The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

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Consul
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The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by Consul » Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:10 pm

If nobody here has seen this BBC4 documentary on the BBC Radiophonics Workshop, which existed from the late 50s through the 90s, I really, really recommend it. It's possible to find it out on the web. One quote in particular really hit home with me, and explains better than I could why I like building my own tools for music production. It is said by David Cain, a composer for the workshop:

David Cain wrote:One thing about any definition of "Golden Age", for me, comes also within music, comes within art, comes within literature: It is the point where the desires of the creator are greater than the technology which is available. There comes a moment where the technology gets closer and closer to the sort of imagination and creativity of the writer, and in the end, if you're not careful, it overtakes. And suddenly, serendipity, which before was from your own sweat and blood, but you created something and thought, "goodness me, that's great", serendipity [now] comes by saying, "if I press one of these 397 buttons on this synthesizer, maybe I'll get something out of it." Now at that moment, the machinery is driving the creativity, and the creativity is not driving the machinery. And maybe that's where the Golden Age stops. Maybe.


I've been really fascinated by musique concrète lately, to the point I've considered getting old electronics gear and some tape decks and seeing what I can come up with. In the end, that's an impractical decision, but I would still like to explore the techniques and methods within the computer, if I can. Once upon a time, though the file is long lost, I did a composition in this style using Cool Edit, before it could even multitrack, and some non-real-time sound synthesis software that I used to make some neat sounds which I then processed, resampled to new notes, and stitched together. I wish I still had that file, which was saved as an MP2 because it was that long ago that I did it, on a 5x86 which was brand new.
Darren Landrum

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by dahnielson » Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:44 pm

Great tip!

Think I heard (or rather read) about it when I was reading up on the Workshop (being a sucker for all things Beeb). Will definitely get around to watch it now. Here's the official website with a clip from it, btw:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfour/music/feat ... ists.shtml
Anders Dahnielson

Ardour2, Qtractor, Linuxsampler, M-AUDIO Delta 1010, Axiom 61, Korg D12, AKAI S2000, E-MU Proteus 2k, Roland R-5, Roland HP 1300e, Zoom RFX-1000, 4GB RAM x86_64 Intel Pentium Dual 1.80GHz Gentoo Linux

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by lowkey » Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:54 pm

David Cain has hit the nail on the head for where we are now. I got lost in "whens the next update?" land for a long, long time. I was allot more productive when I had less. Thats why Im using ReNoise and LinuxSampler as my composition tools.
The music Ive found most interesting have been from masters of their tools like the Art of Noise, Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada, Autechre and Amon Tobin. Instead of waiting for <insert magical-do-it-all-tool> Im going to bend these two to my will.
Being an expert with limited tools is a better use of my time than being a jack-of-most tools.

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by Consul » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:10 pm

This is a large part of why I've been focusing on the idea of sampling found sounds and simple invented instruments as sound libraries for composition. I see that as the "in-between option" with musique concrète at one end and the modern "every softsynth you can imagine and 600GB worth of sound libraries" on the other. I know I'm rethinking my desire to make a nice, realistic drum library and instead create some more interesting percussion tracks from what I have handy or can get for free/cheap. My desire for a sampler that can do some interesting mangling is still up there, though, since I think that fits in with the musique concrète aesthetic, in spirit if not by strict definition.

It would be progressive rock based not only on the theories of classical and jazz music, but on the aesthetic of musique concrète and early electronic music as well.
Darren Landrum

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by lowkey » Mon Mar 31, 2008 7:35 pm

Consul you should check out ReNoise. I was considering getting an mpc1000 until I had a long hard think about how I make music ie a zoomed-in-micro-managing-control-freek! :)

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by Consul » Mon Mar 31, 2008 10:42 pm

I've worked with plenty of trackers in my time, and even though I could get results, I was never very fond of them. I still like being able to sit down and play at a keyboard and just record the audio. Still, for a more pure musique concrète paradigm, I can see how they fit the bill.
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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by Consul » Tue Apr 01, 2008 2:35 am

Sorry, I didn't mean to belittle your suggestion. Renoise is a great application for those who love trackers. It's just that, to me, Impulse Tracker was quite capable, but just not, I don't know, intuitive, from my point of view. It didn't fit how I think.
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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by lowkey » Tue Apr 01, 2008 11:08 pm

No offense taken :D

You hit the nail on the head. Everyone (thankfully) think's differently. Host zealotry only benefits marketing departments ;)

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by dahnielson » Wed Apr 02, 2008 12:18 am

Finally watched it this evening. Great documentary will watch it more times. :-)

Even tough my area of aspiration isn't necessarily musique concrète per se, I did find the description of the transition from found sounds (tape loop sampling) to synthesizers as a good emotional illustration of why I prefer resynthesis in favor of pure synthesis and find it more intriguing.
Anders Dahnielson

Ardour2, Qtractor, Linuxsampler, M-AUDIO Delta 1010, Axiom 61, Korg D12, AKAI S2000, E-MU Proteus 2k, Roland R-5, Roland HP 1300e, Zoom RFX-1000, 4GB RAM x86_64 Intel Pentium Dual 1.80GHz Gentoo Linux

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Re: The Alchemists of Sound: BBC Radiophonics Workshop

Post by Consul » Wed Apr 02, 2008 2:08 am

If I could ever have met Delia Derbyshire in her prime, I would totally have hit on her. :mrgreen:
Darren Landrum

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