It’s 50 years since the first episode of Dr. Who aired on the BBC. How will you celebrate? I’m reading this wonder tract from The Register.com (British Tech website) and marveling both at the detail and expertise that went into original recordings made by Derbyshire and the subsequent writing that tells the history of it. Amazing story-telling and amazing work all in one.
In the pre-computer, pre-synthesizer, pre-sampler era everything had to be done using razor blades and 1/4-1/2″ audio tape. There were no midi timing signals or timecode, there were only the splices and the china marker on the back side to tell where things go. And in addition to that there was the composition and creation of the sounds that first needed to be captured to tape. Whether it was test tone generators or found sound, it all was fodder for the final mix. And since none of these items actually were not accurate they needed to be further processed into something like scalar notes. This was the alchemy and magic that went into recording of the original Dr. Who theme.
This article is rather long, but totally worth it as it goes into the greatest detail to date of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and Delia Derbyshire got the Dr. Who theme recorded and on air back in Nov. 1963.
- Delia and the Doctor: How to cook up a tune for a Time Lord (go.theregister.com)
- Radiophonic Workshop: the shadowy pioneers of electronic sound (theguardian.com)
- Late Night: Delia Derbyshire and the Music of Doctor Who (firedoglake.com)