Daphne Oram is best known for her design of her Oramics system, and also for co-founding the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. At the time of writing, the only easily available piece of music by her on CD has been the 8 minute long ‘Four Aspects’. There was also a 7” EP from 1962 on HMV, released as part of the ‘Listen, Move and Dance’ series that was specifically designed to help children dance. Although the short pieces on this record are very basic it could be argued that this was the first ever electronic dance record!
Now for the first time is a survey of nearly all the major pieces that she produced since her departure from the BBC in January 1959 until her final tape piece in 1977. During this time she worked independently in her home studio, and thanks to a grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation in 1962 she was able to pursue her interest in developing her own electronic music. In Britain there were no state funded studios other than the Radiophonic Workshop which in its earliest times mainly existed at the behest of the drama studio and was not generally seen as a place to develop personal artistic ideas. There were also no university studios at this time, so it was necessary for British electronic composers to be self funded. Throughout this period she devoted her attention to developing her Oramics ‘drawn sound’ system, which consisted of a large machine that enabled patterns drawn on transparent 35mm film to be converted into sound. This system was eventually fully realised in the late 60’s and several pieces here incorporate its use.
The 2 and a half hours of music on this 2CD set covers the whole range of Oram’s post BBC output. All of the music is electronic with some occasional use of instruments, especially small percussion and piano frame. There is also some use of musique concrète techniques. The works fall roughly into the following categories: works for TV and cinema advertising, film soundtracks, music for theatre productions, installations and exhibitions as well as concert pieces and several studio experiments. Also included are 4 mini compositions that resulted from an experimental music course given by Oram at a high school in Yorkshire in 1967.