Daphne Oram (1925-2003) was a pioneering British composer and electronic musician. She was the creator of Oramics, a synthesis technique which used visual images to create electronic sounds. She is credited with creating the very first piece of commissioned electronic music for the BBC in 1957 (the score for Amphitryon 38) and was instrumental in the formation of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, becoming its first director in 1958.
Leaving the BBC less than a year later, Oram founded her own electronic music studio where she produced the electronic soundtrack to the 1961 horror film The Innocents, as well as various concert works and compositions. After her death in 2003, the British improvisor and instrument builder Hugh Davies inherited her archive of papers and tapes. Following Davies's death in 2005 the collection was accessioned by Goldsmiths, University of London.
The Sounds Of New Atlantis: Daphne Oram, Radiophonics And The Drawn Sound Technique will include a presentation by Dan Wilson tracing the evolution of the philosophies behind Oramics, and Daphne Oram's progress in reconciling the physical and metaphysical aspects of sound; a biographical sketch in the form of a presentation by Jo Hutton, looking at Daphne Oram's role at the BBC in developing electroacoustic music and radiophonic art in Britain; a joint presentation by Mick Grierson and Chris Weaver on the evolution of the Oramics machine, its potential significance as one of the first British computer music systems, and the plans for its future conservation, plus a video presentation by Graham Wrench, the former RAF radar engineer responsible for building the first prototype of the Oramics machine. London Cafe Oto, 7 April, 8pm, £4.
The Oram Collection website, run by this month’s salon guests. Includes scanned archived press cuttings.
Daphne Oram An Individual Note Of Sound Music And Electronics, introduced by Oram as a “sniffing the air in all directions to see whether we can catch a scent or two of intriguing interrelationships between electronics and music”. Out of print, but PDF available here.
The Story Of The BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 2008 article from Sound On Sound, complete with photos and diagrams of how the Oramic system worked, plus Graham Wrech: The Story Of Daphne Oram’s Optical Synthesiser.
BBC tribute to Daphne Oram, notable for the embedded audio interview with Oram from 1972.
Oramics, a short film by Nick Street, which gives a glimpse of the original Oramics synthesizer from 1957.
The Alchemists Of Sound, BBC4 documentary about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Available on Maldoror42 YouTube channel in six parts.
Daphne Oram obituary from 2003.
Regular contributor to The Wire Ken Hollings’s essay on the broader topic of “The British Space Programme As Musical Exploration – The Untold Story” from 2010, which takes a sideways look at the history of British electronic music, including Daphne Oram.