Goldsmiths saves original synthesizer

Daphne Oram and Oramics machine

Daphne Oram was the pioneering musician and composer who founded the BBC radiophonics workshop and invented the Oramics machine.

The machine, designed and built in the 1950s was the precursor to the synthesizer later taken up by The Beatles and Pink Floyd. The machine turns lines drawn on clear strips of film by musicians, into music.

Now the machine is to be restored at Goldsmiths under the supervision of Dr Mick Grierson who initially found it, then in a very poor condition, and persuaded  Goldsmiths to buy it.

The restoration is being paid for by an AHRC grant and it will soon go on display at the Science museum because said Grierson : “Its so large it would be impossible to keep at Goldsmiths.”

“When I first showed the pictures of the machine to Tim Boon at the museum  he couldn’t believe it. He understood this was the first time anyone had ever created a device like this in the UK. In terms of sound and electronic music it’s hugely significant.” He said

Boon, chief curator of the Science Museum, told the BBC: “[It is] one of those half dozen objects in a career” which a curator feels they must add to the museum’s collection.

“People making synthesisers in the late 60’s knew about the Oramics machine. The manufacturers who made synths used by the Beatles and Pink Floyd were directly inspired by Daphne Oram,” Grierson explained.

According to Boon, she was one of a handful of people who “more or less invented electronic music.”

Sadly her pioneering work was forgotten and she died, penniless, in 2003.

For more about Daphne Oram

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