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'This is Absolute Genius.
'So sit down, buckle up and get ready for take-off!
'Each show, we'll introduce you to a different genius,
'an amazing person who had a genius idea
'which shaped the world.
'And they will inspire us
'to come up with our own genius idea at the end of each show.
'But will it be any good?
'Will it be any good? It will be... Absolute Genius!
'And on today's show, get ready for an out-of-this-world experience...
'Because today's absolute genius helped create
'one of the biggest stars in the galaxy!
'But just who are we talking about?'
Today we're going to introduce you to a genius with a difference.
A real trailblazer,
who helped revolutionise the way that modern music was made.
Pioneering techniques that produced sounds we'd never heard before.
And she produced possibly one of the most famous pieces of music
in this country...
..if not the world!
Or even the universe!
I bet you know what we're talking about now!
MUSIC: Doctor Who Theme
Today's genius helped create
the most iconic TV theme tune of all time - Doctor Who.
What did you say?
And when Doctor Who hit our screens back in 1963, it was the first time
that most people had ever heard electronic music.
It was groundbreaking!
But she didn't just come up with a catchy tune - in fact,
she didn't even write it - it was the way she made it
and the way she made it sound that was absolute genius,
and has had an impact on music to this very day.
Ladies and Gentlemen... we give you... Delia Derbyshire!
Inspired by her genius,
we'll be coming up with our own genius idea later on...
'..When we make our own music in a rather eyebrow-raising way!'
But now, let's find out a little bit more about the good lady herself.
This is a journey into sound.
Born in 1937, Delia grew up during World War Two,
and would lie awake at night listening to the alien sounds
of air raid sirens and the crackling of buildings on fire.
These strange sounds would inspire her later work.
Delia loved music,
but music back then was very traditional, played by orchestras,
and nothing like the electronic tunes that she'd go on to create.
Along with music, maths was her other passion
and she graduated with a degree in, yep, you guessed it,
maths and music from Cambridge University.
First, there's the simplest sound of all, which is a sound wave.
Delia was fascinated by sound,
but to understand why her genius still affects the way
music is made today, we wanted to know just what sound is
in the first place...
and who better to tell us than our resident genius Fran,
who has a habit of popping up, just when you most need her?
So, Fran, we're here to learn about sound.
Can you explain it in a simple form?
OK, well, let's start at beginning. Do you know what a sound is?
-Is it like a frequency? Like waves?
-We don't know.
OK, well, a sound is basically just a vibration -
if you make something vibrate, it'll make the air around it vibrate
and that is what we hear as a sound.
So are you telling me anything from dropping a knife on the floor
to a cow going moo is just a vibration?
Just a vibration,
and that vibration is passed through the air as a sound wave.
'To demonstrate, Fran had set up a Rubens' Tube - a metal pipe
'with dozens of holes in it, connected to a gas supply
'that you light... a bit like a barbecue.'
You say it's like a barbecue - mine doesn't do that.
At the moment, it's not really doing much -
all the flames are the same height, but in a moment
I'll pop a speaker on the end
that has a single tone going through, so just one note,
and that's going to make the air inside the tube and the flames
vibrate in a certain way,
and we should be able to see the sound wave.
-All the different heights? How weird.
You should be able to hear the tone.
Yes, I can see it! Bouncy.
Down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up, down.
So this a high frequency, which means it's like a high pitch,
and all high frequency means is it's got quite a few lumps.
So you can change it to a lower tone?
-Yeah, a lower frequency.
-Which will have fewer bumps?
So you can hear it going lower and lower.
So all the sounds we hear are just caused by different frequencies
and different amounts of it vibrating.
So our ear is picking up these different frequencies
and it turns into the sounds that we recognise on a daily basis?
'We'd seen the Rubens' Tube in action with single tones, but what
'about with a whole tune? What about the Doctor Who theme tune?'
That's absolutely bizarre.
MUSIC: Doctor Who Theme
It's not picking up all the notes, just some of them, but still,
It's got the main bass line. # Diggity ding, diggity ding... #
'It certainly did,
'and there was only one thing to do at a time like this...
'and that was dance.'
That's enough of that - it's not about dancing,
it's about Delia, and having finished university, she got
a job at the BBC in a new department called the Radiophonic Workshop.
The workshop's purpose was to provide unusual music
and sound effects for TV and radio.
Of course, shows had used music and sound long before the workshop
existed, but it all tended to be much more traditional.
Allow us to demonstrate.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
Time now for the afternoon play from the BBC.
We find our gallant hero Mr Chiselbottom walking
gallantly up the driveway after a hard day at work.
Jill! I'm home!
-Oh, hello, darling. How was your day?
Marvellous, thank you. I went to the market.
-Ooh, did you see anything nice?
-Yes. I bought a horse. Called Brian.
-Brian the horse?
-Yes. Lovely beast. Magnificent tail.
-Oh, darling, how marvellous. I do love you. Give us a kiss.
-And I you.
-Darling, where is Brian?
-He should be here any minute.
Oh, listen, I can hear him galloping up the drive.
Stop this! Coconuts. Shoe on hands?
Cravat? Silly, isn't it?
Those were just some very basic effects, but it's amazing how
creative you can be. Here's our top five TV and film sound effects!
Five - the sound of birds flapping their wings can made by someone
beating a pillow.
Four - a vampire sliding the lid off his stone coffin
is actually someone sliding the lid off a ceramic toilet!
Three - opening and closing an umbrella
makes the sound of an elephant waving its ears.
Two - the sound of a welly squelching in the mud
can be made by spreading jam all over your face.
Only joking, we made that one up!
And at one, to make the sound of a fire crackling, simply take a
packet of crisps, eat them all, and then scrunch up the empty packet.
Traditional sound effects like these were very effective,
and are still used today, in radio plays to Hollywood movies.
But, by the early 1960s, TV programmes were getting more
adventurous and needed sounds and music to match.
Back then, space travel was new and exciting, the public was
fascinated by the idea of new worlds and life on other planets.
It seemed like science fiction was turning into science fact.
And all this was happening at the same time as Doctor Who was
launched, and that's why it was so popular.
But programmes about aliens needed alien sounds.
Thankfully, though, new technology
meant that by the time Doctor Who was ready to hit our screens,
there was a brand new generation of young, new musicians,
and Delia was one of these people,
and they were able to treat music in a very special way.
And these geniuses were Delia and the Radiophonic Workshoppers!
The Radiophonic's genius idea was to make music
and sounds effects that no one in the world had ever heard before.
Using unusual recording equipment, they created strange sounds,
such as the sound of space ships, monsters and aliens,
and, of course, the sound of the TARDIS.
But how did they create these out-of-this-world sounds?
They used electronic machines that made weird beeps and had weird names
like oscillators and wobbulators, but that wasn't all Delia used...
We spend quite a lot of time trying to invent new sounds that
don't exist already, that can't be produced by musical instruments.
If the sound we want exists already, in real life, say,
we can go and record it. The sound I want for the rhythm of this piece
needs to be a very short, dry, hollow, wooden sound
I can get from this.
Having got the sound she wanted, Delia then used it in her music.
Sounds like these are called "found sounds" because you went out
and found them!
The other thing Delia used was audio tape, a new-ish piece of technology
that allowed you to play around with sounds in a way you couldn't before.
To find out more, we thought we'd better head to
the Radiophonic Workshop itself.
'Now, we had no idea where it was, but I knew just who to ask...'
Whereabouts is this Radiophonic Workshop then? Chicago? Hawaii?
He's not going to tell you - he's a waxwork.
It's in a place called London.
I love London!
London, home of the Queen, home of the Prime Minister
and home of the Radiophonic Workshop,
based at the BBC's world famous Maida Vale studios.
Anyone who's anyone has played here, from the Beatles to Pink -
and it's where Radio 1 record the Live Lounge.
Now, even though the Radiophonics department was one of the smallest
in the BBC, it was also possibly one of the most exciting,
and it all happened within this very, very long corridor,
and behind these doors.
