Delia Derbyshire and the Doctor

I saw a documentary at MIFF on the weekend called The Delian Mode. It was about Delia Derbyshire (great name), who worked at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s. Delia was a mathematician and musician, incredibly talented, innovative and eccentric. She's best known for creating the Doctor Who theme music. When composer Ron Grainer first heard Delia's version, he asked "did I really write this?". Delia replied, "most of it." She had spunk.

No computers. No synthesisers. Every sound painstakingly recorded to tape, then sped up or slowed down, cut, spliced on to a line of tape hundreds of meters long. Multiple sounds combined, not with a multitrack, but by simultaneously pressing "play" on 8 different tape-players and hoping they stayed in sync.

Delia was a visionary, a scientist and an artist. One of her early pieces of work could easily be played in a nightclub and pass as trance music - but it was created 30 years before trance developed.

She was certainly eccentric - she drank too much and lived a peculiar, isolated life (she was a hoarder, and said that when her house got too messy she just moved) until her first marriage in 1974.

The documentary featured interviews with electronic musicians Peter Kember (Sonic Boom) and Adrian Utley (Portishead), who said that because of the ambient soundscapes created by the BBC in the 60s and 70s, listeners were primed for electronic music. It was something they'd grown up with, as ordinary and commonplace as listening to BBC radio on a Sunday afternoon.

Delia died in 2001, age 64. She was incredibly excited about the new possibilities of electronic music and computers, and was still working on new projects. She hated all subsequent Doctor Who themes, regarding hers as the very best. I'll let you be the judge of that: