Gradually, the Radiophonic Workshop began producing more music and sound effects for television than radio. One year earlier, in 1963, Derbyshire performed her mostly widely-heard work when given the score for Ron Grainer’s theme to a new science-fiction series, Doctor Who. Incorporating filters, tape loops and valve oscillators, she fashioned one of the most memorable pieces of electronic music ever, and one that’s especially dear to Whovians. Grainer was so impressed he sought to give Derbyshire co-author credit but the BBC prevented it. Although officially uncredited, the popularity of the theme resulted in her employers giving her many other assignments and she ultimately produced over 200 pieces including noteworthy scores for Great Zoos of the World and Cyprian Queen. The BBC was, however, by no means entirely supportive of her work, rejecting many of her compositions, claiming they were too bizarre, “too lascivious for 11 year olds” and “too sophisticated for the BBC2 audience.”
As a result of the BBC’s restrictions, Derbyshire began to work outside their confines in 1965. Her initial collaborations included working with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Roberto Gerhard (on Anger of Achilles) and Ianni Christou. In 1966, her music was combined with light shows at a festival at Bagnor’s Watermill Theater, perhaps the earliest electronic show even in England. She also recorded a demo, “Moogies Bloogies” with the under-appreciated Anthony Newley, although it was never released.
Derbyshire, Hodgson and Peter Zinovieff formed Unit Delta Plus, later exhibiting their music at Zinovieff’s Putney townhouse. One such exhibition, The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, (at The Roadhouse in Chalk Farm) included the only public performance of The Beatles‘ “Carnival of Light.” Derbyshire also provided music for Yoko Ono‘s “Wrapping Event,” in which Ono tied herself to the lion statues (which she’d wrapped in white cloth) on Trafalgar Square. Unit Delta Plus proved short-lived and broke up after a performance at the Royal College of Art in 1967. Derbyshire next worked with Guy Woolfenden, contributing to the score for Peter Hall‘s production of Macbeth and, in 1968, his film, Work is a Four Letter Word.
Derbyshire again worked with Hodgson in setting up the Kaleidophon studio in Camden Town with fellow electronic musician, David Vorhaus. Along with Vorhaus and Hodgson she formed White Noise and released, through Island, An Electric Storm. When Hodgson and Derbyshire left, White Noise became a solo venture for Vorhaus.
Meanwhile, Derbyshire and Hodgson (using the pseudonyms “Li De la Russe,” and “Nikki St. George,” respectively) provided music for The Tomorrow People and Timeslip over at the BBC’s rivals, ITV. If you’re like me, you loved The Tomorrow People and it’s great theme. On the other hand, if you’re like my stepbrother, David, you claimed the sight of a melting, alien Adolf Hitler was the stuff of nightmares and were a big wuss.
In 1973, Hodgson left the BBC and created Electophon with John Lewis. They were later joined by Derbyshire and recorded several albums, as well as the soundtrack to The Legend of Hell House. In 1974, she composed the music for Anthony Roland’s award-winning film of Pamela Boone‘s photography, Circle of Light and the Dutch short, Een van die Dagen. Derbyshire’s complete discography has yet to be fully compiled, but her credits also include the music for the Brighton Festival, the City of London Festival, the RSC Stratford, Greenwich Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and an ICI-sponsored fashion show.
By the early ‘70s, frustrated with music and battling alcoholism and depression, Derbyshire retired from composition and instead found work in art galleries, bookstores, museums and as a radio operator. After many years, she re-entered the music world in 2001, working with Spaceman 3’s Sonic Boom on MESMA (Multisensory Electronic Sounds Music & Art), an organization aimed at advancing electronic music. At the time she said, “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.”
Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, writer, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities — or salaried work. He is not interested in writing advertorials, clickbait, listicles, or other 21st century variations of spam. Brightwell’s written work has appeared in Amoeblog, diaCRITICS, and KCET Departures. His work has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Form Follows Function, Los Angeles County Store, Skid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Magazine, LAist, Eastsider LA, Boing Boing, Los Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRW‘s Which Way, LA? and at Emerson College. Art prints of his maps are available from 1650 Gallery and on other products from Cal31. He is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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