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BBC Radiophonic Workshop Revived Online

timothy posted about 2 years ago | from the what-the-british-sound-like dept.

Sci-Fi 32

New submitter ratbag writes with this snippet from BBC News: "The BBC's Radiophonic Workshop, which created theme tunes and sound effects for programs including Doctor Who and Blake's 7, is to reopen after 14 years. The original workshop was known for its pioneering use of electronic sounds. Founded in 1958, it was best-known for creating the eerie swoosh of the Doctor Who theme tune, but its compositions were also used in numerous radio dramas, The Goon Show and The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy. As well as music, the workshop created sound effects — from champagne corks popping to the distorted, strangulated voices of the Daleks."

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TARDIS (3, Informative)

markian (745705) | about 2 years ago | (#41328751)

How could you leave out the TARDIS sound? They started with a coin and an open string on a[n upright?] piano.

goon show -yin tong song (1)

hguorbray (967940) | about 2 years ago | (#41329001)

wonder if the lab was involved with this one at all:

When I lived in the UK in '73 there was a video of this on Top of the Pops or something where there was an explosion halfway through and they ended up in heaven or something...

didn't find it on youtube though, although I found a lot of other good Goon bits.

-I'm just sayin'

Re:TARDIS (3, Informative)

Jaffa (7714) | about 2 years ago | (#41329107)

How could you leave out the TARDIS sound? They started with a coin and an open string on a[n upright?] piano.

It was a house key on a piano string; although Wikipedia claims [] "house keys":

The distinctive accompanying sound effect – a cyclic wheezing, groaning noise – was originally created in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop by Brian Hodgson. He produced the effect by dragging a set of house keys along the strings of an old, gutted piano. The resulting sound was then recorded and electronically processed with echo and reverb.

I'm sure I remember hearing a programme where they described it - not only was reverb and echo added, it was also played backwards.


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41333089)

Jools Holland managed to reproduce the sound using a single house key fairly effectively on a full-size grand piano.


markian (745705) | about 2 years ago | (#41335301)

That's certainly possible. I remember watching an old interview, and I thought he [Hodgson] said a coin. So on the one hand, I think my first-hand recollection is better than wikipedia. On the other hand, my first hand recollection may not be so good. ;-) I'm unconvinced that coin versus keys would make a significant difference anyway! I do seem to recall the "play it backwards" bit too, though.

I swear (1)

puddingebola (2036796) | about 2 years ago | (#41328847)

They also supplied the voice for George clinton's "Won't you take me to..." funky town and Eddy Grant's "Electric Avenue."

Re:I swear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41329245)

Fucking RUBE.

Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41328951)

Delia Derbyshire! []

Re:Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41328985)

For those who don't get the title of the above post: [] .

It is the soundtrack of a short story by Isaac Asimov about robots worshipping their power generator.

Re:Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (3, Informative)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | about 2 years ago | (#41329087)

And for those who keep modding down this fine AC, Derbyshire was one of the most well-known and innovative workers at the Radiophonic Workshop, and both are links to her work. Sigh.

Re:Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41330907)

Ms Derbyshire led an exciting and tragic life. Some time ago BBC Radio 7 - now BBC Radio 4 extra - had a long look at the history of the Radiophonic Workshop. Everyone should look up her biography ( and elsewhere. A mathematics grad of Cambridge University, she suffered the discrimination heaped on women who were brighter than their male supervisors. She suffered from breast cancer an botched medical care so much that when illness returned, she refused to be treated and died as a result. Tragic. When Radio4 Extra repeats theses programs (probably available at tune in. BBC Radio 4 Extra keeps their programs up for listening for 7 days after first broadcast.

Re:Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41329089)

Why is this modded down? The GP & parent are on-topic.

Re:Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 2 years ago | (#41332751)

Because some people are idiots.

Re:Ziwzih Ziwzih OO-OO-OO (2)

Hazel Bergeron (2015538) | about 2 years ago | (#41329011)

Oh, her original was so good. The later themes didn't sound as good.

Am I going to be the first person to say that, while you may be able to get perfect precision with digital synthesis, you're always likely to get something more interesting to the human ear by playing around with analogue tech.


In a live performance at 2004's London Jazz Festival, he drove a tank over a replica of a meal Nigella Lawson had cooked for Tony Blair and George Bush.

Yawnity yawn yawn. Art may be subjective, but that doesn't mean I don't get to think some of it's just shit.

