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Psychedelian Streams (electroacoustic music, 2004)


Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001) was a pioneering composer of electronic music, whose work on the theme tune to Dr Who in 1963, the year after I was born, is one of the best known and best loved TV theme 'tunes' in the UK. There's a great mythology surrounding that music, around how Delia made the sounds. Was she plucking rubber bands, scraping the inside of a piano, using big, valve oscillators? I'm not sure, but in an era of psychedelia and the space race it certainly caught peoples' imaginations. Delia composed nearly 200 works in her 11 years in the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, and for those of us growing up in the 60s and early 70s her sounds were part of TV and radio on an almost daily basis. This piece, Psychedelian Streams, was composed for a theatre show written in 2004 about Delia's life. It looks back to those early days of musique concrete both in its choice of sounds and the way I manipulated them. I chose to record sounds which reminded me of the 60s - a Slinky, a wooden ruler rattling over the side of a table, wind chimes, all subjected largely to the kinds of processes available to in the studios of the 1960s - particularly looping, speed change, editing, reversing and reverberation.

The title alludes to the surreal imagery conjured up by these interweaving, transformed sounds, to Delia herself (and her Psychedelian Waltz), and to the psychedelic seas sailed by the Yellow Submarine.

Commissioned by Reeling and Writhing