on 8 March 2011
This book is a thorough and systematic analysis of the origins, development and impact of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop.
This book is academic in tone and form. Although this means we get a full account of the history, context and musicological aspects of the Workshop, it does also mean that at times, it's a little on the tedious side for a layperson such as myself.
But persevere through the murk of what at first reads rather like someone's PhD, and the book really does take off. Many people have read about Delia Derbyshire, the making of the Dr Who theme tune and so on. This book gives us the full story, and places it all within the framework of the BBC in relationship to other electronic music centres, contextualizing the work of the Workshop with that of Stockhausen in Cologne, and Pierre's Henry and Schaeffer in Paris, amongst others.
The book also goes into some detail with regards to the development of the technology used, it's effect on use in compositions and incidental scores, and it's impact on the studio itself. Ultimately, the development of technology made the studio redundant, within 20 years of the first keyboard synthesizer.
Interestingly, the changes that the Radiophonic Workshop helped instigate were partly responsible for it's own downfall. The story of the development of music production is partially revealed in this account, so anyone interested in the history of recording, music studios, and gear heads will find something to like.
The stories of the main protagonists in this, Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgeson, John Baker and more, are all fascinating in themselves, and it's their music (made against the odds with the most limited of equipment) that still stands out as being more ahead of it's time than the later period where digital MIDI synths made things easier, but seemingly less interesting.
Now, I'm currently on an early synth/proto-electronics/tape loops kind of tip, so all this is exactly what's floating my boat. If you're of a similar mind, this is highly recommended.