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Monday, 21 July 2008

Delia Derbyshire's Body of Work Brought Into Digital Age!

Delia Derbyshire's extensive collection of recordings has been taken up by academics at Manchester University for cataloguing and digital conversion.

After she died in 2001, the recordings were entrusted to composer Mark Ayres by her estate, as he was a friend of hers and because of his involvement with the Radiophonic Workshop archive.

Derbyshire, who created the original arrangement of the Doctor Who theme music, composed by Ron Grainer, left behind a stockpile of 267 tapes. Her groundbreaking work is credited as having influenced the likes of The Crystal Method and Portishead.

David Butler, a lecturer in screen studies at the university's School of Art, Histories and Culture, said: "We have just started to scratch the surface. The collection includes her freelance work and really does give us a better sense of her range. Many of the tapes have no labels so it is a case of using detective work to find out what they are.

"Delia Derbyshire never really received the recognition she deserved as one of our most influential composers of the past 30 or so years.

"Though brilliant, the Doctor Who theme is just one small example of her genius which was held in high esteem by figures across music, television, theatre and film, including Paul McCartney and John Peel, the disc jockey."

Ayres told The Doctor Who News Page: "Unfortunately, it became apparent that I was not going to be able to find the many months (possibly years) of time that researching the material properly would take, so I have passed the material on to the University of Manchester and David Butler on permanent loan so that they can do it properly."

He remains the titular owner of the material on behalf of Derbyshire's estate and is working closely with Butler as a consultant on the collection.

Ayres said: "The aim is to cross-reference it with the Radiophonic Workshop archive and hopefully end up, in due course, with a definitive study of Delia's life and work."

Probably the most surprising discovery in the collection is a piece of music that sounds like a contemporary dance track which was recorded, it is believed, in the late-Sixties.

Paul Hartnoll, formerly of the dance group Orbital and a great admirer of Derbyshire's work, said the track was "quite amazing".

"That could be coming out next week on [left-field dance label] Warp Records," he noted. "It's incredible when you think when it comes from. Timeless, really. It could be now as much as then."

For the full story and to listen to sound clips from the collection, visit the BBC News website.

The story is also covered by The Times and The Daily Telegraph.