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Delia Derbyshire - electronic music pioneer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 6, 2009 07:33pm | Post a Comment
Delia Derbyshire

The Guardian once described Delia Derbyshire as “The unsung heroine of British electronic music,” seemingly implying that there are other heroines of British electronic music that are more widely… sung. I suppose there is Daphne Oram but the English never use less than three adjectives when one will suffice, so let’s just say that Delia Derbyshire is an unsung heroine of music. That she happens to have worked primarily in electronic music is secondary and that she was British shouldn't be held against her. She was a wizard and pioneer who, instead of guarding her magical abililties, eagerly shared her techniques and discoveries, but was stifled by the BBC’s draconian demands that their artists work and die in anonymity.


Delia was born in Coventry on May 5th, 1937. As a girl, she learned piano and violin and attended Barr's Hill School. She later attended college at Girton in Cambridge. After initially pursuing studies in math, she switched courses to music before graduation. After graduation, she began to look for work in the music field, quickly butting up against the deeply entrenched sexism of the field. In fact, in 1959, upon applying for a job at Decca, she was flatly told that their policy was to not hire women to work in the studios. The United Nations proved more diplomatic than the folks at Decca, and she worked there for a short while. Then she returned to England and found employment at the London-based music publisher, Boosey & Hawkes. She didn’t stay long.
In 1960, she was hired as a trainee studio manager at the BBC, working with the Radiophonic Workshop, then just a few years old. It was an organization charged with producing experimental incidental music and sound effects for the BBC Third Programme’s radio plays in cases where the normal orchestral score was deemed inappropriate. Her predecessors had included Harry Desmond Briscoe and Daphne Oram, two noted pioneers of electronic music and musique concrète.
Derbyshire came on board following Oram’s departure, as part of a group of young artists that also included Brian Hodgson and John Baker. Many of her initial pieces were collaborations with artist/playwright Barry Bermange. One such piece was 1964’s The Dreams, a sound collage of people describing their dreams with Derbyshire's electronic sounds.


Gradually, the Radiophonic Workshop began producing more music and sound effects for television than radio. One year earlier, in 1963, Derbyshire performed her mostly widely-heard work when given the score for Ron Grainer’s theme to a new science-fiction series, Doctor Who. Incorporating filters, tape loops and valve oscillators, she fashioned one of the most memorable pieces of electronic music ever, and one that's especially dear to Whovians. Grainer was so impressed he sought to give Derbyshire co-author credit but the BBC prevented it. Although officially uncredited, the popularity of the theme resulted in her employers giving her many other assignments and she ultimately produced over 200 pieces including noteworthy scores for Great Zoos of the World and Cyprian Queen. The BBC was, however, by no means entirely supportive of her work, rejecting many of her compositions, claiming they were too bizarre, “too lascivious for 11 year olds” and “too sophisticated for the BBC2 audience.”

Billie Maxwell - The Cow Girl Singer

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 5, 2009 09:00pm | Post a Comment

The 1920s and ‘30s were full of cowgirl singers like the Girls of the Golden West (Millie and Dolly Good), Patsy Montana and Texas Ruby, most of whom were just as inauthentic as their better known male counterparts like Gene Autry and the Sons of the Pioneers. However, one western performer was the real deal: Billie Maxwell.

                      Springerville Arizona
One of the two known photos of Billie Maxwell (left), Springerville, Arizona in the 1920s (right).

Billie Maxwell was born in 1906 and raised near Springerville, Arizona, same place where Ike Clanton, one of the Missourian players in the Gunfight at the OK Corral, was shot dead by a detective not 20 years earlier. Her father, E. Curtis Maxwell, was locally renowned as a fiddler who'd amassed a massive repertoire of songs learnt from his father, William Beatty Maxwell, an Illinoisan who’d moved first to Nevada and then Arizona in the 1800s. Curtis Maxwell formed a string band called the White Mountain Orchestra who toured (on horseback) the ranches in the area, playing dances. Not only did Maxwell know many traditional songs, but he composed his own work too, including “Escudilla Waltz” and “Frolic of the Mice.” In her teenage years, Billie joined her father’s band, where she played guitar alongside her brother, Marion, who played mandolin. Eventually she occasionally struck out on her own, performing solo shows in the backcountry.


