Issue 28 PDF Edition
RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP – Underworld – Cosey Fanni Tutti – Martin Hannett – Orbital – Daft Punk – And so much more…
If you were a child in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland any time between the 1960s and the end of the 1980s, chances are you’re better acquainted with the music of the Radiophonic Workshop than you might think, assuming you watched telly or went to school.
While the electronic music studios of France and West Germany had a reputation for highbrow experimental music and the development of musique concreté and electronic sound generation (bonjour Pierre Schaeffer et Pierre Henry, guten tag Karlheinz Stockhausen), Auntie Beeb chucked a few quid and some war surplus junk into a converted skating rink in Delaware Road in west London and told Daphne Oram and Desmond Briscoe to use it to make sound effects and music for BBC radio programmes.
With a raft of talented technicians and composers, that’s precisely want they did. They churned out innovative pieces of new music in snippets for theme tunes, station jingles, and soundtracks and atmospheres for radio plays and, increasingly, TV dramas and children’s programming. These strange new sounds permeated the national consciousness via the likes of ‘Quatermass And The Pit’, ’Doctor Who’.
The work of Radiophonic Workshop was a kind of sonic inoculation, which created a generation for whom electronic sound was comforting and familiar. That’s why Orbital sampled Radiophonic composer Jon Baker’s ‘New Worlds’, which was used on ‘John Craven’s Newsround’ for their big field crowd pleasing tune ’Spare Parts Express’. It’s why Ray Manzanera says the Radiophonic Workshop influenced Roxy Music, to pluck a coup of random examples. It’s also why we’ve interviewed the Radiophonic Workshop members on the eve of the release of their first proper album outside the BBC’s release schedules of library music and what were essentially Radiophonic novelty records, in the month that marks Delia Derbyshire’s 80th birthday.
And what might the chances be that our other interviewees this month would acknowledge a debt of influence to the Radiophonic Workshop? Underworld, perhaps? Their new live show and recent revisiting of their 1990s mega-mega-white-thing hit ‘Born Slippy’ for ‘Trainspotting 2’ are both truly spectacular, and they’re certainly children of the Radiophonic era. We talk to Cosey Fanni Tutti about her imminent autobiography which recounts her startling life at the edge of sound and performance art. She has long been driven by a similar fearless urge to experiment and explore, as was Martin Hannett, who shaped the sound of young Manchester in the late 1970s and whose work we examine in this issue.
There’s plenty more in this edition of Electronic Sound. It’s all about the people who always strive to bring new sounds, experiences and ideas to the table. And probably some robots.