Listen to an Archive of Recordings by Delia Derbyshire, the Electronic Music Pioneer & Composer of the Dr. Who Theme Song

Delia Derbyshire, composer of the Dr. Who theme song and musical pioneer, has not quite become a household name, but readers of this site surely know who she is, as well should every student of avant garde, electronic, and experimental pop music. Along with other often unsung female electronic composers of the 60s and beyond—like fellow BBC Radiophonic Workshop doyenne, Daphne Oram—Derbyshire brought the early electronic techniques of musique concrete and tape manipulation to a wider audience, who mostly had no idea where the sounds they heard came from.

As part of the unit responsible for creating the sounds of British television, Derbyshire’s unusual instincts took her to places no composer had ever ventured before. In her sound work for a documentary called The World About Us, on the Tuareg people of the Sahara, she “used her voice for the sound of the [camels'] hooves,” writes her onetime colleague Brian Hodgson at The Guardian, “cut up into an obbligato rhythm. And she added a thin, high electronic sound using virtually all the filters and oscillators in the workshop.” As Derbyshire recalls it:

My most beautiful sound at the time was a tatty BBC lampshade. It was the wrong colour, but it had a beautiful ringing sound to it. I hit the lampshade, recorded that, faded it up into the ringing part without the percussive start. I… reconstructed the sound of the workshop’s famous 12 oscillators to give it a whooshing sound. So the camels rode off into the sunset with my voice in their hooves and a green lampshade on their backs.

What the color of the lampshade had to do with the sound, only Derbyshire could know for sure. But it clearly had a psychological impact on the way she heard it. “I suppose in a way,” she said, “I was experimenting in psycho-acoustics.”

This was an immersive experience for her, and for everyone who heard the results, no matter whether they could identify what it was they were hearing. Derbyshire’s sound design revolutionized the industry, but we cannot overlook her extracurricular work—experimental sound collages and musical pieces made with several close collaborators, including Hodgson, which sound remarkably ahead of their time.

In 1964, Derbyshire collaborated with poet and dramatist Barry Bermange on The Dreams, a work that showed her, Hodgson writes, “at her elegant best.” The two put together a collage, with people describing their dreams in snippets of cut-up monologues, backed by a pulsing, throbbing, buzzing, humming ominous score. (Listen to “Running” further up.) In 1966, she worked with David Bowie’s favorite performer Anthony Newley on “Moogles Bloogles,” above, which Ubuweb calls “an unreleased perv-pop classic in the 1966 novelty vein.” She was not privy to what the song would become. “I’d written this beautiful innocent tune,” she said, “all sensitive love and innocence, and he made it into a dirty old raincoat song. But he was really chuffed!”

In the late sixties, Derbyshire joined Hodgson and bass player David Vorhaus to form White Noise, an experimental electronic pop project whose “Love Without Sound” you can hear at the top of the post (behind scenes from Jean Cocteau’s Orphée.) In 1972, Derbyshire teamed with Hodgson and Don Harper, all “moonlighting from day jobs” at the BBC, for an album called Electrosonic, a “haunting batch of spare electronic tracks.” Just above, hear “Liquid Energy (Bubbling Rhythm)” from that collection.

These tracks represent just a fraction of the Derbyshire music available at Ubuweb’s Delia Derbyshire library, including a compilation of Radiophonic Workshop soundtrack pieces like “Environmental Studies,” above, from 1969, as well as an audio documentary on her work made in 2010. Soon after her early 70s musical experiments, Derbyshire retired from music to work as a radio operator and in an art gallery and bookshop, disgusted with the state of contemporary sound. But in her last few years, she had the pleasure of watching a new generation discover her work. As Hodgson writes in his touching eulogy, “the technology she had left behind was finally catching up to her vision.”

