The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was one of the sound effects units of the BBC, created in 1958 to produce incidental sounds and new music for radio and, later, television. The unit is known for its experimental and pioneering work in electronic music and music technology, as well as its popular scores for programs such as Doctor Who and Quatermass and the Pit during the 1950s and 1960s.
The original Radiophonic Workshop was based in the BBC's Maida Vale Studios in Delaware Road, Maida Vale, London. The Workshop was closed in March 1998, although much of its traditional work had already been outsourced by 1995. Its members have included Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, David Cain, John Baker, Paddy Kingsland, and Glynis Jones.
The Workshop was set up to satisfy the growing demand in the late 1950s for "radiophonic" sounds from a group of producers and studio managers at the BBC, including Desmond Briscoe, Daphne Oram, Donald McWhinnie, and Frederick Bradnum. For some time there had been much interest in producing innovative music and sounds to go with the pioneering programming of the era, in particular the dramatic output of the BBC Third Programme. Often the sounds required for the atmosphere that programme makers wished to create were unavailable or non-existent through traditional sources and so some, such as the musically trained Oram, would look to new techniques to produce effects and music for their pieces. Much of this interest drew them to musique concrète and tape manipulation techniques, since using these methods could allow them to create soundscapes suitable for the growing range of unconventional programming. When the BBC noticed the rising popularity of this method they established a Radiophonic Effects Committee, setting up the Workshop in rooms 13 & 14 of the BBC's Maida Vale studios with a budget of £2,000. The Workshop contributed articles to magazines of their findings, leading to some of their techniques being borrowed by sixties producers and engineers such as Eddie Kramer.
In 1958, Desmond Briscoe was appointed the Senior Studio Manager with Dick Mills employed as a technical assistant. Much of The Radiophonic Workshop's early work was in effects for radio, in particular experimental drama and "radiophonic poems". Their significant early output included creating effects for the popular science-fiction serial Quatermass and the Pit and memorable comedy sounds for The Goon Show. In 1959, Daphne Oram left the workshop to set up her own studio, the Oramics Studios for Electronic Composition, where she eventually developed her "Oramics" technique of electronic sound creation. That year Maddalena Fagandini joined the workshop from the BBC's Italian Service.
From the early sixties the Workshop began creating television theme tunes and jingles, particularly for low budget schools programmes. The shift from the experimental nature of the late 50s dramas to theme tunes was noticeable enough for one radio presenter to have to remind listeners that the purpose of the Workshop was not pop music. In fact, in 1962 one of Fagandini's interval signals "Time Beat" was reworked with assistance from George Martin (in his pre-Beatles days) and commercially released as a single using the pseudonym Ray Cathode. During this early period the innovative electronic approaches to music in the Workshop began to attract some significant young talent including Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson and John Baker, who was in fact a jazz pianist with an interest in reverse tape effects. Later, in 1967. they were joined by David Cain, a jazz bass player and mathematician.
In these early days, one criticism the Workshop attracted was its policy of not allowing musicians from outside the BBC to use its equipment, which was some of the most advanced in the country at that time not only because of its nature, but also because of the unique combinations and workflows which the Workshop afforded its composers. In later years this would become less important as more electronic equipment became readily available to a wider audience.
In 1963 they were approached by composer Ron Grainer to record a theme tune for the upcoming BBC television series Doctor Who. Presented with the task of "realising" Grainer's score, complete with its descriptions of "sweeps", "swoops", "wind clouds" and "wind bubbles", Delia Derbyshire created a piece of electronic music which has become one of television's most recognisable themes. Over the next quarter-century the Workshop contributed greatly to the programme providing its vast range of unusual sound-effects, from the TARDIS dematerialisation to the Sonic screwdriver, as well as much of the programme's distinctive electronic incidental music, including every score from 1980 to 1985.
In 2018 Matthew Herbert, creative director of The New Radiophonic Workshop, composed the sting used alongside the reveal of the new Doctor Who logo debuting later that year. It has yet to be confirmed as to whether the Workshop will be responsible for music in the series itself.
