No institution has had a greater impact on the development of electronic music than the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Superlatives are easy to come by when the BBC Radiophonic Workshop are concerned. For 40 years, the sound effects studio defined the sonic universe of generations of children and adults with iconic soundtracks to the most successful TV shows in the UK. Founded by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram in the basement at of the BBC’s Abbey Road studios in 1958, the Workshop drew on the principles of musique concrète to manipulate sound in pioneering, often ad-hoc ways, influencing everyone from Paul McCartney and Mike Oldfield to Aphex Twin and The Horrors over a remarkable life-span.
Alongside their gravitas within musical circles, the Workshop had a profound and sometimes even unconscious impact on society at large, and as latter day associate composer and archivist Mark Ayres remembers, growing up as a child of the 1960’s “the sound of the Radiophonic Workshop is the sound of my childhood”. Judging by the reception the group have received at recent live shows, there are whole generations that share this sentiment.
Reforming as a live outfit last year to play shows in connection with the 50th anniversary of Dr. Who, the Workshop have just announced their first live tour, taking in eight dates across the UK, where they’ll be reeling off old favourites – Dr. Who, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Timewatch, Newsround and Quatermass to name a few – as well as new material from forthcoming album of collaborations entitled Electricity.
In this short documentary we speak in-depth to five originals members of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop including studio partner to Delia Derbyshire and founding member Dick Mills, alongside original Workshop composers Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb, Peter Howell and Mark Ayres. Together they chart the dynamic, frontier spirit of the Workshop as it grappled with changing technologies from tape looping through the synthesizer era to the brave new world of digital recording.
Visit the BBC Radiophonic Workshop website for more info about the band’s forthcoming live shows.