Radiophonic Workshop, the hugely influential early proponents of electronic music and soundtrack architects are back with an evocative suite of synth improvisations. This is the first new music by the Workshop to see a commercial release since 1985 but it was well worth the wait, so lets hear from the source of what this new sonic adventure is all about shall we……
The Radiophonic Workshop on Burials in Several Earths:
The improvisation was done blind – with no preconceptions nor any real start point. We wanted to see what happened if we allowed people to react together with their machines in a very unplanned and spontaneous way. The computers and sequencers were switched off and it led to a very human interaction between all of us. It is important that we maintained this feeling of spontaneity on the final discs – so minimal editing has taken place. What you hear is what happened in the moment. It was liberating to work in such a formless, freeing and immediate way. As we listened back it became obvious that some sections had evolved naturally as “dark” themes, others “watery”, another felt like a journey and so on. We started looking for titles that might reflect these improvised movements and moods. The titles for each piece here are taken from Francis Bacon’s incomplete New Atlantis novel/poem. Bacon portrays a future vision of human discovery and knowledge, expressing his aspirations for humankind, a utopian vision of a perfect and highly functioning technological future. The book depicts a land where “generosity and enlightenment, dignity and splendour, piety and public spirit” are the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants. Strangely relevant in our post-digital age many of the predictions are startling in the way they map against current ideologies and technologies.
While the poem itself was not the influence nor starting point for the improvisations that make up the body of the Burials In Several Earths the ideas in the novel seemed to fit the work as well as provide an obvious link to the history of the Radiophonic Workshop itself and the infamous Room 13 where the workshop began its work at BBC Maida Vale.
In 1957 Daphne Oram, one of the founders of the workshop, took a section of the novel and framed it as a sort of manifesto for the workshop and its role as an avant garde and experimental electronic space for BBC radio and television productions. Manipulating sound was a relatively new practice then and our use of early electronics and tape effects was seen as futuristic and somewhat challenging. The section on the wall of room 13 was there to remind us that when producers complained or people wrote to the Radio Times saying the music was unlistenable that we were trying to design future sounds – it was an experimental space. The section was chosen to be morale booster you might say.
“We have also sound-houses, where we practise and demonstrate all sounds, and their generation. We have harmonies which you have not, of quarter-sounds, and lesser slides of sounds. Divers instruments of music likewise to you unknown, some sweeter than any you have, together with bells and rings that are dainty and sweet…” It was something we returned to again and again during our existence at Maida vale as it seemed to present a rationale for what we did and for some of the work itself.
The remaining titles for the release are taken from a section of the novel where one of the characters describes the benefits of the land and the kind of society and cultures they have set up on the island.
…so there you have the pillars of what the music was built upon, but who are the Radiophonic Workshop?
Founded in 1958 by Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was home to a maverick group of experimental composers, sound engineers and musical innovators. In a series of small studios within the labyrinthine corridors of the BBC Maida Vale complex, the Workshop set about exploring new ways of using – and abusing – technology to create new sounds.
Drawing on the principles of musique concréte, found sounds, early electronics, oscillators, handmade synths and tape loops the Workshop created the other-worldly soundtrack to some of BBC television and radio’s most iconic programs: The Body in Question, Horizon, Quatermass, Newsround, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Chronicle and the iconic Doctor Who Theme – still the high-water mark for British electronic music nearly 50 years after it was recorded.
Now, nearly two decades after the Workshop was decommissioned, original members Peter Howell, Roger Limb, Dr Dick Mills, Paddy Kingsland and long-time associate composer Mark Ayres are back working together.
What to expect….
As collection of improvised pieces, this is an amazing collection. We are treated to a vibrant landscape of sounds, delving into the depths of sonic experimentation from exceptional musicians who seem to be at one with each other in their building process. While having many layers of curious and wondrous sounds, the music never seems to lose its way as it passes through various musical elements along its journey. It is as if one is walking down a corridor of sound, opening doors to its various rooms, each containing a unique and delicate melody within. A wonderful listening experience with so much depth it just gets better with every listen. In the words of one of the many artists influenced by the work the Radiophonic Workshop.
“This is not music, This is a Trip” Prince
|Vinyl Tracklist (RWSLP001)||CD (RWSCD001)|
|A1. Burials in Several Earths Part 1
B1. Burials in Several Earths Part 2
C1. Things Buried in Water Part 1
D1. Things Buried in Water Part 2
E1. Some Hope of Land Part 1
F1.. Some Hope of Land Part 2
G1. Some Hope of Land Part 3 (Room 13 Mix)
G2. Not Come to Light
H1. The Strangers’ House
01. Burials in Several Earths (19’01”)
02. Things Buried in Water (22’01”)
01. Some Hope of Land (25’14”)
02. Not Come to Light (3’55”)
03. The Strangers’ House (11’23”)
Digital edition RWSDL001 replicates CD tracklisting but one file sequenced tracks 1 – 5.
Burials In Several Earths Features guest appearances from Martyn Ware (The Human League/Heaven 17) and Steve ‘Dub’ Jones (Grammy-award winning mixing engineer).
Released 19th May on Room 13 records Available as a deluxe 4 x 10” boxset or 2CD edition
The Radiophonic Workshop play the Blue Dot festival this 7/8/9 July