A Bayeux Tapestry

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Delia treated speech, created effects and created music for a 1966 BBC radio programme A Bayeux Tapestry produced by George MacBeth and Michael Mason.

The excerpt from 'The Song of Roland' was chanted by Brian Levy[1] but, as usual, it just says "Special sound by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop".

A Tapestry of Sounds
To make this programme we have drawn on the full spectrum of sound: formal speech in poetry and prose-documentation; conversational commentary; radiophonically treated speech; pure radiophonic sound; music; documentary sound-painting. These strands we have sought to weave together into a sound tapestry which will liberate the imagination into the wide-screen epic of the Norman Conquest.
Particularly vital was the part played by Radiophonic Workshop, where the whole programme was assembled and acoustically controlled. The Workshop team's hours of patient work enabled England's voice to gather itself together out waves the Roman imperium to together own name in words of bronze, the Comet of 1066 to emit its eerie 'radio-signal.' Perhaps one of the most interesting individual ingredients thus treated was Brian Levy's chanting of verses from the Song of Roland in the original Norman French.[1]

[In 1967,] Michael Mason writes:
   When George MacBeth and I made A Bayeux Tapestry we had high ambitions. We wanted to produce total radio — something wholly conceived in terms of radio and impossible to do in any other medium. We wanted to produce a kind of communication which would lay hold of the listener from the cerebral top of his head to the psycho-physical pit of his stomach. We wanted to try and orchestrate together in an articulate musique concrète all the voices of the sound orchestra, from the discursive analytical reflection of the specialist historian to the brute thud and crunch of the Saxon war-axe on Norman armour and flesh.
   We composed together elements like the Song of Roland and an electronic image of the Comet of 1066. [...] A Bayeux Tapestry had us all tearing our hair more than once during the making; but it was worth it to get a letter from one listener which called it simply the most cathartic radio ever, in my experience.[2]

The tapes in the BBC Sound Archive consist of 12 reels:[3]

1. FX tape A
2. FX tape AA
3. FX tape B
4. FX tape BB
5. FX tape BB/C
6. Final speech C
7. Final speech D
8. Final speech E
9. Final speech F
10-12. Final Programme copy

Further details are available in the BBC Written Archive on BBC WAC R51/1265/1 and R34/1382.[4]


  • First broadcast on the 13th October 1966 at 7:50pm on the Third Programme.[3][1]
  • Repeated:
    • BBC Radio 3, 1 November 1967 20.35[2]
    • BBC Radio 4 FM, 2 November 1969 14.30
  • In the BBC Sound Archive on TRW 6442: "A Bayeux Tapestry".[3]
  • The BBC Sound Archive tape TRW 6557: "Bayeux Tapestry effects", a copy made in September 1966 for the Sound Effect Centre, is not to be found.[5]
  • The British Library has a BBC Transcription Service disc of A Bayeux Tapestry in its store, lasting 57 minutes.[6]