White Rose University Consortium logo
University of Leeds logo University of Sheffield logo York University logo

Delia Derbyshire: Sound and Music for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 1962-1973

Winter, Teresa (2015) Delia Derbyshire: Sound and Music for the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 1962-1973. PhD thesis, University of York.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

Download (1581Kb) | Preview


This thesis explores the electronic music and sound created by Delia Derbyshire in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop between 1962 and 1973. After her resignation from the BBC in the early 1970s, the scope and breadth of her musical work there became obscured, and so this research is primarily presented as an open-ended enquiry into that work. During the course of my enquiries, I found a much wider variety of music than the popular perception of Derbyshire suggests: it ranged from theme tunes to children’s television programmes to concrete poetry to intricate experimental soundscapes of synthesis. While her most famous work, the theme to the science fiction television programme Doctor Who (1963) has been discussed many times, because of the popularity of the show, most of the pieces here have not previously received detailed attention. Some are not widely available at all and so are practically unknown and unexplored. Despite being the first institutional electronic music studio in Britain, the Workshop’s role in broadcasting, rather than autonomous music, has resulted in it being overlooked in historical accounts of electronic music, and very little research has been undertaken to discover more about the contents of its extensive archived back catalogue. Conversely, largely because of her role in the creation of its most recognised work, the previously mentioned Doctor Who theme tune, Derbyshire is often positioned as a pioneer in the medium for bringing electronic music to a large audience. Both perceptions of the workshop and Derbyshire are problematised here, because while they seem to contrast, they are both posited upon the same underlying method of attributing positive value to autonomous music, rather than viewing them on their own specific terms within broadcast media. While it is shown that Derbyshire certainly aspired towards the role of composing contemporary classical music and had an interest in integrating its aesthetics and ideas into her work, she also had an ambiguous relation to it and was not fully able to explore her interest because of her socio-cultural circumstances. Further, the mass of difficult-to-access archived material precludes particularly firm conclusions about Derbyshire’s role in any history of electronic music in Britain—which is itself still very much under construction— with much further research suggested. Thus, the selection of material here is patched together into three different themes raised by her in interview, within contextual frames of relevant aesthetics and techniques, rather than into a coherent chronological, biographical or historical narrative.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Electronic Music, BBC, Delia Derbyshire, BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Academic Units: The University of York > Music (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.677379
Depositing User: Miss Teresa Winter
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2016 15:45
Last Modified: 08 Sep 2016 13:33
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11590

You do not need to contact us to get a copy of this thesis. Please use the 'Download' link(s) above to get a copy.
You can contact us about this thesis. If you need to make a general enquiry, please see the Contact us page.

Actions (repository staff only: login required)