In 1929, at the age of 23, she married a local schoolteacher, Alvin Chester Warner, and settled down to raise a family. A few months later, in June, her uncle Frank Maxwell (a lawman over in Silver City) noticed a classified in the local paper advertising an upcoming field recording session for Victor over in El Paso. At an audition, the White Mountain Orchestra were deemed worthy and two weeks later Chester Warner drove his wife, Marion, Curtis and Frank to a recording session where they met Ralph Peer.

Alice Guy-Blache - first female of film direction

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 3, 2009 08:33pm | Post a Comment
 

Early Years

Alice Guy was born on July 1, 1873. Her French parents were working in Chile, where they owned a chain of bookstores. When Alice's mother got pregnant, the couple returned to Paris where Alice was born. Soon after, her parents returned to South America and left her to be raised by her grandmother in Switzerland. After eventually moving to Chile to rejoin her parents, the family returned to France and enrolled Alice in school. Once again, her parents returned to Chile. Shortly afterward, her father and brother died.


Career
In 1894, Alice was hired by Léon Gaumont as his secretary and still photographer. Whilst working for him, she began experimenting with filmmaking. A couple years later, Gaumont started his own company, Gaumont Film Company and Alice was head of production from 1896 to 1906. In the late 1890s (c. 1898), she directed her first film, La Fee aux Choux (The Cabbage Fairy). In doing so, Alice Guy became the first female film director. In addition to directing at least 324 films, she contributed as a producer, writer or in some other aspect on many more. Though she made slapstick, fantasy, sci-fi, western and action films as well as many other genres, many of her filmes were intended for female audiences and bore a deliberate and outspoken feminist sensibility.

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Happy Texas Independence Day!

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 2, 2009 11:21am | Post a Comment

After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, the newly independent country organized itself into several states. In the northern Coahuila y Tejas, there were many Native peoples like the Alabama, Apache, Aranama, Atakapa, Caddo, Comanche, Coahuiltecan, Cherokee, Choctaw, Coushatta, Hasinai, Jumano, Karankawa, Kickapoo, Kiowa and Wichita that the nearly bankrupt Mexican government had little resources to subjugate. So they invited immigrants from the US, called Texians, to help keep down the aborigines.

Soon the immigrants outnumbered the Mexicans and Natives put together. These Texian immigrants made little to no effort to assimilate into their adopted country -- they they self-segregated, carried guns everywhere, didn't learn "the language" (Spanish) and wrote signs in English. Even though slavery was illegal in Mexico, the Texians (who numbered about 30,000) simply ignored Mexican law and brought 5,000 slaves. Before long, Mexican president Bustamante sought to restrict futher American immigration to Mexico, recognizing they were up to no good. Before long, the Texians took up arms and ultimately gained independence from Mexico.

Joel McCrea
Joel McCrea, not Texian, but played one on the radio

By 1850, Texians started referring to themselves most commonly as Texans. The Texas Almanac of 1857 waxed purple about the mere dropping of the letter "i," continuing the Texan tradition of making something out of nothing, moaning [in Chris Elliot's fancy lad voice] "Texian...has more euphony, and is better adapted to the conscience of poets who shall hereafter celebrate our deeds in sonorous strains than the harsh, abrupt, ungainly, appellation Texan -- impossible to rhyme with anything but the merest doggerel."

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Happy Pig Day -- celebrate with pig-related dvds, vhs

Posted by Eric Brightwell, March 1, 2009 02:17pm | Post a Comment
Miss Piggy in wardrobe malfunctionPooh and Piglet Walt Disney's Three Little Pigs



Animal Farm Animal Farm Babe


Babe Pig in the City The Black Cauldron Charlotte's Web

Patricia Picinini's The Young Family

Deliverance Gordy My Brother the Pig

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