Hello all, not been around for a while but thought you might be interested in this.
Today The Science Museum in London is displaying Daphne Oram's Oramics Machine for the first time. All the sections of the machine are in a large glass cabinet: waveform reader/ sound generator; sequencer; amplifiers; speakers.
A brief overview, if you've never heard of Daphne or Oramics:
Daphne Oram founded the BBC Radiophonics workshop in the mid/late fifties to make special effects for radio plays and other productions and to make electronic music. Lots of experiments with wave generators and tape splicing, reverb chambers and multitrack recording. Famously, Delia Derbyshire worked at the workshop (after Daphne had left, I believe), and recorded the Dr Who theme tune. The Tardis sound was also made there. Daphne Oram was a scientist, composer, teacher and dedicated proponent of electronic music.
The Oramics Machine was Daphne's brainchiild, envisioned as a brand new way of making electronic sounds and composing electronic music. It's so forward thinking it's unbelievable. The machine was envisioned in 1958 and a working model was in action in the mid 60s. There's still lots of work to be done into exactly how it works and when different bits were completed - there's even a funded PhD in Oramics in the application process at the moment, at Goldsmiths. The info below is off the top of my head and might not be 100% accurate, just trying to give an idea of how exciting it is!
The machine used four cathode ray tubes, in reverse, to read hand-painted wave forms from glass slides, and play them back at specified pitches.
The machine had four channels which could set the amplitude of the waveform-oscillators digitally, by painting blocks of colour on 35mm film. This was fed through and read by (home made!) LDRs. Note duration was also set in a similar way.
Vibrato, reverb send, pitch, timbre (filter?) could be controlled with similar 35mm film, onto which the composer could paint envelopes, lines to control the parameters. Effects automation, even looks the same as in a DAW.
POLYPHONIC SYNTHESIS / SEQUENCING
Depending on how the modules were wired up, the machine could have up to four note polyphony. Although in its current set up it would have four tones with different waveforms all controlled by the same pitch changer input.
This amazing machine is on display for about 15 months. Also showing is a cabinet to explain early electronic music techniques with an oscillator, tape machine and splicing block; a short video of Daphne explaining Oramics in brief; photos of Daphne and other Radiophonics people; a computer thing with lots more info on it; and an interactive touch screen emulator of the machine, which will also be available as an iPad / iPhone app.
In October a second part of the exhibition opens, under the Science Museum's Public History banner, involving various non-museum co-curators. Some people from EMS and the workshop are putting together a display cabinet. Twelve electronic musicians, including me, have put together a brief history of electronic music to be shown in three more cabinets. Needless to say we advised the museum to acquire a TB-303 for its permanent collection, which will be shown alongside various other important synths, photos, videos and artefacts.
The experience of co-curating was amazing. There's some info about it on my blog here: link and lots of detail from one of the other participants here: link (scroll down)
In october we're also planning some events/performances/talks in the Science Museum as part of their Lates programme, where the museum opens after hours and admits over 18s only. And allows them to drink booze while looking at the exhibits.