Hear Seven Hours of Women Making Electronic Music (1938- 2014) | Open Culture
Two years ago, in a post on the pioneering composer of the original Doctor Who theme, we wrote that “the early era of experimental electronic music belonged to Delia Derbyshire.” Derbyshire—who almost gave Paul McCartney a version of “Yesterday” with an electronic backing in place of strings—helped invent the early electronic music of the sixties through her work with the Radiophonic Workshop, the sound effects laboratory of the BBC.
She went on to form one of the most influential, if largely obscure, electronic acts of the decade, White Noise. And yet, calling the early eras of the electronic music hers is an exaggeration. Of course her many collaborators deserve mention, as well as musicians like Bruce Haack, Pierre Henry, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, and so many others. But what gets almost completely left out of many histories of electronic music, as with so many other histories, is the prominent role so many women besides Derbyshire played in the development of the sounds we now hear all around us all the time.
In recognition of this fact, musician, DJ, and “escaped housewife/schoolteacher” Barbara Golden devoted two episodes of her KPFA radio program “Crack o’ Dawn” to women in electronic music, once in 2010 and again in 2013. She shares each broadcast with co-host Jon Leidecker (“Wobbly”), and in each segment, the two banter in casual radio show style, offering history and context for each musician and composer. Recently highlighted on Ubu’s Twitter stream, the first show, “Women in Electronic Music 1938-1982 Part 1” (above) gives Derbyshire her due, with three tracks from her, including the Doctor Who theme. It also includes music from twenty one other composers, beginning with Clara Rockmore, a refiner and popularizer of the theremin, that weird instrument heard in the Doctor Who intro, designed to simulate a high, tremulous human voice. Also featured is Wendy Carlos’s “Timesteps,” an original piece from her A Clockwork Orange score. (You’ll remember her enthralling synthesizer recreations of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony from the film).