mark via Clive Blackburn, Delia’s partner.
I’ll say something about some of the challenges of the archive and the research problems it’s presented and maybe to close with, just some of the most exciting and significant discoveries for me that have been in there, you know, I hope there are more still to come.
Some of this might be known to some of you already. A lot of this might be facts and figures so I apologise if some of this is old news to you, but I thought it would be useful to go over that before we get more into the nature of the archive.
It came to Manchester in 2007, Mark and myself had been discussing its transfer to the university for a number of years prior to that. When it arrived, the core collection was tape recordings and then paper documents. The tapes, 267 tapes, are not all tapes of material by Delia and so there’s round about 71 reels in there, which is not music by Delia at all, it is music she’s either recorded off air or it’s transfers of music by other people as well.
It’s quite an eclectic mix. As you would expect from Delia. So you have got modern jazz, Yusef Lateef’s Eastern Sounds (1962) album in there, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, there’s some Clifford Brown in there. You have composers: Bach, Mozart, contemporary composers, Penderecki and Stockhausen. And then, there is some Ray Davies. And then Can. I did not recognise the Can! Stuart Maconie, I have to thank him, he came to do a piece about the archive about ten years ago and to my shame I’m not a Can aficionado! So Stuart identified that.
There are also off-air recordings of interviews with Delia. These range from interviews she did in the mid-1960s. But then also there are two or three interviews with her towards the end of her life. So the one that a lot of people know is the Original Masters (1997) interview with John Cavanagh and Drew Mulholland, and the instinct with that sort of stuff is to be initially disappointed and think that’s one less tape of music that might have been by Delia and one other lost work that we are not going to hear. But, of course, all of that material is just incredibly important in terms of understanding what Delia was listening to and what she may or may not have taken from that work and might have informed her own practice.
When it comes to the rest of the tape material, it’s mainly 10.5-inch reels and 7-inch reels.
There can be anything up to round about 40 minutes of material on a tape or there might be nothing at all. There are a number of reels in there, where there’s actually nothing. It’s just blank, or there might just be a few minutes of material.
Most of the productions that are in there are freelance projects that Delia was working on and these in the core collection, the initial collection, span up to 1975. The last material that she put in are the collaborations she did with Madelon Hooykaas and Elsa Stansfield in the mid-70s, so these are One of These Days (1973) and About Bridges (1975) and we have had donations from Madelon of the material relating to those productions.
There are other works beyond 1975 and I’m going to say a bit about those, but they were not part of that initial collection that was entrusted to Mark. I’ll say more about that. Most of it is freelance material. There are some BBC works in there as well. When Mark received the archive from Clive and then Brian Hodgson, there was an initial inventory and Mark will correct me on this, and may say something more about this later on, but in going through the initial sift, if there were some items missing from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop archive, they were then put back with that collection as well. There are the original Doctor Who tapes. You will find those at the BBC archive centre in Perivale, which is where the Radiophonic tape collection is housed. There are still some BBC productions in Delia’s archive and the ones that are well represented, there is material from Amor Dei (1964), the second of the Inventions for Radio, and there’s make-up material for that and The Long Polar Walk from 1968. Also, Tutankhamun’s Egypt (1972), which, is one of the last productions that Delia did at the BBC before she left in 1973.
So those are well represented. Most of it is freelance work, and that’s everything from theatre productions, for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Greenwich Theatre in London, the Roundhouse Theatre, through to art films and then feature films. So, Work is a Four-Letter Word (1968), which stars David Warner and Cilla Black, there are elements from that in the archive, through to independent films.
One of the most well represented projects is a film called Robert Lowell (1970) by Carolyn McCullough, and this is a film about the American poet and conscientious objector with cinematography by Albert Maysles. We have not been able to track down that film, we have tried various archives and we have not been able to source the film.
Then there are other things. Delia did work for live happenings, installations, the first edition of the Brighton Festival is well represented in the archive and that was a collaboration with the Hornsey College light and sound workshop called K4 on the pier at Brighton.
There are paper documents, working papers, but also there might be letters to friends, memos as well as conventional scores and then some graphic notation as well. So, it’s quite broad the mix that’s in there. The original digitisation was done primarily by Louis Niebur, an academic from the University of Nevada at Reno, he’s written the first major academic study of the Radiophonic Workshop – Special Sound (2010) – and Louis came over while doing his research for that book and did the digitisation with myself in Manchester.
That was the core collection, which got transferred to the John Rylands Library at Deansgate in Manchester. It’s been added to since then. Before I talk about the additions, the major challenges that we were faced with, I’ll pick four out as I know I am pushed for time – the first would be identifying what the correct speed was to play some of the tapes back at. It wasn’t always clear what that would be. So, when it wasn’t clear, those tapes were recorded at different speeds just to make sure that we had initially one that correct one in there. Reconstructing of one of the tapes – that wasn’t on my watch – that was one Louis was doing – it’s a shame he’s not here to tell the story but I remember meeting up with him at the end of the day and he’d spent several hours in a day reconstructing a tape because the splices had come apart. For the most part, the tapes played extremely well given conditions that they had been stored in in various houses that Delia had lived in, not inappropriate environmental conditions at all, you know. There was only one tape where that actually happened. There is one tape we’ve not played back at all because it came with a label saying “do not play” too sticky, it is too difficult for us to play that.