As the sixties drew to a close many of the techniques used by the Workshop changed as more electronic music began to be produced by synthesisers. Many of the old members of the Workshop were reluctant to use the new instruments, often because of the limitations and unreliable nature of many of the early synthesisers but also, for some, because of a dislike of the sounds they created. This led to many leaving the workshop making way for a new generation of musicians in the early 1970s including Malcolm Clarke, Paddy Kingsland, Roger Limb and Peter Howell. From the early days of a studio full of tape reels and electronic oscillators, the Workshop now found itself in possession of various synthesisers including the EMS VCS 3 and the EMS Synthi 100 nicknamed the "Delaware" by the members of the Workshop.
In 1977, Workshop co-founder Desmond Briscoe retired from organisational duties with Brian Hodgson, returning after a five-year gap away from the Workshop, taking over.
By this point the output of the Workshop was vast with high demand for complete scores for programmes as well as the themes and sound effects for which it had made its name. By the end of the decade the workshop was contributing to over 300 programmes a year from all departments of the BBC and had long since expanded from its early two room setup. Its contributions included material for programmes such as The Body in Question, Blue Peter and Tomorrow's World as well as sound effects for popular science fiction programmes Blake's 7 and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (in both its radio and television forms) by Richard Yeoman-Clark and Paddy Kingsland respectively.
By the early 1990s, BBC Director General John Birt decided that departments were to charge each other and bid against each other for services and to close those that couldn't make enough revenue to cover their costs. In 1991 the Workshop was given five years in which to break even but the cost of keeping the department, which required two dedicated engineers, a software developer (Tony Morton) and a secretary (Maxine) as well as the composers, proved too much and so they failed. Dick Mills, who had worked on Doctor Who since the very beginning, left in 1993, along with Ray White, Senior Engineer, and his assistant, Ray Riley, with the Maida Vale technical team taking on their roll, and engineer Fiona Sleigh smoothing the transition.
In 1995, despite being asked to continue, organiser Brian Hodgson left the Workshop, and his roll was carried out remotely from Broadcasting House by people with other priorities and little enthusiasm. Malcolm Clarke and Roger Limb left. By the end, only one composer, Elizabeth Parker, remained. The Workshop officially closed in March 1998, but Elizabeth stayed on for a couple of months to complete her last job. John Hunt, (who took over much of the specialist editing side of the workshop previously done by Dick Mills) continued working in Studio E, now called “Radiophonics” until well into 2000, occasionally managing to fit in a bit of traditional Radiophonics work. Mark Ayres recalls the Workshop's tape archive being collected on 1 April, exactly 40 years after the department had opened.
Following the decision to close the Radiophonic Workshop, the studios were cleared and most remaining equipment was disposed of, with some of it being sold to the composers. The tape library was largely forgotten until the room was ordered to be “cleared”. Fortunately the Maida Vale studios technical team became aware of this and were able to hide the tapes away in various dark corners of the building before they could be thrown away. Eventually Mark Ayres and Brian Hodgson were commissioned to catalogue its extensive library of recordings with help from other composers.
In May 2009, Dick Mills reunited with former BBC Radiophonic Workshop composers Roger Limb, Paddy Kingsland and Peter Howell with archivist Mark Ayres for a live concert at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, performing as "The Radiophonic Workshop". The composers, backed by a small brass section and a live drummer, performed a large number of their BBC-commissioned musical works including sections of incidental music from The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and Doctor Who (including a medley of Mark Ayres's work) as well as some collaborative compositions written specifically for the Roundhouse concert.
The live performances were mixed in surround sound and interspersed with musical video montage tributes of deceased members of the Workshop including Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire and John Baker. The two and a half hour event climaxed with live performances of the Derbyshire and Peter Howell arrangements of Doctor Who, segueing into a new Radiophonic version of the theme tune. Celebrated attendees included actor/writer/composer Peter Serafinowicz and satirist/writer/broadcaster Victor Lewis-Smith. Multiple cameras recorded the event but it has yet to be broadcast or released in any form, although amateur footage of the event can be seen on YouTube.
