Delia Derbyshire was born in Coventry, England, in 1937. Educated at Coventry Grammar School and Girton College, Cambridge, where she was awarded a degree in mathematics and music.
Delia Derbyshire was working in the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in 1963 when she was given the score for a theme tune to a new science fiction series.
She turned those dots on a page into the swirling, shimmering Doctor Who title music, one of the most famous and instantly recognisable TV themes ever. On first hearing it Grainer was tickled pink: “Did I really write this?” he asked. “Most of it,” replied Derbyshire.
Thus began what is still referred to as the Golden Age of the Radiophonic Workshop. Initially set up as a service department for Radio Drama, it had always been run by someone with a drama background. Derbyshire was the first person there with any higher music qualifications, but as she wasn’t supposed to be doing music, much of her early work remained anonymous under the umbrella credit ‘special sound by BBC Radiophonic Workshop’.
Most unexpected of all, however, 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 Ms 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.”
Delia’s works from the 60s and 70s continue to be used on radio and TV some 30 years later, and her music has given her legendary status with releases in Sweden and Japan. She is also constantly mentioned, credited and covered by bands from Add n to (x) and Sonic Boom to Aphex Twin and The Chemical Brothers.
A complete list of her works has yet to be compiled, but amongst other things she has mentioned doing: Special works and soundtracks for the Brighton Festival, the City of London Festival, Yoko Ono’s “Wrapping Event”, the award winning “Circle of Light”, music for Peter Hall’s “Work is a 4 Letter Word” starring Cilla Black, The White Noise LP “An Electric Storm”, special sound and music for plays at the RSC Stratford, Greenwich Theatre, Hampstead Theatre and the Chalk Farm Roundhouse.