Hear more recording at Ubuweb’s Delia Derbyshire library.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Aldous Huxley Tells Mike Wallace What Will Destroy Democracy: Overpopulation, Drugs & Insidious Technology (1958)

Overpopulation, manipulative politics, imbalances of societal power, addictive drugs, even more addictive technologies: these and other developments have pushed not just democracy but civilization itself to the brink. Or at least author Aldous Huxley saw it that way, and he told America so when he appeared on The Mike Wallace Interview in 1958. (You can also read a transcript here.) "There are a number of impersonal forces which are pushing in the direction of less and less freedom," he told the newly famous news anchor, "and I also think that there are a number of technological devices which anybody who wishes to use can use to accelerate this process of going away from freedom, of imposing control."

Huxley's best-known novel Brave New World has remained relevant since its first publication in 1932. He appeared on Wallace's show to promote Brave New World Revisited (first published as Enemies of Freedom), a collection of essays on how much more rapidly than expected the real world had come to resemble the dystopia he'd imagined a quarter-century earlier.

Some of the reasons behind his grim predictions now seem overstated — he points out that "in the underdeveloped countries actually the standard of living is at present falling," though the reverse has now been true for quite some time — but others, from the vantage of the 21st century, sound almost too mild.

"We mustn't be caught by surprise by our own advancing technology," Huxley says in that time before smartphones, before the internet, before personal computers, before even cable television. We also mustn't be caught by surprise by those who seek indefinite power over us: to do that requires "consent of the ruled," something acquirable by addictive substances — both pharmacological and technological — as well as "new techniques of propaganda." All of this has the effect of "bypassing the sort of rational side of man and appealing to his subconscious and his deeper emotions, and his physiology even, and so, making him actually love his slavery."

Wallace's questions bring Huxley to a question of his own: "What does a democracy depend on? A democracy depends on the individual voter making an intelligent and rational choice for what he regards as his enlightened self-interest, in any given circumstance." But democracy-debilitating commercial and political propaganda appeals "directly to these unconscious forces below the surfaces so that you are, in a way, making nonsense of the whole democratic procedure, which is based on conscious choice on rational ground." Hence the importance of teaching people "to be on their guard against the sort of verbal booby traps into which they are always being led." The skill has arguably only grown in importance since, as has his final thought in the broadcast: "I still believe in democracy, if we can make the best of the creative activities of the people on top plus those of the people on the bottom, so much the better."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Watch a Marathon Streaming of All 856 Episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, and the Moving Trailer for the New Documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

The bombast, arrogance and bloviation--maybe you need a break from it all. You may need exactly the opposite--a little Fred Rogers. If so, we've got two things for you. First, head over to Twitch.TV where they're currently livestreaming all 856 episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood (for a limited time). It's a grand way of celebrating what would have been Fred's 90th birthday this week. And then, above, watch the brand new trailer for Won't You Be My Neighbor?, the upcoming documentary by Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom). Due out in June, the film "takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination." As you watch the trailer, you'll be reminded that Rogers worked his magic during other periods of chaos and discontent, and how sorely his calming presence is missing today.

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All of the Songs Played on “WKRP in Cincinnati” in One Spotify Playlist: Stream 202 Classic Tracks

I don’t know how many people still watch WKRP in Cincinnati (apparently it is streaming on Hulu), or how well the jokes have aged, but there is a small but dedicated fan base out there. Part of it might be nostalgia not just for the sitcom itself, but for a time when radio stations were idiosyncratic things, not just part of vast media conglomerates that have a song playlist you could fit onto a thumb drive. Ask any boomer and they’ll recall their own favorite real-life versions of rock DJ Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) and funk/soul DJ Venus Flytrap (Tim Reid).

Recently, one dedicated fan went through the first season and identified every song played on the shows, and produced this spreadsheet first mentioned on BoingBoing. That then led to somebody wishing for a Spotify playlist and of course the Internet has provided. Find the playlist and stream all 202 tracks below.

What to make of the choices? DJ Johnny Fever starts off with Ted Nugent’s “Queen of the Forest” to announce the station’s switch from muzak to a rock/Top 40 format in the first episode. A majority of the songs are major label selections, with the Rolling Stones the favorite choice through the season with five songs total. Other bands are still staples of classic rock format stations to this day: Bob Seger, Boston, Styx, Van Morrison, Foreigner, The Grateful Dead, Blondie, The Doors. Venus Flytrap’s selections aren’t as common, but they are also a familiar cross-section of the disco era: Chic, A Taste of Honey, Evelyn Champagne King, and Marvin Gaye.

