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Late Night: Delia Derbyshire and the Music of Doctor Who

In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the world’s longest-running speculative fiction television programme, I thought it apposite to do a little post in tribute to the woman who gave us the theme music for that show, and whose pathbreaking work had so much influence on the musicians of her day, yet who toiled in obscurity for much for her life.

I speak of Delia Derbyshire, the musical genius and mathematical boffin who took Ron Grainer’s original score for the Doctor Who theme and turned it into a groundbreaking piece of musique concrete. Grainer himself was so impressed and astounded by Derbyshire’s work that he tried for years to get the BBC to acknowledge her as a co-creator of the theme. He was never able to do so, but the word still got out and Delia found herself with a number of admirers among the British musicians of the 1960s. You can hear one of her compositions, Blue Veils and Golden Sand, here. In addition, this BBC article has a number of sound samples of her work, including an experimental “dance” track that with very little tweaking could be played in most any modern techno-favoring dance hall and still sound fresh and new.

Derbyshire passed away in 2001, but not before she influenced a new generation of musicians. Here’s to you, Delia, wherever you are.

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