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.”


Posted by Billyjam, March 6, 2009 06:00am | Post a Comment
Amoeba Music Berkeley Hip-Hop Top Five: 03:06:09

1) K'NAAN Troubadour (A&M/Octone Records)

2) Zion I The TakeOver (Gold Dust Media)

3) Madlib Beat Konducta 5 & 6 (Stones Throw)

4) RZA Afro Samurai Resurrection (TVT)

5) Beastie Boys Paul's Boutique (reissue) (Capitol)

Thanks to Inti at the Berkeley Amoeba Music for this week's Hip-Hop Top Five chart which finds reigning Somalia hip-hop music star K'NAAN in the top slot with his new album Troubadour. He was also number one at the Hollywood Amoeba last week. Meanwhile, Oakland duo ZIon I, who were number one at Amoeba SF two weeks ago, are in the number two slot with their highly recommended new album The TakeOver, which is full of potential hit singles. Currently Zion I, made up of producer AmpLive and emcee Zumbia, are on a West Coast tour. For details click here.

To celebrate its 20th anniversary, the Beastie Boys' second album, 1989's Paul's Boutique, was recently reissued and has been selling well at all Amoeba stores since its late January reissue date. At the Berkeley store it is this week's number five top seller.

A lot has changed in the 20 years since the album's initial release from the New York group. Initially considered a paul's boutiquecommercial failure by their record label, who expected Licensed To Ill-scale sales and pop radio acceptance, the album catapulted the Beasties from being remembered as mere novelty rap act to serious hip-hoppers in the music history books. Included in countless magazines and critics' "Best Of" album lists, the 20th anniversary reissue of Paul's Boutique package features 24-bit remaster audio and a commentary track. If you don't already own this album, get it.

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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.

out this week 2/24 & 3/3...depeche mode....gui boratto...sebastian tellier...

Posted by Brad Schelden, March 5, 2009 07:35pm | Post a Comment
depeche mode
I was always a way bigger fan of Depeche Mode than U2. I still remember the day I decided to become a Depeche Mode fan instead of U2. It was sort of like the day I decided to become a Blur fan instead of an Oasis fan. I know many people like both bands. I have many friends who like both U2 and Depeche Mode. But for me, I felt like it had to be one or the other. My brother was the U2 fan in the family, so that was probably the main reason I decided to turn my back on U2. To this day I have never really understood everybody's fascination with U2. I think U2 did end up becoming the more popular of the 2 bands. They both still have huge followings. Both are on a short list of rock bands from the 80's that can still sell out huge arena tours and sell tons of albums. U2's first album Boy came out in 1980. No Line On the Horizon is out this week and is the band's 12th album. Depeche Mode's first album Speak and Spell came out in 1981. Their new album, Sounds of the Universe, is also their 12th album. U2 beat them by about a year with their first album and are now beating them by about a month with their 12th album. Anton Corbijn obviously could not make up his mind like I did-- I think he likes both bands equally. He seems to have done almost every video and photo shoot for both bands. I probably will not even get around to hearing the new U2 album, but I am curious how the fans are receiving it. They are one of those bands who put out an album and the longtime fans justu2 automatically buy it. I am the same way with Depeche Mode. I am seriously counting down the days until the new album comes out -- April 21st. Only 47 days to go! But the new single is ready for you to listen to at least. I actually heard it on KROQ for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I probably heard "People are People" for the first time on KROQ as well, many years ago. I may not be a U2 fan, but I do love the U2 fans almost as much as I love the longtime Depeche Mode fans. I sort of stand with them in solidarity. It is not always easy to stand by a band for 28 years, but they make it worth it. Depeche Mode is one of those bands that I can't imagine my life without. One of those bands that we all have been made fun of for liking but also a band that has given us a whole new set of friends and a sort of musical solidarity with each other.

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Posted by Billyjam, March 5, 2009 11:11am | Post a Comment
Since Radiohead first released the Thom Yorke-penned song "Creep" seventeen years ago, numerous artists -- including many well known, high-profile acts -- have covered the Radiohead hit that became so popular that the band themselves distanced themselves from it for a spell.

Originally released in 1992 as their debut single, "Creep" was not initially a hit. But it did become one when it was rereleased the following year, when it also appeared on their debut album Pablo Honey. Out of uneasiness with becoming a sort of one-hit-wonder band associated with this sole major worldwide hit, plus the fact that Radiohead had shifted in style as the nineties progressed, Yorke and the band ceased playing it in concert altogether by 1998. After three years, they changed their mind and re-added it to their show playlists, although only sporadically.

Truth is that it is a great song and one that one that countless others have covered: many of which are included below in either video or audio format. Included in the versions are covers by Beck, Chrissie Hynde/Pretenders, Moby, KoRN, the Dutch band Shiver, Sad Kermit, and Weezer at a Hootenanny in Portland last summer. Weezer also played the song at a Hootenanny in the Bay Area and again at a concert in Tokyo last year. Also below is the original version by Radiohead. Not below but viewable on YouTube is Tears For Fears 1996 live in Brasil cover of the song. 

My personal fave remains the original, with Chrissie Hynde coming in a close second. I place off-key Moby (an ariist who I normally like) in the last place, even behind the frog named Sad Kermit. If you have time, check out the versions below and post your opinion / rating of best to worst version in the COMMENTS below.
Amoeblog Update: thanks to the Amoeblog commenters SFatNIght who informed me of the Prince cover of "Creep" at Coachella last year which is not great audio quality recording but well worth checking out, and also to Amoeblog commenter Robert Gable who turned me onto the wonderful Edmund Welles bass clarinet quartet version of the song which I have added below. Thanks!

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