The next major problem would be in terms of identification and authorship, as again, people may know this, but the tapes arrived in various states. Some were just loose reels, some were in their original boxes. Many of those reels or boxes had stickers on. But an awful lot of those stickers had actually in the intervening years fallen off the reels into the cardboard crates that they were kept in, and there was no way of knowing which reels the stickers applied to.
As it would turn out, some of the material on the reels where there were labels didn’t tally up with what it was saying was on the reel in the first place. Delia was recycling a lot of the tapes, and the other material on there as well.
So that’s been one of the major challenges to identify authorship and indeed there are projects in there, where we still do not know who actually is responsible for music on those reels. I’ll say a little bit about one or two of those projects.
I want to share a track with you, which illustrates that problem. This is from a piece called Poets in Prison. This was a live event at the City of London Festival in 1970, organised by Edward Lucie-Smith and it was a performance of readings, live performances of various poems, which had been written while the author was incarcerated. So these were historical figures who’d written poetry while they’d been imprisoned or reflected on their time of imprisonment.
Delia did the music for that. Then there would be live visuals as well. This is one of the movements from that event and as you are going to hear, some of you will recognise this. Infinite Delia Derbyshire respect points if you recognise what these pieces are! The point is that this is re-purposing material not just from Delia’s back catalogue but from Brian Hodgson’s back catalogue as well.
OK, some of you will have recognised where these two pieces came from. The piece by Delia is from Amor Dei and it’s the segment of Amor Dei where the non-believers – atheists – are talking and taking centre stage in that piece. The other piece, Doctor Who fans will have recognised what that was, that was Brian Hodgson’s ‘Petrified Forest’ on Skaro, ‘Thal Wind’ from the original Dalek story ‘The Daleks’ (1963-1964). It’s a good example of Delia and Brian sharing sounds in their freelance work and also repurposing their back catalogue. Delia would frequently go back to earlier projects, especially Amor Dei which resurfaces multiple times in freelance work but also later BBC projects as well. This does create problems further down the line in terms of copyright and for licensing that material. That might come up in questions later on.
Just to hear that original Amor Dei section, I’ll play you a little bit of that so you can hear where that came from (Playing clip from archive)
… “I can’t see that it helps anyone. I think it’s all superstition. I feel that I cannot look to any sublime being for guidance in my life. I cannot believe that there is someone up there who has any kind of personal contact with me as a human being. As a good and honest atheist, I think the whole thing’s nonsense.”
I should point out that other belief systems are available, just in case anybody’s thinking I might be trying to indoctrinate you in any kind of way!
So, a lot of what we’ve had to do then in terms of the detective work has been cross-referencing with other archives. We have done a lot of work at the BBC written archive centre in Caversham, the archive of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford.
We’ve also been fortunate to link in with some of the actual individuals who worked on these projects, so people like Madelon Hooykaas. I’m going to say a bit about Elisabeth Kozmian in a moment. The additional donations we have had then, in 2010, the next major development of the archive came from Andy Wolf who was living in Delia’s childhood home in Coventry and he had found a substantial collection of schoolwork from Delia’s childhood. That was acquired by the John Rylands Library and added into the collection. This is really enabling us to get a clearer sense of Delia’s emerging creative personality really. You get some of her first writings about music in there, what she’s listening to at school, so this includes Beethoven, Handel, some Shostakovich dances, Mozart and Bach very prominently. No mention of electronic music such as it was then when she’d have been at school.
I’m going to play you just a couple of images from the school books. I’ve been especially fascinated by the doodles in her school books. They tend to be geometric abstract shapes, a lot of repetition and I’ve argued that I think you can actually see the beginning of Delia’s interest in the musician in her and repetition. That last one is particularly interesting, that’s Delia developing her signature, her initials DD and then sort of turning them into these more elaborate images.
This next one is fascinating. This is Delia compiling a league table of the other girls in her class so she’s put them all in there and then the different subjects, ranked herself in relation to them which shows her competitive spirit. On the left when it comes to music, she’s first and by some! Music and mathematics, she’s way ahead, scored 94 and first. You will also find in that archive her elocution test results, a lot of people say why does she sound posh, and of course if you listen carefully to Delia you can still hear her Midlands accent in there as well. I think she often gets misrepresented as being Brief Encounter-type posh in a lot of dramatizations but the elocution results are in there. The other donations we have had mentioned Brian Hodgson’s and Jo Hutton who interviewed Delia shortly before her death. The full audio of that interview is in there and then there’s the donations from Madelon Hooykaas – and perhaps the most surprising donation came from the Polish-born artist Elisabeth Kozmian. Madelon advised us to get in contact with her and mentioned that she’d worked with Elisabeth and that indeed turned out to be the case, and Elisabeth very generously donated a 16mm copy of a film she made with Delia which was released in 1980 called Two Houses. The significance of this of course is that this is either five or seven years depending on what you take as a cut-off point after it’s often reported that Delia withdrew from music activity, when she left the Radiophonic Workshop. There is question that her output did diminish. But it’s often been written that she stopped completely and did nothing else at all.
