The women who invented electro: inside the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

For decades women were systematically sidelined at the BBC.

The female voice was thought to lack the necessary gravitas for newsreading – being a discreet and efficient PA to a busy male director or producer was the best that could be hoped for.

Nowhere was this exclusion more rigidly enforced than in the technical aspects of programme-making where the hands-on world of studios, microphones and cameras was believed to be a man’s domain. Yet from an unexpected corner came a quiet revolution. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop was a pioneering studio for electronic music which flourished from 1958 until 1998. Its function was to provide incidental music and soundtracks for television and radio drama and documentaries. Despite its rigidly utilitarian brief it produced music of astonishing originality.

The soundtracks the Workshop produced became part of the soundtrack of people’s lives in the Fifties and Sixties. Who could forget the uncanny electronic score of the classic sci-fi series Quatermass and the Pit, or the stomach gurglings of Major Bloodnok, a stock character in the comedy series The Goon Show?

Among the composer/technicians working there was a remarkable visionary woman, Daphne Oram. In her childhood she showed a flair for inventing ingenious mechanical devices, and was also fascinated by electronic sound and by the microphone, which she declared had vast potential as a musical instrument. [ . . . ]

Read more at source: The women who invented electro: inside the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

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