Delia Derbyshire, braindance oracle

July 18th, 2008  |  Tags: , ,

Pioneering sound designer and electronic musician Delia Derbyshire apparently had a stash of hundreds of unreleased recordings in her attic when she died in 2001; their existence became public knowledge this week. The one that will probably get the most nerd attention is this glitchy excerpt, which Paul Hartnoll describes by saying that it “could be coming out next week on Warp Records.”

I think Hartnoll is only slightly hyperbolic with “next week”, but seriously, listen to that short track. Does it sound like it’s 40 years old, or does it sound like Artificial Intelligence? It could easily be early Autechre or pre-RDJ Aphex Twin.

Think about the pop-culture climate of the day: #1 pop songs in the late 1960s included such innovative, groundbreaking compositions as “Hello, I Love You” and “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” Consider also that Derbyshire wasn’t using synthesizers: just manipulated sounds (from tape), electronic oscillators, and various filters and signal modulators. The article quotes Hartnoll again, regarding Derbyshire’s retirement from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop: “I think she got a bit disheartened and a bit bored with it all when the synthesizer came along and it all became a little too easy.”

Pretty much.

RIYL: electronic lapels, Stockhausen on AFX and vice versa. If electronic oscillators and musique concrète are too modern for you, why not build a cornemuse?