Sunday, 10 November 2013

Music for BBC SF operas

It was good to see Ron Grainer acknowledged in print as the originator of the Dr Who theme. It seemed as if the priesthood now in charge of the franchise had written him out of history. The genesis is described in an article in yesterday's Independent.

The producer Verity Lambert asked Ron Grainer, composer of the opening music for Maigret and Steptoe and Son, for a tune with a beat that was “familiar yet different”. A single A4 sheet was despatched from Grainer's home in Portugal to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, where Delia Derbyshire was placed in charge of fully realising Grainer's composition – and, at a time before synthesisers, had to create each new sound from scratch. The swooping noises on the soundtrack were created by Derbyshire painstakingly adjusting the pitch of an oscillator to a carefully timed pattern, while the rhythmic hissing sounds were the product of filtering white noise. All of these musical effects had to be captured on individual tape recorders.

In that same article, Holst's Mars was cited as the theme music for the first two Quatermass serials on BBC-TV, but of course there was much more underscore than that. There is a list here. (Not listed is another piece of library music entitled if I recall correctly "Tank Action", very derivative of Mars.) Trevor Duncan features heavily, but I notice a couple of heavyweights in the list, Mátyás Seiber and Hans May, like producer Rudolph Cartier a refugee from the Nazis.

No comments: