Boomkat Product Review:
Daphne Oram might not be a name as familiar as, say Delia Derbyshire or Raymond Scott, but she is one of the unsung heroes of the early electronics movement, and even more interestingly was the founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop! Are you impressed yet? Well you should be, Daphne joined the BBC at a mere 17 years of age back in 1942 (turning down a place at the Royal Academy of Music) and from there on she badgered the company endlessly to start investing in electronic music. She was convinced of the potential of this new sound and was totally obsessed with pioneering it, to the point where she would camp out at the BBC studios for nights on end splicing tapes and working with various modified machines to create her abstract soundscapes. Eventually the BBC bent under her pressure and in studio 13 created the soon-to-be-legendary Radiophonic Workshop, with Daphne Oram as the director. Sadly this involvement was to be short lived as Daphne decided she was unhappy to be writing music simply to be heard in the background of some science fiction television show or another, and left the company to start her own studio and pioneer her own musical instrument. Named the Oramics system, this incredible device allowed her to 'draw' sound, and had the synthesizer's oscillators, pitch, volume, vibrato and more controlled by hand drawn slides. It was an incredibly original way to think about sound creation, and her work was totally pioneering in the genre - allowing her to make sounds and compositions totally unlike anything heard before. Daphne continued to experiment with music using the Oramics system and then an Apple II computer until she had a stroke in 1994, and was up until that time totally dedicated to experimental electronic music. Her work is here presented across two discs and shows many of her early compositions for film and television and also some later work (post 1966) which made use of the Oramics system. Having only managed to hear a very small amount of Daphne's work before (notably the track 'Four Aspects' on Sub Rosa's influential 'An Anthology of Noise and Electronic Music #2') it is an absolute revelation hearing this collection. Each track shows just how important she was on the development of music we know and love so dearly - Delia Derbyshire for instance was a devoted follower of hers, and is quoted as saying she was "one of the most important people in the history of electronic music". This sentiment is clearly evident as we are taken through a journey of devastatingly complex electronic and concrete music, music that would give any number of the more well-known composers a run for their money. Possibly one of the finest collections of early electronic music we've ever had through our doors, this is a stunning presentation of a truly remarkable woman's work - I think we've found our holy grail. Unmissable.