Delia Derbyshire: Pioneer of Electronic Music

Unsung hero Delia Derbyshire was the woman behind the original Dr. Who theme song at the BBC’s Radiophonic studio. She was one of the first electronic musicians and her music was highly influential on the genre. Listening to her work now, it’s hard to believe it came out in the 1960’s.

Delia believed that the way the ear / brain perceives sound should have dominance over any basic mathematical theory, but as with most things in life it is important to know the rules in order to advantageously bend or break them.

Delia’s works from the 60s and 70s continue to be used on radio and TV some 30 years later, and her music has given her legendary status with releases in Sweden and Japan. She is also constantly mentioned, credited and covered by bands from Add n to (x) and Sonic Boom to Aphex Twin and The Chemical Brothers.

A recent Guardian article called her ‘the unsung heroine of British electronic music’, probably because of the way her infectious enthusiasm subtly cross-pollinated the minds of many creative people. She had exploratory encounters with Paul McCartney, Karlheinz Stockhausen, George Martin, Pink Floyd, Brian Jones, Anthony Newley, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson.

Check out the video below for one of my favorite Delia Derbyshire songs and read more about her incredible work here.

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  1. Check out the BBC documentary ‘Alchemists of Sound’ for a great look at Delia and other pioneers of early electronic music. In particular there’s a really cool part where they show how Delia built up the Dr. Who theme from tape loops, check it out (and the whole doc) here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFznOcOOSec#t=937

  2. Delia Derbyshire Radio Scotland interview 1997 Part 1


    Delia Derbyshire Radio Scotland interview 1997 Part 2


  3. Make sure you check out the Radiophonic Workshop where it started out:


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