This film which Mark arranged for it to be remastered, very generously, is a 40-minute art film and I’m going to play, just to close, a brief clip from it. This is just the opening minute or so. There is also in the archive a demo cassette of a project, an unmade film that Delia was going to make with Elisabeth after Two Houses. It’s a C90 and there is only music for the first 90 seconds on the first half, but I had to sit through the remaining 90 minutes just to make sure there was nothing in there later. To my ear it sounds like Delia is working with a vocoder there, which is interesting because that’s not something she was using when she was at the Radiophonic Workshop . So that’s as far as the audio archive goes in terms of work by Delia.
This is a little bit from Two Houses.
(Playing clip from archive)
…”I can see the frying pan is still here. Yes, it was here two weeks ago, yes. It’s not there for any reason really. You mentioned frying pan. Yes, the frying pan isn’t there for any reason, it’s been there some time and it’s just put there because I don’t need it anymore and erm, I am sure I will find it useful one day. These are bags of plaster. This is the original fireplace. These cupboards are going to come out and I shall reuse the doors in the other room as a wardrobe. And from this window, you can see the garden. And the tree. What kind of a tree is it? It’s a sycamore tree.”
That is Two Houses from 1980. I was gobsmacked when that discovery came through because it completely challenges the standard narrative of Delia’s life, this sort of disappearance into the wilderness and its irrevocable decline, it’s not that straightforward. There are still mysteries.
The last image I’m going to leave you with. We don’t know what this is – it’s a tape in the core collection, which is called ‘Ron Grainer Bread’. It’s just under four minutes of perfectly formed synth pop from the early 1970s. You can see it says ‘Ron Grainer Bread’ on there and we have tried to find out what is behind this, we have asked Dick, Brian people working with Delia at that time, you have been in touch with Ron Grainer’s family, Mark, and we are drawing a blank on that one, so there are still mysteries in there. Brian denies all knowledge of it, he’s no idea what it is. So it’s still an archive that surprises and I think that will prove to be the case for a long time still. I think I’ll stop there!
JENNA: That is great. Thank you David. Where to start, there are some questions in the chat, so I’ll come on to that in a minute. I wanted to ask you a question first of all though. In terms of, as a researcher and, obviously you’ve been developing such intense relationships with this archive, where would you say you would really like research to land next with Delia’s collection, with the archive? Where are the juicy research projects that are needed to open this up more and more do you think?
DAVID: I think the thing for me, which is something that’s needed to happen for some time now is to cross reference with the Radiophonic Workshop tape library. It’s not straightforward access to that collection in Perivale. We are looking to develop a funding bid so that that could be completely digitised and then cross referenced with what is in Delia’s archive. Then you would get a clearer sense of how much of that material in Delia’s collection is original material, and how much of it is repurposed material. In some cases, as you heard with the Poets in Prison segment, that’s a straightforward cue she dropped in from Amor Dei but in other instances, she takes some of those raw sounds and transforms them into something completely different and indeed does this with Amor Dei elsewhere.
So I think that for me, to have a complete, or as near as complete as is possible, catalogue is the essential thing, it does need some substantial funding.
We were very fortunate about ten years ago, there was a post-graduate researcher James Percival who was originally at Oxford then came to do his Masters at Manchester and then went back to Oxford to do his PhD. James did superb work on developing a catalogue of the audio. There were complications about incorporating that into the university’s existing systems. But that for me is the thing that has to happen and it’s a shame it’s not happened yet.
JENNA: I love the fact that it’s a living and evolving archive. That is beautiful that this continuous development of new finds and also the work through the charity as well I think is also adding to the archive in many ways. It’s doing some great work as well in that way.
DAVID: Hugely. Actually saying that, when the archive was first announced, it was way back in 2008, I’d said something about wanting the archive to be a living, breathing archive and somebody quite rightly picked me up on that and said, how can an archive be living and breathing. What I meant by that was the hope was that it would generate new work and then that work could be added back into the archive. And that indeed is what has been happening with the Commissions for DD Day and other artists. It’s not just Delia Derbyshire Day artists who’ve worked with the archivists, there’s a whole range of people and projects who’ve made use of it, most recently, Cosey Fanni Tutti with her score for Caroline Catz’s Myths and Legendary Tapes (2020) film. And I should clarify on that, some people are under the impression that Cosey’s score is using samples from Delia’s archive. It doesn’t. She had access to the audio material as inspiration but then she generated her own sounds for that.
JENNA: Let’s dive into the chat. Some really interesting questions in relation to your talk. Kate says Delia recorded other artists, but did she ever do her own versions of things that she’d heard. So DD’s variations on a theme by Can for example?
DAVID: Yes. Mark, feel free to come in here as well on that. So there isn’t anything that I’m aware of that’s in there. Obviously, there are the kinds of things that people know which has been out there for a long time. So her Bach piece, which is on the Radiophonic Workshop album, that’s famously been out there for decades.
There isn’t something as obvious as that where you can go “that’s why that’s in the archive” because she’s doing her own mix of it. One of the most interesting items in there was the Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds album, which is from the early 1960s. That’s interesting because Delia does, whether you want to call it a form of musical Orientalism but there are a number of pieces she does like Tutankhamun’s Egypt where she is exploring and incorporating sounds from other music cultures.
That is interesting that she’s listened to something like that and different time signatures and that’s feeding into the practice. But then there are things like, there’s a weird music hall piece in there as well. And that’s the playful side of Delia which again a lot of people are familiar with.
JENNA: Yes, definitely.
