Original, abstract and appealing electronic sounds for any intelligent person: The work and impact of Delia Derbyshire at the BBC and beyond

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talkResearch


The composer and musician Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) remains most famous for her arrangement and realisation of Ron Grainer's title theme for Doctor Who. Yet although providing the theme tune with its distinctive sounds, which would be featured in the programme's titles from 1963 until 1980, she provided little else in terms of music for the Doctor's adventures during her time at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. If the broadcaster and music journalist Stuart Maconie has championed Derbyshire’s work on Doctor Who as ‘the theme tune which changed the world and the very first time that the public had ever heard electronic music’, the composer and archivist of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop has cautioned that, although brilliant, a ‘Cult of Delia’ has begun to develop which threatens to overshadow the achievement of other practitioners at the Radiophonic Workshop. How significant was the Doctor Who theme tune in terms of the British public’s understanding and awareness of electronic music in the 1960s? Drawing on archival research and a reception study of responses to Derbyshire’s work, this talk considers the impact of the Doctor Who theme tune on Derbyshire's career and the interest in electronic music that it generated amongst other artists and the British public. The talk will be followed by a presentation of recordings from Delia's archive at the University of Manchester. These recordings feature Delia's freelance activity outside the BBC in the late 1960s and early 1970s, taking the listener on a journey through some remarkable sounds and works for theatre, film and festival happenings, seldom heard in over forty years.
Period10 Mar 2015
Held atBangor University, United Kingdom
Degree of RecognitionLocal