Blue Veils… and The Last Caravans

A quick update… in researching Delia Derbyshire’s classic track ‘Blue Veils and Golden Sands’, I’ve found that the BBC documentary she composed it for was adapted from 16mm colour footage shot for René Gardi’s 1967 film Die Letzten Karawanen [The Last Caravans]. This German-language film ran for approximately 90 minutes, with an orchestral score by Klaus Sonnenburg. It had previously been shown in cinemas and on several television channels across continental Europe.

In preparation for its broadcast as part of BBC 2’s World About Us series, producer John McFadin called on film editor David Thomas to condense Gardi’s footage to fit the series’ 50-minute time slot, and commissioned Christopher Venning to write English narration (read by the actor Gary Watson). Klaus Sonnenburg’s original music was also dropped, and Delia Derbyshire was asked to create a new score at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The completed film was broadcast by BBC 2 on 30th June 1968 at 7.25pm. Delia’s incidental music for the programme (the haunting Blue Veils and Golden Sands) became some of the most acclaimed in her career, and was later included on an album of BBC Radiophonic Music released in 1968.

Both documentaries are unavailable on home video, but there is a brief clip from the BBC’s version (at around 6m 15s) in Kara Blake’s 2009 documentary, The Delian Mode. René Gardi also published a book detailing his expedition to the Sahara, which is lavishly illustrated with photographs taken during the production of his original Last Caravans documentary.

I’m working on a more detailed article about Delia’s music for this documentary, but the research is taking longer than I anticipated. It’s proving a slow process, but hopefully there will be some more updates to follow soon.