Masters of Sound

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Masters of Sound is a 10-minute BBC TV documentary about the Radiophonic Workshop with a section on Delia and featuring extracts from a video interview with Delia and Brian Hodgson recorded for the 1993 BBC documentary Doctor Who: 30 Years In The TARDIS but not used in it[1], nor in its 1994 extended sequel Doctor Who: More Than 30 Years In The Tardis.[2]



Delia's voice: Once I heard that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop existed I was thrilled to bits.


Cuts between Delia and Brian Hodgson interviewed in 1993, Verity Lambert interviewed in 1993 and an interview with Dick Mills.

Delia: When Verity Lambert and Waris Hussein came, they sat in what I assume must have been the offices or the changing rooms, which was our office, and literally flakes of plaster were falling on their shoulders and they were so elegantly dressed. Brian remembers that.

Brian: Verity's dress was this beautiful purple hessian dress. It was stunning. But they were both stunning. They were like two sort of Gods came from Television and we were all the scruffs at Maida Vale.

Verity: I spoke to Ron Grainer who'd written all these wonderful signature tunes like Steptoe and Son and I thought it would be interesting to try to get a melody out of radiophonic music, something that no one had really tried to do at that point and Ron absolutely sort of fell on this and thought it was wonderful, was terribly enthusiastic about it.

Delia: He was the Quiet Australian and he had beautiful ears, I mean brilliant ears, the way his ear-brain function worked. Very good. Very good. He was very creative. He loved new sounds. He loved all sorts of new sounds.

Verity: Ron spent masses and masses of time. I used to go from time to time and they would play me things called white noise and things and I would say “Well, I think I want a bit more tune in it.”

Delia: I saw the graphics at the same time that Ron Grainer did and then I was given his score.

Voice of Dick Mills: So Ron actually wrote the tune on a piece of apper, a single piece of paper, and then left us to it.

Delia: When I saw Ron Grainer's score, there were some swoops indicated and I assumed those were sine waves.

Dick: The bass line that everybody thinks they know, they're actually made in two tracks within themselves.

Delia: I think he might have described [us?] as a guitar, plus, oh, I don't know, something like a bass bassoon or something.

Dick: We did a whole string of "meep" "meep" "meep" which, when we played with the "dun-da-dun" dun-da-dun", they went together as a pair.

Delia: But then, apart from that, fitting in with the graphics, he used words like "clouds" and "wind bubble".

Dick: But it's that kind of detail that people who create a Doctor Who signature tune by ear don't know that that's how it was done or how Ron actually scored it because the score has never left the building as far as I know. Don't ask me where it is. It's somewhere.

Delia: "Clouds", obviously one thinks of as filtered white noise and "wind bubble" I think we used the wobbulator.

Dick: Delia and I got to work using sound-generating equipment. There are no musicians, there are no synthesisers and in those days we didn't even have a two-track or a stereo tape machine; it was always mono.

Delia: It was constructed, literally, on quarter-inch mono tape, inch by inch by inch.

Dick: And, literally, we built up the orchestra with individual notes and Delia would say “I think we need about sixty-four B flats and twenty-five E's and B's” and things like that and we cut them all out physically.

Delia: What I would like to say is that hardly anything of it was done in real time. It was done either at half speed or chopped together in little bits of tape. For example, the swoops at the beginning, they were done on the old valve oscillators.

Dick: Now, most tunes have got a three-part structure: you've got a rhythm, you've got a melody and you've got the twiddly bits on top so we created three separate tapes, put them onto three machines and stood next to them and said “Ready, steady, go!” and pushed all the ‘start’ buttons at once. It seemed to work. In those days it was obvious this was a wrong note. How to find out: you simply unrolled all the tape down the floor, walked along the sticky tape joins and where two sticky-tape joins weren't next to each other, that was the wrong note. So that was that! And we played it to Ron and, yes, lovely, and it became a theme that we grew to love.

Delia: Ron was so thrilled with the sound of the Doctor Who first mix that he said “Give Delia half the royalties! I was so pleased with it because I was going to book a band.” Literally, he didn't think that that what he'd written on his score could be so well done with the equipment we had and he was a very generous person. But, of course, that wasn't allowed as I was only a studio manager or something.


Delia: I would like to say that when new producers came along they always wanted to change the graphics a bit and have it a bit more sparkly, so we put on a bit of feedback and a bit of something, some high frequencies and it used to distress me. And they wanted another bar here and another two bars there just to fit their new graphics whereas, to me, the music itself was sacred and beautiful as it was and I though it was very disrespectful to tart it up like that.