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Sci-Fi Television The Media United Kingdom

BBC Radiophonic Workshop Revived Online 32

New submitter ratbag writes with this snippet from BBC News: "The BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, which created theme tunes and sound effects for programs including Doctor Who and Blake's 7, is to reopen after 14 years. The original workshop was known for its pioneering use of electronic sounds. Founded in 1958, it was best-known for creating the eerie swoosh of the Doctor Who theme tune, but its compositions were also used in numerous radio dramas, The Goon Show and The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As well as music, the workshop created sound effects — from champagne corks popping to the distorted, strangulated voices of the Daleks."
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BBC Radiophonic Workshop Revived Online

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  • TARDIS (Score:3, Informative)

    by markian ( 745705 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @05:51PM (#41328751)

    How could you leave out the TARDIS sound? They started with a coin and an open string on a[n upright?] piano.

    • wonder if the lab was involved with this one at all:

      When I lived in the UK in '73 there was a video of this on Top of the Pops or something where there was an explosion halfway through and they ended up in heaven or something...

      didn't find it on youtube though, although I found a lot of other good Goon bits.

      -I'm just sayin'
    • Re:TARDIS (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jaffa ( 7714 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @06:23PM (#41329107) Homepage

      How could you leave out the TARDIS sound? They started with a coin and an open string on a[n upright?] piano.

      It was a house key on a piano string; although Wikipedia claims [] "house keys":

      The distinctive accompanying sound effect – a cyclic wheezing, groaning noise – was originally created in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by Brian Hodgson. He produced the effect by dragging a set of house keys along the strings of an old, gutted piano. The resulting sound was then recorded and electronically processed with echo and reverb.

      I'm sure I remember hearing a programme where they described it - not only was reverb and echo added, it was also played backwards.

      • by markian ( 745705 )

        That's certainly possible. I remember watching an old interview, and I thought he [Hodgson] said a coin. So on the one hand, I think my first-hand recollection is better than wikipedia. On the other hand, my first hand recollection may not be so good. ;-) I'm unconvinced that coin versus keys would make a significant difference anyway! I do seem to recall the "play it backwards" bit too, though.

  • They also supplied the voice for George clinton's "Won't you take me to..." funky town and Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @06:05PM (#41328951)

    Delia Derbyshire! []

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 13, 2012 @06:10PM (#41328985)

      For those who don't get the title of the above post: [].

      It is the soundtrack of a short story by Isaac Asimov about robots worshipping their power generator.

      • by Hazel Bergeron ( 2015538 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @06:20PM (#41329087) Journal

        And for those who keep modding down this fine AC, Derbyshire was one of the most well-known and innovative workers at the Radiophonic Workshop, and both are links to her work. Sigh.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Ms Derbyshire led an exciting and tragic life. Some time ago BBC Radio 7 - now BBC Radio 4 extra - had a long look at the history of the Radiophonic Workshop. Everyone should look up her biography ( and elsewhere. A mathematics grad of Cambridge University, she suffered the discrimination heaped on women who were brighter than their male supervisors. She suffered from breast cancer an botched medical care so much that when illness returned, she refused to be tre

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Why is this modded down? The GP & parent are on-topic.

    • Oh, her original was so good. The later themes didn't sound as good.

      Am I going to be the first person to say that, while you may be able to get perfect precision with digital synthesis, you're always likely to get something more interesting to the human ear by playing around with analogue tech.


      In a live performance at 2004's London Jazz Festival, he drove a tank over a replica of a meal Nigella Lawson had cooked for Tony Blair and George Bush.

      Yawnity yawn yawn. Art may be subjective, but that doesn't mean I don't get to think some of it's just shit.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    On the "Goon Show", there was once a need for the sound of a wet sock filled with custard slammed against a wall.
        After many experiments, and loss of life, they found the perfect sound effect.
        They filled a wet sock with custard, and slammed it against a wall.
        Over 50 years later, that sound effect is still used, when the need arises.

        I'm glad that the Workshop is back.

  • Zomg I'll bet they did the coconuts sounds from Holy Grail.

    • That's just normal foley work. Amusingly they only used them because they over shot their budget and couldn't afford real horses; so they turned it in to a sight gag.

  • THGTTG, hurray! (Score:4, Informative)

    by John Bresnahan ( 638668 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @06:40PM (#41329295)
    Amazingly, most of the Hitchhiker's Guide fans I know have never heard the original radio production. Many of them didn't even know that it was a radio production first.
  • by Fishbulb ( 32296 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @07:08PM (#41329583)
    They did the sound effects for Hitchhiker's, but the theme song is Eagles - Journey of the Sorcerer []
  • by techno-vampire ( 666512 ) on Thursday September 13, 2012 @07:44PM (#41329893) Homepage
    I don't know about anybody else, but the Daleks always sounded to me like they were suffering from extreme hysteria. Of course, considering how badly they tended to come off whenever they went up against the Doctor, do you blame them?
  • The functionality of synth equipment that used to fill a room can now be done on a laptop with a synth + sampler package these days. Probably even on a smartphone TBH. I don't see the point.

    • It's about the combination of both the tech and getting the creative people together in a working environment that allows them to explore interesting and sometimes dead ideas to come up with works of genius.

      You're very right that the sound production equipment can probably be pulled together by any western teenager that really wants a fantastic sound studio. But the fact that the vast majority of people just produce low quality rubbish shows that you need to create an environment to produce the kind of grou

    • Sometimes it's better to use the genuine article - simulated stuff never quite sounds the same.

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