Just think, behind these doors are all the buttons, the tapes,
-the reels, you can press any button...!
-I can't wait!
Hmmm... looks like we're a bit late.
-It's an office, isn't it?
-Bit boring, really, isn't it?
'Unfortunately, the Radiophonic Workshop closed down in 1998.
'By then, you could make all those sounds on computers.
'After being unfunny with the photocopier, we thought we'd
'better carry on looking for some old radiophonic machines -
'and guess what? We found some!
'We didn't really know where to begin, though.'
No, still don't get it.
'We needed some serious help...
Is this really important tape?
'..And we found it,
'in the form of genius composer Mark Ayres,
'who worked at the Radiophonic Workshop
'before it closed and even knew Delia.'
We've been looking around the building at all these machines.
What do they actually do?
Well, these machines, these are quarter-inch tape machines,
and they play back and record - or record and then play back -
sound on quarter-inch tape. This is quarter-inch tape.
On here I've got a very simple tone, one note.
If I double the speed of the tape machine, it's gone up an octave.
If I halve the speed of the tape machine...
it's gone down an octave. Now, if I play it and start
varying the speed while we do it...
Ah, so you can actually make a tune by just...
Just by going faster and slower.
And that's the start of making music with tape.
'And what a start it was -
'but Mark was about to pull something out the bag that would
'blow our minds.'
There you go, have a moment, chaps. Guess what that is?
What is it? Let's have a look. Doctor Who...
-That is the original master tape.
-Original theme tune?!
-This is it from back in the day? What year was this from?
'We were holding in our hands some TV gold,
'and, more importantly, it was the exact reel that Delia herself
'had made - it even had her hand writing on it!'
Don't drop it!
'Surely it wouldn't still work though?'
MUSIC: Doctor Who Theme
'Of course it did!'
That sounds like the tone I was playing with earlier.
Absolutely - done exactly the same way, varying the speed
and adding some echo.
'But there was a lot more to making music on tape than that,
'because you couldn't just cut and paste bits of music to other
'bits of music to make a tune... Well, you could,
'in fact that's exactly what you did back then,
'but for real, not on a computer.'
Let's do a simple rhythm like "dum bada dum bada".
And seeing as we're here, with the Doctor Who bass line,
let's have one of Delia's notes.
-So hit play and record on that machine for me.
-At the same time?
Yep. Good, excellent. Play this.
That's all right, hit stop, that's all we need.
It's now recorded from there...
-Onto that machine.
'So, we'd copied a few notes from the original Doctor Who theme
'onto a blank reel of tape, but all we really wanted was one single note
'which we could use to make our simple tune.
'And to isolate that one note we needed a razor blade!'
-No, the other way! No!
-Oh, that way!
'Yes, we were literally going to cut it out
'and stick it onto some more blank tape to make a brand new loop.'
Here's our note.
One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.
'Having done that, we could then play it at different speeds
'to get different notes, each time recording from one machine
'to another until we had our tune!'
(RAPS) Dick, Dom and Mark, we're splicing
We're splicing the tapes round and round
-Dick, Dom and Mark, we're splicing!
-He's very good.
'Well, I hope you enjoyed that, because it took us
'well over an hour to make that one simple tune.
Yeah, but how long do you think it'd take using modern methods though?
HE PLAYS TUNE
-Not even a minute of work.
-Exactly the same thing.
Yeah, but do you know what? I don't feel the passion in that.
-I feel it when I hear that.
-This is art.
-This is art.
It really is art.
So, I think we've proved that without doubt Delia Derbyshire
was a musical genius years ahead of her time.
-and do you know what I'm thinking?
Of course I do! That we should make some music!
Yes. We should make our version of the Dr Who theme tune,
-using some of Delia's methods.
-Do you know what else I'm thinking?
Yes, and it's not suitable for now.
Here's the plan.
Our mission - to create a Dick and Dom Doctor Who theme tune.
Our challenge - finding unusual sounds and using them
just like Delia might have done.
Our problem - sounds can be found everywhere but which ones
should we choose to make sure that our theme tune is out of this world?
-Put that CD in, would you?
We should start off by listening to some of her tracks for inspiration.
That's a good idea.
'We were loving listening to Delia's tracks and what struck us
'was how modern lots of them felt.
In fact, her music was
so ahead of its time that it still inspires electro-music acts today.
Like Orbital, who, with a little help from the Doctor,
played their version of Delia's famous tune at a recent festival.
That's insane. Do you remember how long it took us to make that loop?
-Listen to that.
-That tune is all from beeps.
'We also loved the theme tune for the programme
'Great Zoos Of the World - a track made entirely using animal noises.'
The more you think about it, the more you think about how she was
putting it together. Splices here, just to make these different sounds.
This is going to be harder than we think to re-enact, you know.
She trained in it for years and years
and was also just a creative genius.
The more you listen to, you can hear there's bit after bit.
There's so many different noises in there. It'll take for ever.
What? To create our own Doctor Who theme tune?
Oh, well, at least we've got the inspiration.
We kind of know what route we're going down. We've just got to
find the noises then put it all together.
-There's another problem though.
-Neither of us is that musical.
'The truth was that although we love our music,
'we're more about the dancing.
'And that wasn't going to help us now.
'No, what we needed was a modern-day Delia, and, guess what,
'we found one!'
Experimental musician Caro C, a lifelong Delia fan
and electronic music maestro.
-We want to recreate Delia's Doctor Who theme tune.
In our own special way.
Obviously not using the old machines she did cos that just took for ever.
On thing we wanted to try and use is a little loop of reel tape
that we took from the original Doctor Who track with Mark yesterday
and include that. Is that possible? We've looked after it very well(!)
If there's any way of getting that from the state it's in to digital.
-I don't know.
-Well, luckily, I did record it on my phone.
-I don't know if I can email that to you to use on the track.
So what kind of sounds are we looking for?
Well, if you think about the track, it's obviously quite spacey,
isn't it, that theme tune? So, I reckon you're looking for,
if you can go to a junk shop or charity shop and find some objects.
You're probably looking for quite metallic objects cos you
want them to have a good ping or a good bong so we can use that.
Like, for example, a big biscuit tin might be quite good for the bass.
Those sort of objects will give you a good resonant sample to start with.
To give it our own style, we need something a bit different, I think.
We'll make it a bit funny. What, comedy? It's weird, all right.
One of the funniest things in the world is a pig. Can we use pigs?
-Or a farm.
-OK, why not?
-All right, let's go to the farm.
-See you later.
-See you soon.
'So we finally knew what to do!
'We needed a farm and a charity shop.
'but no harm in picking up some sounds on the way.'
-Yes! Yes! And all the way down.
Hoot your horn!
Street - done. Next up - charity shop.
-Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
That's quite enough of that.
Right, we'll get this stuff in the car
and go and find some more sounds.
Hurry up, will you?
Right, let's go and find some pig sounds.
Come on, bray, bray.
SNUFFLING AND SQUEALING
Are you having a scratch?
Come on, sheep, make some noise.
You can't, you'll break your teeth, you naughty boy.
'As Delia proved, and as we were finding out,
'animals and music go together quite well
'but that hasn't always been the case.'
Here's the Not So Genius Idea.
In 1977, Pink Floyd, a famous band influenced by Delia,
released an album called Animals.
The cover featured a giant inflatable pig,
floating above London's Battersea Power Station.
During the photo shoot,
a strong burst of wind snapped the tether and the pig escaped!
It disappeared, before startled airline pilots
spotted it at 30,000 feet.
It then crash-landed in a field full of cows.
So pigs can fly, well, almost.
-Look, he's got it all.
-I've got it all.
'Having lugged our new instruments back with us,
'Caro suggested we play them again under her expert supervision.
'So we did!'
-Good, right, thumbs up.
Dog bowl. Bottom of.
SLOSHING WATER AND SLURPING
TAPPING AND CLATTERING
Got it? Right. I wonder what she can do with all of that.
Although it might look like we're just messing around,
Caro was recording all the sounds and they,
along with the other noises we'd gathered, would be what we'd
use to make our version of the Doctor Who theme.