Wet Sock Filled With Custard (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41329015)

On the "Goon Show", there was once a need for the sound of a wet sock filled with custard slammed against a wall.
    After many experiments, and loss of life, they found the perfect sound effect.
    They filled a wet sock with custard, and slammed it against a wall.
    Over 50 years later, that sound effect is still used, when the need arises.

    I'm glad that the Workshop is back.

Re:Wet Sock Filled With Custard (3, Informative)

drkim (1559875) | about 2 years ago | (#41331337)

Being a radio show, the Goon Show was absolutely breathtaking in their use of sound and music to construct their crazy world. (Having Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan didn't hurt either!) Without them, we wouldn't have the whole absurdist comedy movement. (Think: Pythons, Marty Feldman, Firesign.)

Here's a great moment: []

They prolly wouldn't name it 'TARDis' today. (2)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#41329051)

Zomg I'll bet they did the coconuts sounds from Holy Grail.

Re:They prolly wouldn't name it 'TARDis' today. (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 2 years ago | (#41332757)

That's just normal foley work. Amusingly they only used them because they over shot their budget and couldn't afford real horses; so they turned it in to a sight gag.

THGTTG, hurray! (3, Informative)

John Bresnahan (638668) | about 2 years ago | (#41329295)

Amazingly, most of the Hitchhiker's Guide fans I know have never heard the original radio production. Many of them didn't even know that it was a radio production first.

Re:THGTTG, hurray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41329417)

The original shows are sometimes replayed on BBC Radio4 Extra (nee Radio7). They are fun, keep an eye out.

Re:THGTTG, hurray! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41330425)

No, the broadcast rights aren't available to the BBC any more.

Re:THGTTG, hurray! (0)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 2 years ago | (#41332297)

[citation needed]

Re:THGTTG, hurray! (1)

serviscope_minor (664417) | about 2 years ago | (#41332519)

[citation needed]

Seriously you're asking for a citation for a personal anecdote (Most of the fans he knows, i.e. personally)?

[citation needed] or I won't believe you that a citation is required.

Re:THGTTG, hurray! (1)

_Shad0w_ (127912) | about 2 years ago | (#41332779)

I believe they're asking for a citation for the fact that the BBC can't broadcast the original radio series; which I find hard to believe, given they produced it. There has been legal wrangling over releases of the recordings, because of them using copyright music and only having permissions to use it for broadcast. There was also a minor spat with Walt Disney when they were working on the film as the same time as the BBC were working on the Tertiary Phase, but it was resolved.

HGttG sound fx (2)

Fishbulb (32296) | about 2 years ago | (#41329583)

They did the sound effects for Hitchhiker's, but the theme song is Eagles - Journey of the Sorcerer []

"Strangulated?" (2)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 2 years ago | (#41329893)

I don't know about anybody else, but the Daleks always sounded to me like they were suffering from extreme hysteria. Of course, considering how badly they tended to come off whenever they went up against the Doctor, do you blame them?

Malcolm Clarke was right (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41331145)

And David Cain was wrong. ;p

"My hope was that the Workshop would regenerate itself, and I'm sure it will do, one day." A quote by Malcolm Clarke from the documentary, "Alchemists of Sound". One of my favorite documentaries of all time.

Now somebody needs to release "Same Trade As Mozart".

Re:Malcolm Clarke was right (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | about 2 years ago | (#41337443)

That is indeed a great documentary. I have watched it twice already and no doubt will be watching it again soon.


Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41331569)


Its a nice idea but whats the point? (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#41332899)

The functionality of synth equipment that used to fill a room can now be done on a laptop with a synth + sampler package these days. Probably even on a smartphone TBH. I don't see the point.

getting the people together in a good space (2)

fantomas (94850) | about 2 years ago | (#41333051)

It's about the combination of both the tech and getting the creative people together in a working environment that allows them to explore interesting and sometimes dead ideas to come up with works of genius.

You're very right that the sound production equipment can probably be pulled together by any western teenager that really wants a fantastic sound studio. But the fact that the vast majority of people just produce low quality rubbish shows that you need to create an environment to produce the kind of ground breaking work that the BBC Radiophonic Workshop used to achieve (tips hat to Delia Derbyshire...).

I guess after all these years maybe some folk in the BBC have realised what an amazing set up they had, and would like to recreate it in some form in the hope more fantastic work will be produced, attract the right sort of people, give them the right sort of working environment etc.

Re:Its a nice idea but whats the point? (2)

RaceProUK (1137575) | about 2 years ago | (#41333143)

Sometimes it's better to use the genuine article - simulated stuff never quite sounds the same.
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