DAVID: From some of her famous pieces. So sorry Kate! It would be wonderful if there was!
MARK: She didn’t really cover other people. She was collecting this stuff really as reference.
DAVID: It’s very appropriate.
MARK: Right. She was collecting this stuff really as a reference material, stuff she was interested in, Air on a G string was about the only cover she did and obviously Doctor Who was her “first recording”. One of the things I’m very keen on, which David has touched on is context. That is why I want to cross-reference with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop archive. The main take-away for me about her archive, is the reason that [this stuff] was in her attic, was it was all stuff she didn’t want us to hear, in a bizarre sort of way.
When she left the Workshop, she basically emptied her studio shelves into the back of a car and took them with her because she didn’t want anybody to get hold of that stuff. That included some master tapes, which she shouldn’t have had, to be honest, which when I did the first catalogue I put back into the archive. It included a lot of material that she was working on personally and indeed it’s worth saying there are a number of contexts to Delia’s work and also to Brian’s work, in that not only were they on the staff at the BBC and working for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, they were doing their own stuff, they were part of Unit Delta Plus and so on and very much part of the “rave” scene in London at the time. A lot of stuff that Delia created at the Workshop ended up in her personal sound archive and a lot of stuff that she created independently outside of the BBC ended up in BBC projects.
As David says, trying to work out what is what, is part of the problem here. The agreement we have come to… if it’s a master tape and it’s got a BBC label on it, it belongs to the BBC. If it’s just a tape in Delia’s archive with a sound written on the reel, it’s probably a Delia sound which was used elsewhere. But we know full well, for instance, that the library albums that Delia and Brian made actually used stuff that they’d done for programmes at the BBC, so it all gets really, really complicated. One of the big things about putting this story together and someone asked about is there much interest from record labels… well there has to an extent but that mainly goes to the BBC because they own the bulk of the master material. There are certainly a couple of very nice releases to be had from Delia’s archive which we are talking about and hoping we will get to very soon.
We do need to make absolutely certain what the story behind that material is, because it would not do Delia’s history and story any justice if stuff was released without context and without us knowing how and why.
JENNA: I think that’s a brilliant comment, Mark, and the kind of care and responsibility that people have when they are engaging with archives to be thinking about why, you know, exactly what you said actually some of that material might not have meant to have been accessed, it was personal material and part of Delia’s working practice. It’s an interesting thing actually about arts archives and artists’ archives once they have passed on, so for any artists in the room, make sure you haven’t got anything in your studios that you don’t want to end up in the John Rylands Library several years down the line! I think artists will be encouraged or supported in better ways now to think about their legacy and their archives.
DAVID: Just to follow on from that, that also applies to the paper documents as well in that the written material. There are people that Delia writes about who are still alive. There’s actually one document that John Rylands Library is not able to release because it refers to somebody who is still with us. And the terms of that are critical and that person needs that right-to-reply and so on. So just to put that material out there without clearance from Delia’s estate, because you are dealing with private letters and memos and so on and references to people, there is potentially some libellous material in there as well. All those concerns have to be thought about.
MARK: You heard it here first folks!
Delia’s archive is accessible at the John Rylands Library if you make an appointment to go there to listen to it. It’s available for academic research, as David says; there is an awful lot of stuff we don’t know. If anyone wants to come to do some research, and contribute to the ongoing research then that is absolutely to be encouraged by us all.
We are aware that if some of the material escaped into the wild, it would cheapen it enormously. It’s very important we protect Delia’s legacy and her wishes for this material. Her wishes are that this material was locked away in her attic, but I think she would be delighted that it’s being used educationally, and that people can learn something from it. What we must not do is exploit it in a way in way which Delia would not have wished and it’s a very, very fine balance. A lot of people do criticise us for this, but it’s a very fine balance we are treading here to respect the archive, but also research and also hopefully in due course that we can make the bits that we can make available, commercially for public consumption if we can. But if you want to research, come up to the John Rylands Library please and make an appointment.
JENNA: Brilliant thank you.
DAVID: Absolutely and all the digitised audio, you can listen to that, and there are films. As I said, Madelon Hooykaas very kindly donated the two films that she made with Delia in 73 and 75 so there are copies of those in there that you can view, you can see Two Houses, the full film, so that’s available to watch and to listen to at John Rylands, yes.
JENNA: Brilliant. Thank you. That nicely segues into Mark Ayres, your talk, if you may. I’ll pass over to you!
MARK: Right. So, one of the things I’ve been trying to do down the years is to, as I say, put everything in context and I’m going to try in the next 15 minutes or so to do a very condensed version of a talk I normally give live which normally lasts an hour! So if I ever do it live again, I promise you it’s far more entertaining live but I’m going to do my best here. So [shares screen] this is the BBC Radiophonic Workshop or rather it’s the BBC Maida Vale studios, which was once described as looking like a mildewed wedding cake and you can see what they mean by that photograph of the entrance of it. This gentleman, Desmond Briscoe, and this lady, Daphne Oram, founded it. They were studio managers at Broadcasting House where they would record plays and talks etc for the BBC “Third Programme. Back then there was the Light Programme which was basically light music; There was the Home Service that was mainly news and current affairs and then there was the Third Programme, which was the arts channel where all the posh arty plays and classical music etc went.
