ELECTRONIC MUSIC pioneer Delia Derbyshire, mainstay of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop has been awarded a posthumous PhD by Coventry University.
The hometown doctorate represents an acknowledgement of a woman who was largely ignored and uncredited in her lifetime, but is known to Whovians everywhere as the architect behind the arrangement of Ron Grainger's Doctor Who theme, as well as universally recognised noises like the sound of the TARDIS.
Derbyshire was rejected from the studio system, and was told on more than one occasion that they "didn't employ women". Even the Doctor Who theme is credited only to Grainer because BBC policies did not allow acknowledgement of how much input she had. Even Grainer, in his lifetime said that he had wished that Derbyshire had more credit.
Her work with the Radiophonic Workshop was groundbreaking, using tape manipulation and other forms of musique concrete in an age before computers and synthesisers as we know them today.
In spite of this, her influence was massive, inspiring acts as diverse as The Chemical Brothers and Jerry Dammers (The Specials). This led to a "Delia Derbyshire Day" in 2013.
Although a regular feature on the Swinging London Carnaby Street scene at the time, Derbyshire eventually became fed up with being an uncredited woman in a man's world and died in 2001, aged 64, working in a bookshop in less-swinging Northampton.
Before that, she rediscovered her love of music working with modern electronic artists like former Spacemen 3 founder Sonic Boom. She said at the time:
"Working with people like Sonic Boom on pure electronic music has re-invigorated me. He is from a later generation but has always had an affinity with the music of the 60s. One of our first points of contact - the visionary work of Peter Zinovieff, has touched us both, and has been an inspiration. Now without the constraints of doing 'applied music', my mind can fly free and pick-up where I left off."
Since her death, her contribution to music and technology has been reevaluated and Coventry University awarded her an honorary doctorate at a ceremony yesterday, with the hope that it will inspire a new generation of women interested in STEM subjects.
Her partner Clive Blackburn, who collected the doctorate alongside Mark Ayers of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop said:
"Delia would be really excited by the developments in electronic music. Digital technology is finally catching up with what she managed to achieve manually in the 1960s using the most rudimentary of equipment.
"Delia would have been so proud if she had been here to receive this honorary degree in person. Coventry is where she grew up and where her roots were and the place meant an enormous amount to her."
Earlier this year, a tribute concert featuring work by Derbyshire and her contemporaries was performed in her honour at the war-torn ruins of Coventry Cathedral - an appropriate location, reflecting her cited inspirations of the soundscapes of air raids during her childhood.
Although she was largely unknown to the public, she still worked with some amazing people who you might not expect. Here's a piece she worked on with crooner Anthony Nuley. It might seem primitive, but at the time it was revolutionary and we have a rather soft spot for it. You can also learn more about it here. µ
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