Delia Derbyshire

Artist / Band / Musician
Delia Derbyshire (May 5, 1937 - July 3, 2001) was a British musician and composer who was a pioneer of electronic music. She is probably best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer's theme music to the British science fiction television series Doctor Who and for her work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

Doctor Who

In 1963, Ron Grainer was asked to compose the theme tune to the Doctor Who series that began late in that year. As part of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, Derbyshire developed this into the version that was then used on the original show.

Ron Grainer was so amazed by her rendition of his original theme that he attempted to get her a co-composer credit, but this was prevented by BBC bureaucracy. Derbyshire's interpretation of Grainer's theme used electronic oscillators and magnetic audio tape editing (including tape loops and reverse tape effects) to create an eerie and unearthly sound that was quite unlike anything that had been heard before. Derbyshire's original Doctor Who theme is believed to have been the first television theme to be created and produced by entirely electronic means. As synthesizers and multi-track recorders did not exist in those days, much of the Doctor Who theme was constructed by recording the individual notes from electronic sources one by one onto magnetic tape, cutting the tape with a razor blade to get individual notes on little pieces of tape a few centimetres long and sticking all the pieces of tape back together one by one to make up the tune. This was a laborious process which took weeks. More recent arrangements of the theme, realized using conventional synthesizers, have been criticized by some Doctor Who fans as being poor imitations.

Later life

In 1973 she left the BBC and stopped composing music. She had a series of jobs as a radio operator, in an art gallery and in a bookshop. She was briefly married but eventually she met her life-partner, Clive Blackburn, who gave her stability. She returned to music in 1996 and was working on an album when she died aged 64 of renal failure while recovering from breast cancer. Her life has been portrayed in a play called Standing Wave by Nicola McCartney
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