In 2013 the original members of the Workshop regrouped again for a more concerted program of live appearances. Performing as 'The Radiophonic Workshop' (dropping the BBC prefix) they were joined by drummer Kieron Pepper (The Prodigy, Dead Kids, OutPatient) and Bob Earland from Clor. They also embarked on a new recording project set for release in Autumn of 2014. This involved collaborations with contemporary electronic musicians, video artists, DJs, remixers, poets, writers and singers. Live appearances in 2013 included Festival Number 6 at Portmeirion, Wales in September and The London Electronic Arts Festival in November. The shows featured archive TV and visuals from many of the TV and film soundtracks that the Radiophonic Workshop contributed to between 1958 and 1998 when the unit was deactivated. The Radiophonic Workshop appeared on BBC television's The One Show on 20 November 2013 playing a unique version of the Doctor Who Theme that combined Delia Derbyshire's original source tapes and Peter Howell's 1980 realisation of the Ron Grainer composition. Radio 6 Music's Marc Riley played host to a Radiophonic Workshop session where they delivered live versions of Roger Limb's Incubus, Paddy Kingsland's Vespucci, the Doctor Who Medley and a new composition - Electricity Language and Me (by American poet Peter Adam Salomon), featuring DJ Andrew Weatherall as the narrative voice for this classic piece of Radiophonic sound design. There were a number of radio, online and print interviews done at the time to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who.
The Workshop's early archive recordings were also reissued on vinyl in November 2013 to accompany this renewed activity. In 2014, "The Radiophonic Workshop" appeared at festivals including End of the Road Festival, and the reissue programme of earlier work from their extensive catalogue continues along with a planned exploration of previously unheard or rare archive recordings.
In September 2012 Arts Council England and the BBC announced a joint venture whereby the concept of the Radiophonic Workshop would be revived as an online venture, with seven new, non-original composers and musicians. The new Workshop was based online at The Space, a joint venture between the BBC and Arts Council England. Composer Matthew Herbert was appointed the new Creative Director, and worked alongside Micachu, Yann Seznec, Max de Wardener, Patrick Bergel, James Mather, theatre director Lyndsey Turner and broadcast technologist Tony Churnside.
Composer Matthew Herbert's first work for The New Radiophonic Workshop takes audio from 25 previous projects featured on the website - from theater performances to poetry readings, creating a "curious murmur of activity". It can be heard by clicking on a button labeled "listen to The Space" at the top of any page on the website.
The New Radiophonic Workshop, not to be confused with the reactivated Radiophonic Workshop whose members are original BBC personnel, an entirely separate entity from the original unit, was assembled by Mathew Herbert as an online collective of composers for The Space arts project.
The techniques initially used by the Radiophonic Workshop were closely related to those used in musique concrète; new sounds for programs were created by using recordings of everyday sounds such as voices, bells or gravel as raw material for "radiophonic" manipulations. In these manipulations, audio tape could be played back at different speeds (altering a sound's pitch), reversed, cut and joined, or processed using reverb or equalisation. The most famous of the Workshop's creations using 'radiophonic' techniques include the Doctor Who theme music, which Delia Derbyshire created using a plucked string, 12 oscillators and a lot of tape manipulation; and the sound of the TARDIS (the Doctor's time machine) materialising and dematerialising, which was created by Brian Hodgson running his keys along the rusty bass strings of a broken piano, with the recording slowed down to make an even lower sound.
Much of the equipment used by the Workshop in the earlier years of its operation in the late 1950s was semi-professional and was passed down from other departments, though two giant professional tape-recorders made an early centrepiece. Reverberation was obtained using an echo chamber, a basement room with bare painted walls empty except for loudspeakers and microphones. Due to the considerable technical challenges faced by the Workshop and BBC traditions, staff initially worked in pairs with one person assigned to the technical aspects of the work and the other to the artistic direction.
