A New Radiophonic Workshop!

The Radiophonics Workshop, a sound effects unit at the BBC, is legendary. And it’s back!

Need I say more? Well, okay, I will. The Workshop, created in 1958 to compliment programmes with new, experimental sounds, ended in 1998, but is being brought back online with seven new musicians and composers. Creative Director, Matthew Herbert said:

In 2012 as part of thespace.org, an innovative new digital arts media service created in joint partnership between the BBC and the arts council, the Radiophonic Workshop is being reborn.

Instead of being confined to rooms full of equipment in Maida Vale studios in London, the new Radiophonic Workshop will instead be a virtual institution, visibly manifested as an online portal and forum for discussion around the challenges of creating new sounds in a world saturated in innovative music technology but lacklustre in terms of actual original output.

But why should Doctor Who fans care? Because it’s most famous creation is the Doctor Who theme tune, of course! Ron Grainer approached the Workshop to create the iconic tune – complete with descriptions like “sweeps and swoops”, “wind clouds” and “wind bubbles” – and Delia Derbyshire realised it. And that’s not all.

The Workshop is responsible for the TARDIS materialisation sound and that of the sonic screwdriver, as well as every score from 1980 to 1985. Members of the original Workshop reunited on stage in 2009 – including Dick Mills (well-known for his extensive work on Who) and archivist and composer for the Seventh Doctor era, Mark Ayres – culminating in arrangements of Derbyshire’s and Peter Howell’s versions of the Doctor Who theme.

Herbert will be joined by Lyndsey Turner, Yann Seznec, James Mather, Mica Levi, Tony Churnside, Max de Wardener and Patrick Bergel. The new Creative Director said:

 It is the perfect time for the rebirth of the workshop – the rapid pace of change in technologies has meant our imaginations are struggling to keep up. By bringing together the people making the technology with people making the music, we are hoping to find engaging answers to some of the modern problems associated with the role of sound and music on the internet, in certain creative forms and within broadcasting.

Though their first commission was on The Sound of The Space, a new piece was also played yesterday on BBC Radio 4’s Today segment. I wonder if the new team will have a hand in Doctor Who in the future…


When he’s not watching television, reading books ‘n’ Marvel comics, listening to The Killers, and obsessing over script ideas, Philip Bates (Kasterborous' former Editor) pretends to be a freelance writer. He enjoys collecting everything. He is the co-founder of The Doctor Who Companion: http://thedoctorwhocompanion.com/

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