DoctorDoctor Who Guide

Delia Derbyshire

Last updated 27 July 2014

Production Credits
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Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001)
(this image appears for illustrative purposes only and no attempt is made to supersede any copyright attributed to it)

Delia Ann Derbyshire

Born: Wed 5th May 1937
Died: Tue 3rd July 2001 (age: 64)

An Adventure in Space and Time: Biography
IMDB
Wikipedia


Delia Derbyshire was born in Coventry, England

Educated at Coventry Grammar School and Girton College, Cambridge, where she was awarded a degree in mathematics and music.

In 1960 Delia Derbyshire joined the BBC as a trainee studio manager. Within a matter of months she had created her recording of Ron Grainer's Doctor Who theme, one of the most famous and instantly recognisable TV themes ever. On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: "Did I really write this?" he asked. "Most of it," replied Derbyshire.

Thus began what is still referred to as the Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop. Initially set up as a service department for Radio Drama, it had always been run by someone with a drama background. Derbyshire was the first person there with any higher music qualifications, but as she wasn't supposed to be doing music, much of her early work remained anonymous under the umbrella credit 'special sound by BBC Radiophonic Workshop'.

Derbyshire soon gained a reputation for successfully tackling the impossible. When asked to "make some TV title music using only animal sounds" - much thought and ingenuity resulted in Great Zoos of the World. Delia always managed to soften her purist mathematical approach with a sensitive interpretative touch - 'very sexy' said Michael Bakewell on first hearing her electronic music for Cyprian Queen.

Derbyshire also worked with the composers Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Roberto Gerhard (on his 1965 Prix Italia winning 'Anger of Achilles'), and Ianni Christou, doing sound treatments of their orchestral music. She was also assistant to Luciano Berio at the 1962 Dartington summer school.

Delia's works from the 60s and 70s continue to be used on radio and TV some 30 years later, and her music has given her legendary status with releases in Sweden and Japan. She is also constantly mentioned, credited and covered by bands from Add n to (x) and Sonic Boom to Aphex Twin and The Chemical Brothers.

A recent Guardian article called her 'the unsung heroine of British electronic music'. She had exploratory encounters with Paul McCartney, Karlheinz Stockhausen, George Martin, Pink Floyd, Brian Jones, Anthony Newley, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson.

Derbyshire returned to music in the late nineties after having her interest renewed by fellow electronic musician Peter Kember and was working on an album when she died aged 64 of renal failure[1] while recovering from breast cancer surgery.

The composer is played by Sarah Winter in the 50th Anniversary drama An Adventure In Space And Time.






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