Delia Derbyshire

Delia Derbyshire was one of the pioneers of electronic sound, and is only now beginning to be recognized for her influence.

Perhaps she is most famous for her uncredited but pivotal role in the creation of the original theme music for "Doctor Who".  Her entirely electronic rendition of the piece is so powerful that the unique sounds she brought to it have persisted through its many revisions.

Most of the groundbreaking work she and her colleagues performed was done in anonymity at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  Ron Grainer composed the "Doctor Who" theme but it is unlikely he could have imagined the amazing new sounds she had created from scratch.  After first hearing it he asked, "Did I write that?" to which Derbyshire replied, "Most of it."

Granier requested that she share the composition credit for the piece, but the BBC declined to do so.  This decision (which apparently stands to this day as she is still absent from modern "Doctor Who" credits) certainly led in some degree to the years of obscurity she endured after leaving the BBC.

At the end of her life she saw electronic music emerge from the dark ages of the 70s and 80s and begin to realize the potential she saw in it 40 years before.  As new musicians discover the pure expressive possibilities of creating entirely new sounds, they have also discovered the amazing work of Delia Derbyshire and her contemporaries and their lasting impact on music.

Tags: music

James E. Blair

I love hacking Free Software and have been fortunate to do so professionally with some wonderful people and organizations throughout my career. This is my blog.