So what can we do with the pig?
-I'm feeling that the pig could work as the bass line.
'And with just a few clicks, Caro took a single oink
'and turned it into the basic rhythm of our tune.'
So, basically, what you've done is linked the pig sound to this
keyboard so, if we play down the bottom, it's a low pig.
And if we play at the top, it's a high pig.
'Now to play the Doctor Who bass line
'like it's never been played before.'
HE PLAYS DOCTOR WHO WITH PIG OINKS
So that's the second most recognisable part
of the Doctor Who theme tune.
But the first, of course, is the big melody
# Oooh-oooh-ooh! # What are we going to use for that?
We're going to... I think we should use
one of the pings on the metal bowls.
'By adding some effects to the original ping, Caro was able
'to create some incredible sounds.'
-That's great. It is all so space-age.
It was the perfect sound for the Doctor Who melody.
There you go!
'Of course, Delia's version had many different sounds
'and we wanted to try to match that.
'so it was time for the CD rack.'
It's amazing. Now the physical object has gone,
I hear that sound as a musical sound or a musical note
-rather than something coming from an object.
-Like it. Like it.
-Can you now loop that sound
so it becomes a constant drone in the background of the tune?
'What about our recording made with that single note from Delia's
Here's what you actually did in the studio.
'We'd made a good start
'but producing top quality music isn't easy.
'It was time to knuckle down.'
-That sounds really spacey, doesn't it?
-Yeah, that's just what we need.
'We were adding loops, reverb, echo, feedback and...
'obnoxious crisp crunching?'
What do you think you're doing over there?
'Even with my little friend filling his face,
'we were definitely getting there.'
'And in a fraction of the time it took Delia to make her tune.
'But there was something missing.
'Ah, yes, more animal noises!'
'It took a bit of persuading
'but eventually we convinced Caro to add a few more.
It's like someone stepping on a monkey.
'And before you could say, "Dalek," we were done.'
-Hey, there you go.
That only took us a day, but it took Delia Derbyshire
-a month to do the original theme tune.
It did only take a day but it's been a very long, very tiring day.
Thank you very much. But do you know what? I think we've nailed it.
And so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, the world premiere
of the Dick and Dom vs Delia Derbyshire vs Doctor Who mash-up.
DOCTOR WHO THEME PLAYS
Well done, boys.
So, our tune was finished. But was it any good?
-Well, who better to ask than the Doctor himself?
-Well, one of them!
Our judge today played the doctor for three years,
battled all manner of crazy enemies, like this weirdo - the Kandy Man.
I like my volunteers to die with smiles on their faces.
And he did it all whilst carrying his trusty umbrella,
oh, and he's now the star of Hollywood blockbuster The Hobbit!
Yes, it's Doctor turned wizard, Sylvester McCoy!
Obviously, the Doctor is a very busy man but I think we've tracked
him down. We've got hold of him. So, Doctor, are you there?
Hello there, Dick and Dom. I see you.
-Hello, how are you doing?
-If music be the food of love, play on.
Give me excess of it.
DOCTOR WHO THEME PLAYS Wow.
My goodness! Baah!
The big question is, cos we've put a lot of hard work into this,
do you think our version is better than Delia's?
Well, it is different. It is very sweet. It is very lovely, actually.
But you can't really beat the original cos that was quite
-an extraordinary, iconic piece of music.
-Well, to be fair, he has got a point.
-Yeah. She is the genius.
She is. Thank you very much, Doctor.
-Good to see you.
Goodbye. Goodbye, nice talking with you.
Thank you for the listen to the lovely, sweet music. Aargh!
So the Doctor, quite understandably, wasn't convinced.
Maybe he doesn't like pigs.
So, we've travelled through space and travelled through time
and made a tune to be proud of. Well, we're proud of it anyway.
And hopefully Delia would have been proud with the way we made it.
But what we have found out is that, Delia Derbyshire,
you were an Absolute Genius!
Thank you, boys.
It went right through me!
-Don't wobble it.
-I'm not doing anything.
-Just stand still then.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd