Delia Derbyshire had quite an amazing life. The daughter of a sheet metal worker from Coventry, she was evacuated during WWII to Lancashire at the age of 3. Very precocious, at the age of 4 she taught others in her class to read and write. At the age of 8, her parent bought her a piano, but she excelled in Maths and got a scholarship to Cambridge to study at a time when only 1 in 10 students there were women. Delia got her BA in math and music, specializing in medieval music. After graduating, she told career counselors she wanted to work with sound, and they suggested she work with the deaf. She toddled off to Geneva, where she taught piano to the children of the British Consul-General and maths to the children of the South American and Canadian diplomats. After returning to England, she worked first for Decca Records as an assistant sound engineer and then heard about the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, where she learned the art of tape splicing and looping and with the newly invented magnetic tape recorders, she recorded the sound of objects and through manipulation turned them into musique concrète. She came to fame after composing the opening music to the series Dr. Who in 1963 based on a theme by Ron Grainer.
I wonder where Steven Reich, Philip Glass, the Who, the Talking Heads, and others would have been without her. At the bottom of these videos, there’s a documentary about her called “The Delian Mode.”
Continue reading “May 5, Birthday of Delia Derbyshire (1937 – 2001)”