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Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Monograph 51: Early BBC Radiophonic Workshop Pamphlet

It’s been over 50 years since the BBC saw fit to create its own applied laboratory for electronic audio — which at the time meant, to a great extent, the creative use of tape recordings and turntables. That lab was known as the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and it existed from 1958 through 1998, during which time it benefited from the efforts of such early electronic music figures as Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram, and produced untold hours of sounds and music (the distinction between which was a source of near-constant inter-departmental drama) for BBC radio and television, including, perhaps most famously, the theme song (aka “signature tune”) for Doctor Who.

Sonic Warfare: A gadget created early in the life of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop: “weighs only 12 lb.”

In the process of reviewing a recent book on the Workshop — Special Sound (Oxford), by Louis Niebur — for another publication (that review should be out in January), I was introduced by a friend to an online trove of BBC engineering monographs, some of which include Radiophonic-specific documentation. There’s one in particular, from 1963, that’s entirely about the Radiophonic activities. And it’s the subject of my latest post at boingboing,net, “BBC Engineering Monographs from 1950s and ’60s: Once 5 Shillings, Now Free.”

By Marc Weidenbaum

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