Later of course, this changed to give us Radio One for pop music, Radio Two for light music, the Home Service became Radio Four and took a lot of the plays and the Third Programme took on mainly serious music as Radio Three. So back then the The third programme was where all the highbrow stuff went. Desmond and Daphne were looking at what was happening in Europe, in France and Amsterdam and in Cologne in terms of electronic music research and realised [that] a lot of these new sounds could be used in the creation of radio plays etc. If you wanted the sound effect of someone opening a door or even the sound of a car crash, you could go to the BBC sound effects library. If you wanted the sound of a nervous breakdown, where do you start? So this was a way of using new sound techniques to make new sound to tell very different stories. There [screen shot changes] is a ,map of London, and right at the top in the middle there, you see Warwick Avenue [in Maida Vale] and that is where the Radiophonic Workshop was based. Oxford Circus which you can see sort of in the middle to the right, that is where Broadcasting House was. The great thing about putting the Radiophonic Workshop right out in Maida Vale, Warwick Avenue, was that it was “out of sight, out of mind” and [therefore] got away with so much for so long! That [map changes to show Delaware Road in closeup] is the studio there, it was once a skating rink, and the main rink was pulled out and turned into that [picture changes] which is Studio 1 which is mainly where the BBC Symphony Orchestra is based which is why it’s full of Symphony Orchestra stuff.
Around the [sides] where all the baffle boards are was originally windows, and from the windows you could look down from the ice cream parlour etc was and it’s those offices, those cubicles, which became the offices of the building and the Radiophonic Workshop studios. Also home to various other studios where some quite amazing stuff happened. I played in that studio [Studio 3], so did Bing Crosby. Oh, this gentleman (Paul McCartney) did quite a bit there too. Maida Vale Studios is the most extraordinary place. They are closing it down which I think is so sad; it is a building which has probably outlived its usefulness and all those ceiling tiles probably have asbestos in, a real nightmare, but you walk into that building and the history drips off the walls and I’ve seen young bands go into that studio and seen Paul McCartney’s and Bing Crosby’s pictures on the wall and immediately up their game because they think, OK, this is where stuff happens. [Picture changes] That’s the corridor, one of the longest corridors in London. That is going along the front of the building; to. The left is where the main Radiophonic studio was. The double door on the left nearest us was knocked into a double door when the Delaware synthesiser arrived, and it wouldn’t go through the door so they turned it into a double door to get the synthesiser in.
So this is where all this stuff happened. Now, rooms 12 and 13 were the original studios. [Picture of Delia and Desmond] Delia hated that picture. She really did. She hated that picture because she said it looked like Desmond was telling her what to do. If you knew Delia at all well, I know damn well she’s telling Desmond what he’s going to get! (Laughter) She needn’t be that upset about that!
Room 12 and 13 – two rooms knocked into one – that’s where it all started, [Pictures] John Baker, the famous home-made short keyboard with the nine Jason oscillators. All this old gear was repurposed in to making music. You have got three Crystal Palaces there, crystal boxes made by Dave Young, absolutely incredible bits of kit: analogue source sequences [with] an old gramophone motor at the top which drives a capacitor which allows cross-fading between 16 inputs on the left into the four outputs. And it had a normalising system that if you only connected three inputs it would only crossfade betwee three inputs; if you put 16 in, it rotated around the 16 inputs. It was incredibly clever. The Jason oscillators, the decade filters there, they were off-the-shelf bits of kit. Wine bottles for some reason, always lots of wine bottles around the Radiophonic Workshop so a lot of music was made with wine bottles. There’s a wine bottle B flat. There’s a fire extinguisher in D sharp, though if you look closely, it’s actually a fire extinguisher in approximately D sharp. So this was where music came from. The famous lampshade too! Any corporate headquarters in London at the time had Coolicon green metal lampshades. Delia accidentally knocked one, one day and it made a nice sound, so she nicked it. This is how you made music back then. You recorded your notes on to bits of tape and then you cut them up into the lengths that you wanted. [Picture of lengths of tape and a ruler] So from anything that sounds for one second at the bottom, to a tiny piece at the top. You cut them up and join them together.
I’m rushing because we haven’t got much time, but this is a marvellous document pasted onto all of the walls which shows you that one frame is 0.04 of a second which is 0.6 an inch of tape at a spead for 15 inches per second. So they were constantly referring to this stuff as they were making music. This is [a chart showing] the frequency of all the notes in various octaves. They could dial [the frequencies] into oscillators. There’s the VCS3, one of the early British synthesisers, a sort-of rival for the Moog except it doesn’t have a keyboard. That was deliberate. This synthesiser was not made to play tunes, it was designed to be making noises, which you would record on to tape, and then tape techniques would be employed to create the music.
That [picture] is a Roland Modular synthesiser, the System 100M. When the VCS3 became unreliable, Dick Mills had one of these for making sound effects.
Malcolm Clarke with the Delaware Synthi 100, which is basically 12 VCS3’s in an enormous box which as I saywouldn’t go through the single door. That [another picture] is a whole lot of vintage synthesisers from the period. It might look like that picture was taken in the 1970s but it was actually taken four years ago in my studio because I was using all those synthesisers on “Doctor Who – Shada”.
And there’s the Radiophonic Workshop. Malcolm Clarke in his studio, Roger in his, bashing an immersion tank making a slightly bigger sound than a wine bottle! Roger agin with all his gear including the Fairlight CMI which was on a trolley that could be wheeled from studio to studio. Dick Mills there with the System 100. There is Peter Howell. His studio is cleverly designed so that he could not escape to go home at night if you look at it carefully!
And that is Liz Parker in her studio, one of the later studios. Peter designed this studio, Liz got the first one, Peter got the second one.
That [picture[ studio is Peter’s studio after he moved out as the workshop was closing down. I don’t know whether you can tell but I am now sitting at that desk because I bought it off the BBC when the Workshoo shut down. That is the equipment store after the workshop shut down. That’s all the tapes when I was cataloguing them all in the late 90s. That’s the band store where we found half the tapes…
This was during all the tape cataloguing. All the sound effect tapes etc. That is them in their final home at the BBC Archive. 3,500 of them, all with new labels stuck on by me.
So that is a real whistle-stop tour through the history of the workshop. We’ve shown that they made music by cutting up bits of tape and, to be honest, the best person to explain that is Delia herself so I’m going to share this and you can see how it worked…
[Delia on film…] “The sound I want for the rhythm of this piece needs to be a very short dry wooden hollow sound that I can get from this [strikes gourd]. Then the sound for the punctuating cords, I want the sound of a short wire string being plucked. That [playback] is at the speed we recorded it at in the studio. You can get the lower sound we need for the rhythm by slowing down the tape. And the higher sounds by speeding up the tape. These particular pitches we can record on this machine here and then all we have to do is cut the notes to the right length. We can join them together on a loop and listen to them [presses play on tape machine].
Then with the higher notes, of the rhythm, again join them together on the loop and play it in synchronisation with the first tape [adds loop playback from second tape machine]. Over this, we can play the sound of the plucked string, which can be, either in the form of another loop like this…. Or in the form of a band on a tape…”
Blimmin’ good DJ wasn’t she?! Incredible really that that’s how music was made. What you see here is four tape machines and this was their multi-track, there were no multitrack tape recorders back then so everything was done on a different line of tape, one would be bass, one would be the melody, the chords, whatever. And that box – you see John Harrison flicking the four switches at once – starts the four machines. Then you try it again if it didn’t sync. That is how they mix it. That is how the Doctor Who theme was done. The Doctor Who theme was done by building the piece up using multiple layers of tape and then combining them to little sub mixes and then again building those sub mixes up into the final piece.
I’m going to try to share another screen here if this works. So, there are two tapes of Doctor Who theme sounds in the archive. This is the first one. So this tape starts off with the full mix. Another bit. And then lots of other individual bits, which you can make out. At the end when she finished, she bundled these bits of sound on to two reels of tape and joined them all together and put them in the archive. That is the sub-mix of the bass line because there were actually two bass lines. This one is the pluck sound… and this one gives it the der-rum sound at the start of each downbeat. And she mixed those two together by doing a sub mix to give the dum-da-dum. You can see the tricks she was playing. I did a lecture where I showed all these sounds synchronised on screen and somebody noticed this hole in the baseline. This is because this is the point at which the melody comes in and Delia took out those two organ notes so that you just got the dum-da-dum. Brilliant orchestration because it takes away the distraction of the swooped pitches to make sure that the melody really holds its pitch at the top. It’s really, really clever. Anybody complaining I removed that, I didn’t, Delia did!
That is how all this stuff came together. It’s not the only track that was made like that. This is Blue Veils and Golden Sands [makeup tape] and she starts by recording her own voice. [recording played] and she has a piano to pitch to.. It’s already pitched down on this tape. But she records her voice and slowly starts developing it by editing until we start to get what you will recognise as “Blue Veils…”. It’s all built up from the sound of her voice until she starts adding other elements as we go on to the other tape…
There is the voice and there’s the lampshade sound. There’s the heat-haze sound. There’s the oboe sound. These are make-up materials, and all this material found its way into other stuff as well. When we talk about imagination, this is pure imagination, this is inventing techniques on the fly. This is all making use of gear which wasn’t really designed to do this but being incredibly inventive with it and coming up with those amazing pieces that we know and love and revere so much today. What we are trying to do in the archive, and with the DD Day charity is to use this material to drive the imaginations of young people, especially young women coming into music because it’s really important to me that Delia is seen as a real trailblazer and an example, and someone who will foster imaginations to do this kind of thing and come up with new techniques.
One thing we have found with the band now is that we are still coming up with new stuff; we have not come to the end of the road. This is where it started though and it’s very important to see where we have come from. She was brilliant, she really was absolutely brilliant.
JENNA: Excellent! There you are! Cool. A lot of chat actually going on here around that process, the materiality of process and I suppose a question that I had, just to jump in before I come to the other questions, was around Delia’s orchestration you think contemporary technology has impacted that for better or worse because that seems to be the debate that’s being had in the chat?
I don’t know if you had a thought on that Mark and David as well, pitch in.
