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Submit Response is a weblog by Jack Mottram, a journalist who lives in Glasgow, Scotland. There are 1308 posts in the archives. You can subscribe to a feed. This post was made on and belongs in the music category. The previous post was , and the next post is .

Daphne Oram

Practically everyone I know is a drooling Delia Derbyshire fanboy or -girl, so I’ll take the liberty of clipping the following from a yesterday’s post at the ever-reliable Things Magazine weblog about Daphne Oram, a less well-known Radiophonic Workshop worker:

While Delia Derbyshire has made the leap from unknown backroom toiler to posthumous genius, with even a play about her life (see our previous post), we had never previously heard of her late colleague, Daphne Oram. Oram died in 2003, two years after Derbyshire, and was instrumental in the formation of the BBC’s Radiophonics Workshop. She joined the BBC in 1943: “As war raged, she began to indulge her hobby after hours, in the workplace. Always a night-owl, and having initially failed to persuade her bosses to create an electronic studio, she would stay late and move the BBC’s first tape recorders together to build a studio. When morning came, she would disassemble it.” See also the late Hugh Davies’ Daphne Oram: Tribute to a Pioneer on the Sonic Arts Network.

Oram’s great innovation was the Oramics system, an early machine for converting imagery into musical compositions, using 35mm film and light-sensitive sensors.

(A related post here: Standing Wave)

Posted at 10am on 03/08/05 by Jack Mottram to the music category.
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  1. I was very sad to hear of Daphne Oram’s untimely death so young.
    I met her in 1960 when she offered me accommodation in the barn attached to her newly purchased Oast House at Tower Folly. I was a lowly National Serviceman with a wife and young baby, and she took us in as very cheap boarders, to help with her own mortgage costs no doubt, but also to act as occasional housekeepers, a position we were happy to fulfill. Our main function was to keep an eye on the property while she was away on lecture tours and similar, and cook her the occasional meal. She also let part of the Oast to student nurses at the Macmillan Training establishment half a mile along the road, and asked us to keep an eye on them too.
    I was privileged to watch the development of her bank of Brenell machines, and she patiently explained to me some of the simpler aspects of electronic music, including the set of specially turned capstan heads she had had made.
    On her advice I invested in a Brenell recorder, and never regretted it. I have it still.
    While I was stationed at West Malling, I persuaded one of the Chipmunk pilots to fly me over the Folly, and I took a photo of my wife and daughter, with Daphne, on her large lawn at the side of the Folly.
    She was thrilled when my second child, Timothy, was born in the barn, where we had our home.
    She was truly a remarkable and compassionate “employer” and we are forever grateful for the happy start she enabled us to have to our married life.
    She will never be forgotten.
    Cedric Harris
    Topsy Turvy, Morcombelake, Dorset January 2008

    Posted by Cedric Harris at 9pm on 23.01.08

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