Manchester

Celebrating Doctor Who pioneer Delia Derbyshire

Delia Derbyshire
Image caption Delia Derbyshire created the iconic arrangement of Ron Grainer's Doctor Who theme

Twelve years after her death, a group of artists and musicians are preparing to celebrate the work of electronic music pioneer, Delia Derbyshire.

Best known for her arrangement of the Doctor Who theme tune, the Coventry-born composer was part of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, where she created sounds which would influence pop and electronic music for decades to come.

When she died in 2001, she left behind hundreds of tapes, which have since been digitised to form an archive held by the University of Manchester.

As a result, the city's Band On The Wall will be the venue for the first Delia Derbyshire Day, a mini symposium and live night celebrating all things Delia.

'Clever lass'

Delia Darlings, the group which has put together the tribute event, have had access to her archive, gathering together excerpts to play on the day and working on their own creations using what was on offer.

Experimental musician Caro C is one of the Darlings. She said listening to Derbyshire's work was both "humbling and enchanting".

"On some of the tapes you can actually hear a piece progressing, which was a lovely insight into her working methods.

"It was also very entertaining, as there is humour in her music at times."

She said that while the recordings were the most interesting part of the archive, she was "also rather captivated by her school books, which she kept and I think someone found in their attic and donated".

"There were some classic lines in her school books that with hindsight you can see her career and character there already."

She said that the archive revealed Derbyshire as "a most interesting character who really did dare to be rare and do her thing".

"She was obviously a clever lass with her maths and music degree at Cambridge and she was renowned for carrying around her tables of algorithms for making music and analysing overtones."

Ultimately though, she said what struck her most about the archive was the quality of Derbyshire's work and its avant-garde style.

"Listening to only a small part of her 267 audio tapes, I was humbled by the grace and finesse of her sound and mixes," she said.

"[What strikes you is] the sheer genre defying and variety of pieces she came up with, from minimal techno, to synth pop in 1971 via sublime ambient pieces and industrial rhythms."

'Increasing visibility'

That variety is what led her to work with fellow Manchester-based composer Ailis Ni Riain and artist Naomi Kashiwagi on Delia Derbyshire Day.

Image caption Caro C said investigating the archive was "humbling and enchanting"

She said the trio "settled upon a day dedicated to honouring Delia's wonderful work" after listening to the archive.

"We felt increasing the visibility of her amazing work as a pioneer in the UK was still of relevance today," she said.

It will see experts discuss Derbyshire's "psycho-acoustics", the sound experiments she created at the BBC, and include a screening of Kara Blake's award-winning film, The Delian Mode.

There will also be a performance by Delia Darlings of the work they have created from Derbyshire's recordings.

For Caro C though, the day is "ultimately" about one thing.

"It is an opportunity to find out more and celebrate Delia's work and legacy with real humans - not online".

Delia Derbyshire Day will take place at Band On The Wall in Manchester on Saturday 12 January 2013.

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