The Radiophonic Workshop published "Radiophonics in the BBC" in November 1963, listing all equipment used in their two workshops, diagrams of several systems, and a number of anecdotes. The Radiophonic Workshop also contributed articles to magazines of its experiments, complete with instructions and wiring diagrams.
British psychedelic rock group Pink Floyd made a memorable trip to the workshop in 1967. They had employed tape loops, sound effects, found sounds and the principles of musique concrete on their debut album The Piper At The Gates of Dawn from that same year. Other fans of the Radiophonic Workshop included The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones – who visited in 1968 – and Roger Mayer, who supplied guitar pedals to Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. Phil Manzanera has also cited the Workshop as an influence on the sound of his group Roxy Music.
In 1997 the electronic dance music magazine Mixmag described the Workshop as, "the unsung heroes of British electronica". Their work has been sampled extensively by contemporary electronic artists.
The Doctor Who theme music was provided by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop from 1963 to 1985. From 1986 to the programme's demise the theme was provided by freelance musicians. Between 1980 and 1985 the complete incidental scores for the programme were provided in-house by the Workshop. Below is a complete list of incidental music provided by the Radiophonic Workshop for the programme.
This is the discography of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a British electronic music group. It consists of releases of music and sound effects.BBC Radiophonic Workshop – 21
BBC Radiophonic Workshop – 21 is a compilation by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to celebrate their 21st anniversary in 1979. It was compiled as an overview of their work both old and new, showcasing the changes in the Workshop as they developed from backroom sound effects suppliers for BBC Radio to full-fledged in-house music composers for the whole of the corporation. It demonstrates the move from the musique concrète and tape-manipulation techniques used in the early days, to the synthesiser works of the 1970s. The first side of the album consisted of material from 1958 to 1971, covering their early work creating jingles, sound-effects and some incidental music. This side includes the first material by Workshop founder Desmond Briscoe to be commercially released, as well as sound effects from The Goon Show, Maddalena Fagandini's interval signal that later became "Time Beat", some of Delia Derbyshire's experimental work and the pilot episode version of the Doctor Who theme music. The second side of the record covered the period between 1971–1979, including Richard Yeoman-Clark material from popular BBC series Blake's 7 and Peter Howell's vocoder heavy "Greenwich Chorus" theme for The Body in Question. It was reissued on CD by Silva Screen Records on 22 April 2016.BBC Radiophonic Workshop – A Retrospective
BBC Radiophonic Workshop – A Retrospective is a 2008 compilation of music and effects from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was released to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the workshop and includes material ranging from then to its closure. Many of the tracks were previously released on the BBC Radiophonic Workshop - 21 and The Soundhouse.David Cain (composer)
David Cain (born 1941) was a composer and technician for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. He was educated at Imperial College London, where he earned a degree in mathematics. In 1963, he joined the BBC as a studio manager, specialising in radio drama. He transferred to the Radiophonic Workshop in 1967 where he composed various jingles and signature tunes as well as the complete incidental music for the BBC's radio productions of The War of the Worlds in 1967, and The Hobbit in 1968. He also produced the Workshop's 1973 adaptation of Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. He remained with the Radiophonic Workshop until 1973. His 30-second composition "Crossbeat" was used as the original theme for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's morning radio current affairs program AM, which premiered in 1967.Fourth Dimension (Radiophonic album)
Fourth Dimension is a 1973 BBC Records release featuring recordings created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop composer Paddy Kingsland. Although it was credited to "The BBC Radiophonic Workshop" it was the work of Kingsland alone, and was the first album of Workshop music to feature only one artist. It features theme tunes used by BBC radio and television. The music prominently features VCS 3 and "Delaware" Synthi 100 synthesisers, both from Electronic Music Studios (London) Ltd, with a standard rock-based session band providing backing. The track "Reg" featured as the B-side to the 1973 single release of the Doctor Who theme.Glynis Jones (composer)
Glynis Jones was a composer, musician and member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. She joined the Workshop in 1973. In 1976, she produced the album Out of This World, on which some of her material appears. Her compositions also feature on the album The Radiophonic Workshop.
