Special Sound

Special Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic WorkshopSpecial Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Special Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

 

Synopsis

Special Sound traces the fascinating creation and legacy of the BBC’s electronic music studio, the Radiophonic Workshop, in the context of other studios in Europe and America. The BBC built a studio to provide its own avant-garde dramatic productions with experimental sounds”neither music nor sound effect.” Quickly, however, a popular kind of electronic music emerged in the form of quirky jingles, signature tunes such as Doctor Who, and incidental music for hundreds of programs. These influential sounds and styles, heard by millions of listeners over decades of operation on television and radio, have served as a primary inspiration for the use of electronic instruments in popular music.

Using in-depth research in the studio’s archives and papers, this book tells the history of the many engineers, composers, directors, and producers behind the studio to trace the shifting perception towards electronic music in Britain. Combining historical discussion of the people and instruments in the workshop with analysis of specific works, Louis Niebur creates a new model for understanding how the Radiophonic Workshop fits into the larger history of electronic music.

“Louis Niebur has accomplished a feat of virtuoso research that places in a wholly original context the extraordinary accomplishments of such pioneer s as Maddalena Fagandini, Daphne Oram, and the fabulous Delia Derbyshire. Special Sound: The Creation and Legacy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop is elegantly organized and incisively written, a musicological ‘page-turner’ that elucidates a crucial period in the evolution of British technology and aesthetics. This volume should be required reading for anyone interested in British culture, music, and technical innovation during the mid-twentieth century.”
– BYRON ADAMS, Professor of Music, University of California, Riverside

“This stunning and thorough book exploring the BBC Radiophonic Workshop investigates not only broadcasting and programme-making, but also the rise of electronic music in the UK. Niebur’spassion for sounds of radio and television invigorates engaging and often entertaining writing. Moreover, it is transporting to hear such unique sounds, while reading about them.”
-JENNY DOCTOR, Senior Lecturer, University of York

Special Sound traces the fascinating creation and legacy of the BBC’s electronic music studio, the Radiophonic Workshop, in the context of other studios in Europe and America. The BBC built a studio to provide its own avant-garde dramatic productions with experimental sounds”neither music nor sound effect.” Quickly, however, a popular kind of electronic music emerged in the form of quirky jingles, signature tunes such as Doctor Who, and incidental music for hundreds of programs. These influential sounds and styles, heard by millions of listeners over decades of operation on television and radio, have served as a primary inspiration for the use of electronic instruments in popular music.

Using in-depth research in the studio’s archives and papers, this book tells the history of the many engineers, composers, directors, and producers behind the studio to trace the shifting perception towards electronic music in Britain. Combining historical discussion of the people and instruments in the workshop with analysis of specific works, Louis Niebur creates a new model for understanding how the Radiophonic Workshop fits into the larger history of electronic music.

LOUIS NIEBUR is Assistant Professor of Musicology at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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