In 1963, a science fiction series called Doctor Who premiered on the BBC. Its original theme tune, composed entirely without conventional instrumentation, invited viewers in with its melodic, yet uncanny sounds. Over 50 years later, Doctor Who is still on television, and the theme tune is instantly recognizable by fans both young and old.
While the theme’s brief score was provided by Ron Grainer, it was Delia Derbyshire’s electronic music savvy that brought the tune to life. Together with sound engineer Dick Mills, Derbyshire rolled out reels of tape and spliced together alien-like sounds for the new TV program about an alien man and his time-traveling adventures.
Today, in Manchester, England, where Derbyshire’s archive is held, electronic musician Caro C and others celebrate Delia Derbyshire Day on April 12. "Delia is the godmother of electronic music," Caro C says. In honor of the day, she and others in the field remember Derbyshire’s legacy as a female pioneer in the audio piece above.
Featuring the voices of: Caro C, electronic musician and project manager, Delia Derbyshire Day; David Butler, professor, University of Manchester; Dick Mills, sound engineer, BBC Radiophonic Workshop; Brian Hodgson, sound effects creator, Doctor Who and BBC Radiophonic Workshop Organizer. Music includes the Doctor Who Theme (1963 and 2010), Donna’s Theme (2008), and The Tenth Planet (1966). DD Day image credit: Andrea Pazos. Produced by Deanna Archetto.