In this EXCLUSIVE new series for Blogtor Who, Silva Screen are releasing these fascinating notes ahead of the boxest’s release next year. Today sees Part One which includes notes from composer Brian Hodgson and Mark Ayres (which are abridged and will continues through this series). Also included are the front and back covers for The First Doctor disc included in the boxset (click on them for bigger versions. Many thanks to Silva Screen, visit their site HERE.
The producer Verity Lambert and director Waris Hussein visited us one afternoon. They explained the series and told Desmond that they had really hoped to get a Ron Grainer signature tune that sounded as if it was being played by Les Structures Sonores, a group of French musicians who had built a collection of musical instruments from steel and glass and had recently been featured in a BBC Arts programme. However Ron Grainer had recently announced that he was tired of writing TV signature tunes and would not be writing any more.
|Dick Mills, Desmond Briscoe and Brian Hodgson|
Fortunately Desmond had been speaking to Ron a few weeks previously and he had said that he would love to do some more work with the Radiophonic Workshop. Desmond immediately rang him and he agreed to write a tune for the programme to be realised by us. So Desmond asked Delia Derbyshire to work with Ron, and me to provide the Special Sound.
A few days later Ron appeared at the Workshop in between recording sessions as he had a very heavy workload. He tore off a strip of manuscript paper from the bottom of another score he was working on and scribbled down a few phrases of music. He spoke briefly to Delia describing the sorts of sounds he was interested in, wind bubbles and swoops etc., and then left.
Delia got to work and spent the next few weeks, assisted by Dick Mills, working to create the sound recording of Ron’s tune using oscillators, recording tape and so on, before Ron, Verity and Waris returned to hear the final result. Everyone was delighted and Ron’s reaction was one of amazement: “Jeez, Delia, did I write that?”. Delia replied, “Well, most of it, Ron”. (She had in fact written the links between the various sections). “Well, you deserve half the royalties”, he responded. Needless to say, that never happened: it was not BBC policy for staff to share in royalties at that time.
Meanwhile I had been working on the TARDIS sound using the famous front door key on the bass strings of a deconstructed Sunday School piano, electronic oscillators, filtered white noise and loads of treatment techniques involving pre- and post-feedback, speed changing, delayed echos and so on. The team liked it but at that time I had resisted putting a rising note through it on the grounds that it implied an upwards motion as opposed to motion in all directions at once. My objection to that concept was quickly demolished by the team and I duly added a rising note from the wobbulator together with feed back and delay: and thus the TARDIS was born.
Abridged album notes from Mark Ayres [Part 1]
The Workshop had recently collaborated – to great acclaim – with leading television tunesmith Ron Grainer on documentary series Giants of Steam, and a deal was swiftly done: the Workshop’s Delia Derbyshire would work with Grainer on the theme music, while Brian Hodgson would concentrate on the sounds – including that of the Doctor’s space-time machine, the “TARDIS” (which stands, as if you didn’t know, for Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). While this sound was to become as much a signature for the programme as Grainer’s music, the theme – still unique in television history – is a wonderful product of the two talents that created it. Ron provided a deceptively simple tune and harmonies over an ostinato bass with poetic indication as to the kind of sounds he envisaged (“wind bubble” and “cloud”…), and Delia’s imagination went to work whilst Dick Mills (who would himself take over from Brian Hodgson on the “special sounds” front in 1973) stood by to assist with tape cutting and loop-wrangling. There is no “performance” in the music and, no, that is not a Theremin. Every note, beat and pulse was hand-crafted using test-tone oscillators, noise generator and wobbulator, then painstakingly cut together on multiple layers of 1/4” recording tape before being manually synchronised to form the final mix. In later years, Delia would be asked to modify the music slightly (she added the “spangles” in 1967 and the “scream” in 1970) and in 1973 was persuaded to completely remake it using (with Paddy Kingsland’s help) the EMS Synthi 100 “Delaware” synthesiser – but this was not a success and it was immediately abandoned, though a couple of episodes with early dubs including this version did escape to Australia where they were transmitted by mistake!
In 1980, new incoming producer John Nathan-Turner commissioned the Workshop’s Peter Howell to do his own remake and this was much better-received, even winning Delia’s admiration (if anything, she felt, it was perhaps closer to Grainer’s original score than her version). She was very unhappy with later renditions, however, and wrote to the BBC to complain! (By the way, the version of the theme featured as disc 2, track 10 in this collection did not exist in the archive. I have made it up by combining the 1967 opening titles with the 1970 closing titles to produce something I have often been asked for – a full length version of this iteration of the music!).
Essentially, that was the end of Delia’s association with Doctor Who, other than assisting freelance composer Dudley Simpson in creating the Chromophone Band music for The Macra Terror in 1967. Delia Derbyshire died in 2001.
Brian Hodgson, however, continued with the programme for 10 years, providing all of its Special Sounds – Dalek control rooms, planet atmospheres, ray guns, doors opening, alarms and so on. This was in the days before extensive sound effects libraries, so originality was as essential as it was desirable. Some of these sounds live on in the current incarnation of the programme, 50 years later. On occasion, where budgets would not cover original music composition or even the use of library music, Brian’s sounds became the de facto scores for episodes – The Krotons and The Wheel in Space being notable examples. For the latter, Brian’s chilling cyber-music works superbly with the voice treatment used for the Cybermen. Dick Mills would continue this tradition, often providing sounds which are complex compositions in themselves. Nowadays, this job is known as “sound design”, a label that was first applied to Walter Murch’s work on Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. But Brian and Dick were pioneers in this area and Dick, indeed, is the most-credited contributor, in any field, in Doctor Who’s long history.
Special Thanks to Silva Screen