Currently living in West LondonJonathan Gibbs (composer)
Jonathan Gibbs is a British composer. Between 1983 and 1985 he worked at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. His work at the workshop included providing the scores for the Doctor Who stories The King's Demons, Warriors of the Deep, Vengeance on Varos and The Mark of the Rani.List of Doctor Who music releases
This is a list of music releases from and relating to the BBC television series Doctor Who. It is split into two sections: One for soundtracks of music from the show and its spinoffs, and one for music relating to the series, mainly novelty or tribute releases.Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is a 2003 limited edition 4X10" vinyl compilation collecting and re-ordering the compilations BBC Radiophonic Music and The Radiophonic Workshop, including the bonus tracks from their 2002 CD re-releases. It featured the remasters provided by Mark Ayres for the original re-releases. The tracks were ordered in such a way as to provide Delia Derbyshire and John Baker with the first records dedicated solely to their work. The album was released on electronic musician Richard D. James' Rephlex Records label.Paddy Kingsland
Paddy Kingsland (born 30 January 1947) is a composer of electronic music best known for his incidental music for science fiction series on BBC radio and television whilst working at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Educated at Eggars Grammar School, Alton, in Hampshire, he joined the BBC as a tape editor before moving on to become a studio manager for BBC Radio 1. In 1970 he joined the Radiophonic Workshop where he remained until 1981. His initial work was mostly signature tunes for BBC radio and TV programmes before going on to record incidental music for programmes including The Changes, two versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the second radio series and the TV adaptation), as well as several serials of Doctor Who. His work on the latter series included incidental music for several serials in the early 1980s.
Other well-known series which contained music composed by Paddy Kingsland are Around the World in 80 Days and Pole to Pole, both travel series by Michael Palin. He also composed music for many schools' television series including Words and Pictures, Rat-a-tat-tat, Watch, Numbercrew, Storytime, English Express, Music Makers, Hotch Potch House and the Look and Read stories "Joe and the Sheep Rustlers" and "The Boy from Space". And Blips
Since leaving the BBC, Kingsland has composed music for the KPM music library, television, commercials and corporate videos. He also owns his own studio, PK Studios.
In 1973, Fourth Dimension, a compilation of his early signature tune work for the Radiophonic Workshop, was released and in 2002 his incidental scores for the Doctor Who serials "Meglos" and "Full Circle" featured as part of the Doctor Who at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop compilation series. Eight albums of his library music work have been issued by KPM.Radiophonic Workshop (2014 album)
Radiophonic Workshop is a 2014 album of recordings created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It was only available through the Bowers and Wilkins's Society of Sound music subscription service.The Soundhouse
The Soundhouse is a 1983 compilation released by BBC Records of music from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It featured music composed at the Workshop in the period since the previous compilation, BBC Radiophonic Workshop - 21. During the gap between releases, many advances had been made in the use of computer technology to produce electronic music and this was reflected on the compilation with much of the material having been performed using the Fairlight CMI, the first digital sampling synthesiser. The album included two tracks by Paddy Kingsland used in the television version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, three electronic realisations of classical compositions and an original collaboration featuring five of the Radiophonic Workshop members entitled "Radiophonic Rock".Through a Glass Darkly (album)
Through A Glass Darkly is a 1978 album by Peter Howell and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. It featured six original instrumental compositions including "Through A Glass Darkly - A Lyrical Adventure", a 19-minute track which took up the whole of the first side of the record. Much of the music on the album leaned far more towards the prog rock of the 1970s than the previous output by the Radiophonic Workshop. The track "The Astronauts" later featured as the B-side to the 1980 single release of Howell's arrangement of the Doctor Who theme.