MARK: Personally when Delia was at work, if she wanted a sound, she had to create it. And this was the same going through the 80s with Doctor Who. Every time an alarm went off or a gun was fired in Doctor Who, Dick Mills or Brian Hodgson would make a new one because they had to. What we have now is so many samples and sound effects libraries that you hear the same phone going off, the same alarm going off, the same gun sounds being used on everything, and I thing that’s an enormous shame. Now I do have a lot of sample libraires, but I also think that electronic music is largely about creating new sounds and new soundscapes. So if you have got time.,, I will spend the first couple of weeks trying to make new sounds for a commission. I think that is really important and it’s also really important not to just be pressing a button an out comes a sound. It’s very important personally to know where a sound comes from and to know how it gets…
A very basic example. If you go out with a digital recorder and record a sample, you will have say, you will record it at 44.1 kilohertz, say, it has a frequency response of up to 20 kHz. If you pitch it down an octave, it now only has a frequency response of up to 10kHz. So you are halving the pitch range by pitching it down. If you record something on tape and you have slowed it down, that didn’t happen. What happened is all the sounds that were above the range of hearing come down into the range of hearing. And that is what makes analogue sound to me, it’s all stuff you wouldn’t normally hear because it’s above 20k and you don’t hear it, suddenly comes into the audible range and that’s part of the magic. If you are going to record sounds digitally, do it at higher sample rates, when you slow them down you get that stuff coming down. It’s a simple trick but a lot of people don’t think about that. If you record at 44.1, you are missing out on a whole universe of aural wonders because you are not bringing them down into the audible spectrum.
That is a basic thing, which we kind of lost, in digital technology.
JENNA: Yes, and that attention to detail to really thinking about sound, rather than just recording it very easily because we can. I’m going to dive into the chat because there are quite a few questions coming in. Did Delia use Dave Young’s Crystal Palace or was this past her time in the BBC?
MARK: It was made in the mid-60s. I’m not off the top of my head aware of her using it. Brian Hodgson used it a lot. If you are a Doctor Who fan and you listen to The Krotons, there is an effect, which is a weird office computer background, that is made with the Crystal Palace. So he had a number of different oscillators set up, each making a different sound, and the Crystal Palace is sequencing through them. I am not aware of Delia using it. She was really into doing what I have just shown you, she loved cutting tape up, speeding things up, slowing things down, loved recording her own voice and making textures out of that. The lampshade appears on everything. Once she found that, it has so many overtones to it, once she found that sound, she was determined to milk it and it appears in absolutely everything because it’s such a rich sound.
There is so much that you could do with it. It had a hard attack where she hits it but you could bow it, record it and slow it down and cut the beginning off. You could do that guitar trick where you pull the volume up as you hit a note, all that kind of stuff.
And they were inventing all the techniques but not in the way that we now use them. But again, context, context, context, Delia wasn’t the only person doing that.
JENNA: Actually that segues nicely into another question from Jonathan – how did Delia keep the sound so clean? There doesn’t seem to be much noise even though there was a lot of re-recording, a good techie question.
MARK: Every time they did another over-recording, they rolled off another octave to keep the hiss down so the raw sounds at the start are absolutely pristine. By the time you get to a master, a lot of them are – Dick Mills says that is why we are so good at spooky music – because we lose all the higher frequencies. If you listen to the Doctor Who theme and Blue Bells, a lot of high frequencies there, she kept the first-generation tapes as long as possible so they could be added at the last moment.
JENNA: Yes. A great question here which I suppose is very big – if Delia was here today what advice do you imagine she would give to early career artists?
MARK: Use your ears but also don’t rely on presets. I mean presets are fantastic, you know, I’ve got all of the Spitfire orchestral samples because there’s no other way of doing that for mock-ups, it’s superb, but just… you know… you can do it on your phone. We did a score recently for a horror film called Possum and most of the sounds we recorded quite deliberately on mobile phones and MP3s and really grunged them up because we wanted it to really sound low-fi. So we deliberately used modern technology in a very grungy way. You can use your phone, you can get high sample rate recording on your phones, go out, record sounds, make samples, if you can get an old tape machine off eBay, you can get them cheap these days, experiment with cutting tape.
I’m so pleased I started in this industry 40 years ago and had to cut tape. We had to cut film. I think that viscerally working with a physical material is something we have lost in the digital technology. So try and do stuff which is very visceral, which uses real sound, which uses tape, which – I mean any way you go with this stuff, you can find that you can make music out of it, you really can. I made a whole piece based off one train pulling into a station.
DAVID: I wanted to follow on from that and just say that Delia was a great educator herself. It’s documented repeatedly, her first year at the Radiophonic Workshop, she helped Luciano Berio deliver a summer school on electronic music at Dartington College. And throughout the 1960s the Workshop is constantly being visited by schools to the point where Desmond Briscoe after a while says “we can’t accept any more schools” because they were going there to find out how electronic music was made. And Delia is really at the forefront of that. Delia is the person that was representing the Radiophonic Workshop on the continent. She goes to conferences and festivals of electronic music in places like Berlin, and is playing some of her work from the Radiophonic Workshop, as well as her colleagues.
And you heard her actually, the clip that Mark played, that was from Tomorrow’s World, she wasn’t hoarding her secrets, she really was somebody who was open to sharing it and giving people that advice. Particularly schools. So, in terms of that question, if she was with us now, I think the sense I get from what I’ve read of them and seen and hear of her, is that she was very generous in that respect.
JENNA: Yes. Just thinking actually back to Mark’s talk before about the Maida Vale studios and like you say, the kind of being a space where music was created so it holds the physical relationship with that music-making in a way that maybe contemporary music spaces don’t today. I think just thinking about the archive and it’s almost like the building itself is an archive of wonderfulness if that is a word! And yes, it’s just – those photographs you were showing – I remember a talk you gave early on where you always talk about the tape being stretched down that long corridor and I kind of remember that really sticking with me, the idea of using the physical space of that building to make music.
MARK: That was Dick’s story.
MARK: He said there was a point where they put the final Doctor Who theme together and it glitched in the middle and they couldn’t work out what it was. So they stretched the tapes all the way down that corridor and walked along it until they saw an edit which was slightly out of line. They knew that’s where the glitch was. Yes. That is the real physicality of technology at the time, you know.
JENNA: Maybe we are being a bit nostalgic about analogue.
MARK: This is the thing. Digital offers total recall so you can come back to a project and pick up where you left off. Which is great for repeatability. But not for spontaneity. And not for happy accidents to happen. When I play live, I use a couple of real analogue synthesisers and I have to re-programme them on the fly so every time I play, say, Paddy Kingsland’s lovely Vespucci the funky bass bit that I play never sounds exactly the same because I’ll never have all the nobs in exactly the same position. That’s part of the fun. The fact is I’ll get a couple of notes in and still be tweaking to get it right. And that’s the way a violinist is constantly adjusting pitch. It’s working with analogue, which has a life of its own and doesn’t always do what you tell it. It’s brilliant.
JENNA: That goes nicely into a question from Emily – obviously tools like the VCS3 is out of most people’s reach in 2021, so what are the tools we think are in the grasp of people today, that preserve the material and analogue process? I don’t know if you have got some thoughts on that?
MARK: There are lots of things available. There are a lot of cheaper synthesisers available now. There is the euro-rack system of modules. You can get pre-configured systems. All you really need is a a couple of oscillators, a ring modulator, filter and an envelope shaper and you can start doing some interesting things and learning about how these things fit together. There is a lot of vintage gear now being remade. The problem is, 20 years ago you could pick up analogue synthesisers for a couple of hundred quid and then eBay came along and people realised the value of this stuff, and some of these synths, Jupiter 8s, they are selling for over 20 grand now, it’s just ridiculous.
MARK: I hesitate to say, but at Behringer, they are producing copies of a lot of old gear now. I don’t necessarily recommend it because a Behringer Moog is not a Moog, but it’s a very nice synthesiser and if you want to learn on something, stuff is available. But if you want to learn analogue techniques, there are lovely little apps for your mobile phone which mimic things like the Korg MS20 and you will learn the way works; it won’t fizz, buzz and break down and make you scream at it the way analogues will, but you will learn how it fits together. There is an awful lot that can be done.
JENNA: Cool. Thank you for that.
Another really interesting question, we have got time for a couple more, so, someone mentioned – lost it now – but about the diversity or at least the gender diversity that was in the Radiophonic Workshop. How did that add to its vibrancy or can you see why or how it added to its vibrancy.
MARK: Well it was co-invented by a woman of course, the brilliant Daphne Oram. Again what I always say is, there were two areas in early 20th century British history where women really did have a shoe in the door: one was engineering and the other was broadcasting. That came about largely because, it was sexist to start with, but all the men were away fighting and the men were flying Spitfires, the women were building them, they really were. The factories were largely populated with women and broadcasting as well, people such as Grace Wyndham Goldie were very high up within the BBC. A lot of studio managers at Droadcasting House like Daphne and Delia, Maddalena. Later on, brilliant, brilliant women and broadcasting has always had a lot of really good gender diversity. The problem is, I think in the late 20th century, we went backwards. I hate to say that, I really do. I think that a lot of nasty things started coming in. But I think that now we are getting much more gender diverse again. Hannah Peel has done an album where she’s been inspired by Delia, Brian and the workshop, created a new album inspired by their library sounds. There are an awful lot of fantastic women artists. Natalie Holt, Ruth Barrett and Nainita Desai are fantastic composers working in the media field. All power to the women and Maddalena (Fagandini), Daphne (Oram), Delia and Elizabeth (Parker) are fantastic examples.
JENNA: Brilliant. That is the perfect ending actually! Thank you very much. The next masterclasses that are coming up which will also take you to some of those new female composers, so do hang out in those masterclasses with some excellent learning there.
So yes, I think go on David you can have the last point.
DAVID: I just feel that Steve’s question has to be answered! Steve’s asking about who Delia was listening to in later years. I was very fortunate to get to interview Clive Blackburn, Delia’s partner, about three or four years ago and I asked Clive about what Delia was listening to. Clive and Delia were partners from 1978 through to Delia’s death in 2001. And it’s really thanks to Clive that we have the archive. Clive said that she was incredibly eclectic in terms of her taste in things to listen to, but the thing that she loved listening to, more than anything, in his words was Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies. So she would keep up-to-date with contemporary music but that was the piece that she kept coming back to. And the other thing I’ll leave you with, he said that of all her works that she was most proud of, the one it was not Doctor Who but it was the Inventions i for Radio. Those were the pieces that she spoke about with most affection – but that was Clive’s recollection.
JENNA: Thank you for answering that, David. So, thank you everybody. Thank you, David and Mark! We all look forward to seeing you at the next one!
DAVID: Which will be with Nainita Desai who Mark mentioned!