One interesting appearance was Michael Des Barres, former frontman of the rock band Detective (who were signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song label), and post-Robert Palmer frontman of Power Station. He was cast as the lead singer of the punk band “Scum of the Earth” in one WKRP episode, where he sang three Detective tunes. (The band actually came dressed in business suits, so I’m not sure how “punk” they were). Now, the producers must have liked Michael Des Barres, because when the ill-fated sequel The New WKRP in Cincinnati premiered in 1991, he played one half of a morning show team.

Creator Hugh Wilson explains in this video how costly some of the original rights usages could be, where maybe “I could get 17 seconds of Pink Floyd for $3,000.” But as the show grew in popularity, record companies started to treat the show “like a real station” and providing music and merchandise to dress the sets.

The use of actual radio hits (and not “soundalikes”) became a problem for the show in syndication. When it was time to renew the rights, the various media companies wanted 10 times as much. As Wilson says, that was the end of WKRP in syndication.

The Shout Factory DVD box set was able to reproduce most of Season one with 80 percent of the original music intact, and it's possibly why only one season is out there.

That also may be why that $3,000 worth of Pink Floyd only exists as a very blurry YouTube video up at the top of the post.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

David Lynch Teaches Typing: A New Interactive Comedy Game

Typing programs demand some patience on the part of the student, and David Lynch Teaches Typing is no exception.

You’ve got 90 seconds to get acclimated to the cruddy floppy disc-era graphics and the cacophonous voice of your instructor, a dead ringer for FBI Deputy Director Gordon Cole, the hard-of-hearing character director David Lynch played on his seminal early 90s series, Twin Peaks.

Things perk up about a minute and a half in, when students are instructed to place their left ring fingers in an undulating bug to the left of their keyboards.

That second "in"? Not a typo (though you'll notice plenty of no doubt intentional boo-boos in the teacher's pre-programmed responses...)

The bug in question may well put you in mind of the mysterious baby in Lynch’s first feature length film, 1977’s Eraserhead.

On the other hand, it might not.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is actually a short interactive comedy game, and many of the millennial reviewers covering that beat have had to play catch-up in order to catch the many nods to the director’s work contained therein.

One of our favorites is the Apple-esque name of the program’s retro computer, and we'll wager that frequent Lynch collaborator, actor Kyle MacLachlan, would agree.

Another reference that has thus far eluded online gaming enthusiasts in their 20s is Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Take a peek below at what the virtual typing tutor’s graphics looked like around the time the original Twin Peaks aired to discover the creators of David Lynch Teaches Typing’s other inspiration.

David Lynch Teaches Typing is available for free download here. If you’re anxious that doing so might open you up to a technical bug of nightmarish proportions, stick with watching the play through at the top of the page.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her March 20 in New York City for the second edition of Necromancers of the Public Domain, a low budget variety show born of a 1920 manual for Girl Scout Camp Directors. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

HBO Drops a Teaser Trailer for Fahrenheit 451, Its New Adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Classic Dystopian Novel

From HBO comes the latest teaser trailer for a new adaptation of Ray Bradbury's 1953 dystopian novel, Fahrenheit 451. Scheduled to debut in May 2018, the new film will feature Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon.

Ostensibly Fahrenheit 451 is a story about government censorship. And some have considered it a response to McCarthyism. But, when asked what the story is really about, Ray Bradbury said this: It's about people "being turned into morons by TV."  As a medium, television "gives you the dates of Napoleon, but not who he was,” spreading "factoids" instead of knowledge. “They stuff you with so much useless information, you feel full.” Just something to keep in mind before and after the new HBO film hits your TV sets this spring.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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Archie Bunker’s Editorial on Gun Control (1972)

The more things change, the more the talking points stay the same. Just swap teachers for airplane passengers, and watch a silly sitcom punchline morph into actual presidential policy.

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