World's First DJ: Beats by Delia Derbyshire


While the world was engrossed with rock n’ roll music and its stars, a lady genius was busy tinkering away with analog recording equipment to create the earliest forms of electronic music.

The electronic musician at work with her analog recording equipment at BBC Radiophonic Workshop. (Photo via Amoeblog)

Electronic music has its own presence in the music world today, but perhaps not many are familiar with one of the geniuses who pioneered the genre. Meet Delia Derbyshire, known to those who recognize her exceptional artistry as the world’s first DJ.

Like any other artist, Derbyshire had her own humble beginnings, but it didn’t take long for her to tread upon the path of unique musical brilliance. In 1962, she joined the Radiophonic Workshop, the sound effects and experimental incidental music arm of BBC, as a trainee studio manager. Derbyshire has created many notable pieces during her stay with BBC, but she fashioned her most memorable and acclaimed piece in 1963—the theme for science fiction series Doctor Who. She gave Ron Grainer’s score a unique electronic rendition by blending it with tape loops, valve oscillations, and filters. Impressed with her work, Grainer made efforts to give Derbyshire co-authorship and royalty for the theme, but was blocked by BBC.

Curious? You know you want to hear Derbyshire’s Doctor Who work, which was the standard theme of the series for 18 years!

Now, it’s time for you feast your eyes and ears on how the virtuoso does her thing, showing how electronic music is done, the awesomely analog way!

Sources/Additional Readings:
Delia Derbyshire, the First DJ on Kottke
Delia Derbyshire - electronic music pioneer on Amoeblog
Delia Derbyshire on Wikipedia

What do you think of Delia Derbyshire’s amazing analog method of making electronic music? Tell us through a comment below!

written by plasticpopsicle on 2011-05-25 #lifestyle #analog #lomography #recording #analogue-lifestyle #delia-derbyshire #analog-music #electronic-music


  1. vicuna
    vicuna ·

    Excellent!! Love this, amazing pioneer work of electronic music! And I always loved the Dr. Who theme :))
    For those which are interested in the history of Electronic music I can Highly recommend the read of the book called "Modulations. A history of electronic music: throbbing words on sound" by Peter Shapiro . It's an excellent read!!…

  2. superlighter
    superlighter ·

    great great great! the beginning of the sampled music!

  3. pomps
    pomps ·

    Great to know it! and it's nice to see how she is doing music in a real analog way.

  4. beblo
    beblo ·

    BBC blocked the second video?
    In the first photograph, she is using 'open reel tape recorders' instead of phonograph record turntables. In the 1990s, they use CD players. She is attractive.

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