01 March 2012
Pioneer Women in Electronic Music
Day 1 Delia Derbyshire
Over the next seven days leading up to International Women's Day, we will be talking about pioneer women in electronic music.
For the first of our series of blogs about female pioneers of audio recording and electronic music, we pay tribute to ‘Sculptress of Sound’ Delia Derbyshire.
The ‘woman behind the wobbulator’ worked briefly for the United Nations in Geneva following her rejected application for Decca Recording Studios in London (they ‘did not employ women in [their] recording studios’) but despite being knocked back by various companies she continued to pursue her passion which would eventually lead her to land an opportunity with the BBC in 1960 as a trainee assistant studio manager...
The senior studio executive at Maida Vale Studios, Desmond Briscoe, soon realised that the tall, quiet, auburn-haired Delia was not only enthusiastic but enormously creative and talented and ‘greatly admired her analytical approach to synthesise complex sounds from electronic sources’. ‘The mathematics of sound,’ he said, ‘came naturally’ and as a result he invited her to join their experimental and innovative Radiophonic Workshop in 1962 where she was to stay for over ten years.
With no way of knowing how influential her work at the Radiophonic Workshop would become over the following decades, one of her first assignments was to realise one of the first electronic signature tunes ever used on television: Ron Grainer's score for the new science fiction series, Dr Who. Delia and her engineer Dick Mills had to create each sound and shape them for use on the track afterwards from scratch using innovative techniques.
You can watch the whole ‘Sculptress of Sound’ documentary here: