Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The Radiophonic Rediscovery of Daphne Oram

Daphne Oram from Setla Productions on Vimeo

Electronic music can seem a strange and distant world, populated by equally strange and distant individuals, including the man-machine (Kraftwerk), the teenage prodigy (Aphex Twin), the defiant non-musician (Eno), the nutty professor (Xenakis) and all manner of socially awkward nerds and fruit loops.

Daphne Oram (1925-2003) was one such eccentric, and she remains remarkable not only for her lifetime of unique work, which was all but forgotten until recently, but also for her unusual status in electronic music as a Daphne and not a Dave.

In 1942, the Wiltshire-born teenager turned down a place at the Royal College of Music to become a studio engineer at the BBC, where she became obsessed with the emergent possibilities of electronic and synthesised sounds. Over the next 15 years, she experimented at the forefront of sound technology, working with tape recorders, sine wave oscillators and any electronic equipment she could find.

Oram apparently struggled to convince the BBC of the value of her work, and would painstakingly set up a makeshift studio after broadcasting had finished each night, before taking it all apart again before morning. Finally, in 1958, the BBC saw the potential of this newfangled electronic musicalia and made Oram the director of a pioneering new department at the corporation – the Radiophonic Workshop.

Read the rest of this blog over here...

The Wire Salon on Daphne Oram is on Thursday 7th April
Cafe Oto, E8 3DL, London, 8pm, £4 on the door

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