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Remembering Delia Derbyshire

3rd May 2012

Delia Derbyshire, the sound pioneer who helped realise the original theme music for Doctor Who, would have been 75 years old this weekend.

Delia Derbyshire was born May 5, 1937 and remains best known for her part in creating the original opening music for Doctor Who. The story goes that Ron Grainer, the theme's composer, heard Delia's realisation of it and could barely believe how good it sounded. 'Did I really write this?' he asked. 'Most of it,' Delia replied.

She had joined the BBC in 1960 as a trainee studio manager but soon transferred to the Radiophonic Workshop, the unit set up to create new music and sound effects for radio and latterly television. The original noise of the TARDIS dematerialising, for instance, was created by the Workshop in the early 1960s. In a world without the electronic synthesisers and multi-track recorders that we take for granted today, the Workshop had to create most sounds from scratch, using 'concrete' sources ranging from oscillators to egg whisks. Delia's innovative and intuitive approach helped usher in an era that became known as the Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop, producing music and sound effects that resonate to this day.

After over a decade at the BBC she left in 1973, eventually experimenting with various different career paths. In her later years, however, she renewed her interest in electronic music, encouraged by the next generation for whom she had become a cult figure.

Her standing in the world of audio invention led to collaborations with musicians as varied as Paul McCartney and Sonic Boom. Brian Hodgson, who created the special sounds used in dozens of the earliest Doctor Who adventures, summed up the feelings of many when he admitted he was 'awed by her talent'.

Delia Ann Derbyshire, composer, arranger and audio pioneer died July 3, 2001.

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