The Delian Mode and Henry Moore


Just reading the Doctor Who magazine special The Music of Doctor Who. Fascinating stuff – it’s beautifully presented and meticulously researched. I’m not sure if it’s still in print, but there are often copies available on eBay and elsewhere (the Who Shop currently have a few copies in stock).

One bit of info I thought might be of interest here is from Mark Ayres’ article The Sound of Music on the early days of the Radiophonic Workshop, in which he notes (on p. 15) that Delia Derbyshire composed her classic track The Delian Mode for Barry Bermange’s Inventions for Radio – The Dreams. According to BBC Genome this was originally transmitted 5th January 1964, on the BBC Third Programme.

I hadn’t heard this programme in full before, so searched online and listened to a clip from an off-air recording (as far as I know, there’s no official release of The Dreams). The Delian Mode appears in the section entitled The Sea.

One thing that stood out is that the music heard in The Dreams (from 1964) is presented in a slightly different mix than the commercial release of The Delian Mode (released in 1968 on the BBC Radiophonic Music LP). The released mix of the Delian Mode has several elements not heard in The Dreams, perhaps in order to thicken the arrangement in parts where the music would have originally complemented speech in the radio broadcast.

In researching the track, I’ve found that the released mix of The Delian Mode includes elements created by Delia for a 1968 documentary on Henry Moore, called I Think in Shapes, Not in Words (first broadcast by BBC 2 on 27th August 1968). Delia’s incidental music for this programme is based on the sound of Moore tapping one of the large hollow sculptures on display at the Tate Gallery’s retrospective of his work.

Two clips from this programme are available on the BBC website: Extract 1 contains Delia’s music (from 0.57 – 1.35), which reworks the metallic sound of the sculpture being struck into an eerie piece of musique concrète. Extract 2 shows Moore walking through the exhibit and tapping the sculpture, providing the source sound for Delia’s music.

The same metallic impact sample can also be heard from approximately 3.27 to 4.38 in The Delian Mode, as part of a loop used in the track’s closing section. I’m guessing that Delia edited these atmospheric sounds into the Delian Mode when the track was being prepared for release on the BBC Radiophonic Music LP later that same year. I haven’t been able to find any further info to support this as yet though.

There are various other differences between these mixes which I hope to document later, as part of a longer article on the Inventions for Radio. That’s beyond the scope of this blog entry though, and probably something I’ll return to in the new year.


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