Thursday, 30 January 2014

Daphne Oram

This post is one of a series on post-WWII British Composers. Click on the link for more information or click on the British Composers label to read them all.

We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you have not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides of sounds. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have, together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet. We represent small sounds as great and deep; likewise great sounds extenuate and sharp; we make divers tremblings and warblings of sounds, which in their original are entire. We represent and imitate all articulate sounds and letters, and the voices and notes of beasts and birds. We have certain helps which set to the ear do further the hearing greatly. We have also divers strange and artificial echoes, reflecting the voice many times, and as it were tossing it: and some that give back the voice louder than it came, some shriller, and some deeper; yea, some rendering the voice differing in the letters or articulate sound from that they receive. We have also means to convey sounds in trunks and pipes, in strange lines and distances.    Francis Bacon (1561–1626) , The New Atlantis

Daphne Oram was fascinated by this passage from The New Atlantis. While working as a sound engineer for the BBC in the 1940s, she had composed a number of pieces and begun to experiment with the creation of making music using tape recorders. Along with a colleague, she founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. She didn't stay long, leaving to set up an independent electronic music operation. One of her most intriguing contribution to electronic music was the creation of the "Oramics Machine" - an electronic device which could convert drawings of soundwaves on strips of 35mm film into sound.

Oram has acquired something of a cult following. A Youtube search for her name yields a lot more hits than many more prominent "mainstream" composers active in the last seventy years (composers who featured far more prominently in the book which inspired this series of posts). Her reputation says something about the ways the musical world has changed - both in terms of its boundaries and what is included within them.

More information about Daphne Oram can be found at The Daphne Oram Trust.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Moebius Music

I came across this Youtube video - an excuse, I thought, to repost the poem below, which I wrote a while ago.

Moebius Love Poem

Take a strip of paper:
twist it once and then
glue the ends together
so that when
you run your finger
along one side, it turns
into the other side.

This is extraordinary,
you think. A one-sided
piece of paper,
proclaiming the reality
of strangeness
in a world full of
two-sided pieces of paper.

Somehow we got twisted up
like this, so that
when I run my finger
along your side,
I'm no longer sure
where you end
and I begin.

Friday, 3 January 2014

A Poem...


we find ourselves

scouring the beach
over and over

lifting the pebbles
just enough

to rattle them
we say