Delia Derbyshire

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About Delia Derbyshire

An unsung genius of early electronic music, Delia Derbyshire shattered gender barriers as doyenne of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a pioneering electronic-based studio that produced incidental music and themes for countless U.K. radio and TV programs. Trained in mathematics and music, Derbyshire joined the BBC as a studio manager in 1960--her aptitude with electronics and the physics of sound making her a perfect fit for the fledgling studio. In an era before commercially-available synthesizers and sequencers, Derbyshire painstakingly assembled soundscapes by generating tones from primitive oscillators, varying the playback speed, then splicing and looping recorded tape to get the desired melodic effects. Her most famous piece, the theme for the sci-fi TV series DOCTOR WHO, became an iconic example of the creative potential of electronic music, its unearthly sounds influencing a generation of future music makers. Derbyshire left the BBC in 1973 and worked sporadically in music, starting a collaboration with long-time fan Peter Kember (Spacemen 3) in the late-‘90s. She died in 2001 from renal failure.

Coventry, England
May 5, 1937

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