Boomkat Product Review:
This hugely influential, definitive collection from electronic music pioneer and founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Daphne Oram, has been out of print on vinyl since 2013 and is now thankfully available again via Modern Love sidelabel, Young Americans.
Throughout her life, Oram was a wildly original musician, inventor and theorist who refused to bow to convention. While Delia Derbyshire had more or less become a household name, it was only when Clive Graham compiled ‘Oramics' for a CD release in 2007 that Daphne's legacy started to extend beyond the fringes. In the intervening years (aided by the work of the Daphne Oram Trust and Oram’s archive at Goldsmith’s in London) there have been countless articles, features, a play, an exhibition at the science museum and even a creative arts building and several record labels and arts awards named in Daphne’s honour - going some way to restore her place as a recognised pioneer of electronic music.
To recap, Oram was the founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, a department she more or less single-handedly created in 1958 camping out at the BBC studios for nights on end splicing tapes and working with various modified machines to carefully arrange her abstract soundscapes. Eventually the BBC bent under her pressure and, in studio 13, created the soon-to-be-legendary Radiophonic Workshop - with Oram its first director.
Among her countless other achievements, Oram is also cited as the first woman to design and build an electronic musical instrument, one that worked around the 'drawn-sound' technique whereby strips of 35mm film would be manipulated before being fed into her home-made 'Oramics' machine which would convert and 'read' the film into sound. She was also a prolific writer and lecturer on electronic music and studio techniques, developing concepts of spatial sound years before terms like "spatial sound” were even used.
Despite her considerable and historic list of achievements, Oram's life and work remained largely unknown by the wider public for many years until Clive Graham compiled this set. Spanning 44 tracks, it demonstrates Oram's work as some of the most varied and groundbreaking electronic music ever made. As opposed to so much of the Radiophonic-era material that has surfaced over the last few decades, Oram's work is often characterised by a much more layered and introspective quality, offsetting playful interludes and commercial recordings with beautiful, immersive pieces like the breathtaking "Pulse Persephone" and "Bird of Parallax” - highly atmospheric and experimental variants of musique concrète and tape music that still take our breath away 45 years later.
It's impossible to over-emphasise the importance and influence of the material compiled on ‘Oramics’, a set that should be considered compulsory listening for anyone with even just a passing interest in electronic music.