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Jo Hutton talks to Caroline Catz about her Radiophonic Workshop pioneer biopic, and collaborating with Cosey Fanni Tutti

Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes is an experimental documentary about the composer, mathematician and Radiophonic Workshop pioneer. Directed by and starring Caroline Catz, the film traces Derbyshire’s life and work through a combination of archive footage and dramatisation, interspersed with Cosey Fanni Tutti’s new interpretations of Derbyshire’s archive material (the ‘Legendary Tapes’ of the title). Jo Hutton speaks with Caroline Catz about the work below.

Jo Hutton: What made you want to direct this film and play Delia?

Caroline Catz: Like lots of people, I’m very intrigued and fascinated by Delia. The Dr Who theme tune had been the soundtrack of my childhood, hiding behind the sofa like everybody else. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I knew of her, to be honest, and then I listened to more of her stuff, taking you into worlds that were equally as affecting as Dr Who. After she died, her archive was donated to Manchester University and it said in the newspaper that you could go there. So I emailed David Butler at Manchester University and got on the train. I’m not an academic so I didn’t know what to expect. Back then it literally was just suitcases and boxes and, most importantly, tapes in a cupboard and I was so moved by this sight – that’s kind of the fate of all of us, these old cereal boxes with stuff in it. I felt overwhelmed by that. So I sat there for hours just listening, thinking I’m being pulled into these worlds again, just like I felt when I was a child. Then there are 267 makeup tapes, her library of sounds. All the time you’re listening to it, you have these incredible sounds and feelings and experiences. You’re thinking, this was all created from cutting up pieces of tape.

You have said that the reason you got into acting was “to be able to inhabit your different characters”. How did you go about inhabiting Delia?

Everything was embedded in the research that I was doing with Delia’s archive and the process of starting to write the narrative, so I was feeling very connected to her and it just became this idea of acting, directing and writing this character. She was working on these sound experiments. She had no idea if any of them would work out. It was a very particular focused thinking. She was not a socially conditioned person. I’m really fascinated by her lack of ego and by that idea of making extraordinary things. Is it still possible, in this world of social media profiling, to be Delia? She left the workshop when synthesizers came in, when the laboratory environment gave way to something that was much more about commodifying what they were doing because they were having to keep up with the demand.

Could you elaborate on the ghostly background character of Cosey Fanni Tutti?

When I was listening to all of Delia’s work, as much as I could fit into my ears, it occurred to me that this is an amazing basis to tell her story, but I’m not a musician and, in terms of where she was coming from musically, I needed to be collaborating with Cosey. The idea was to choose sounds from Delia’s archive together and for Cosey to repurpose those sounds to create new pieces. I was interested in Delia working with musique concrète, manipulating material according to a structural method, and that idea of ‘ghosting’ that you hear on the tape sometimes when it’s been repurposed. That is Cosey’s process in her own work but in a very different way because she works so differently to Delia, and the idea evolved of her character being in search of the creative spirit of Delia.

Can we talk about your use of reflections, screens and soft focus in the Workshop scenes, for the contrast of BBC broadcast business and the rather grey figure of Desmond Briscoe with the more colourful and creative characters of Delia, Brian Hodgson and Maddalena [Fagandini]?

That’s part of the magic of the workshop to me. Daphne Oram had to fight so hard didn’t she, to get anybody to understand why it was important to have a place to experiment with electronic music whilst all over Europe were these state-funded studios. It’s that idea of mixing innovation with what Desmond Briscoe called fag-ends and lollipops… using bits of old stuff stuck together to make something. These limitations became this incredible resource, infiltrating the avant garde by stealth within this very BBC establishment whilst also coming from the establishment, that’s what really excited me.

What struck you about the way Delia made this music?

With everything to do with this film, I’ve been pushed to my absolute limits by the genius of Delia and her amazing inspirational mathematical analytical mind. You can see this incredible focus and organisation, but you get the sense there was chaos around her as well, yet somehow these magical things would happen and you’d get these amazing pieces of music. I don’t want to pretend the film was anything other than a construction of what I feel and believe to be Delia’s experience. I definitely didn’t want it to be a biopic but I was very interested in exploring that strange space between imagination and memory. It was anti-biopic in a way: I’m as interested in preserving her mystery as I am in exploring her memory. I felt that very strongly.

The film is described as the story of Delia Derbyshire told through sound. Are there any particular sounds that jumped out at you? 

I really loved the female chanting from Poetry In Prisons (theatrical event, 1970). While she was a BBC employee, she was also doing all this freelance work. She did so many beautiful pieces. I heard the Apollinaire poem in the archive, It is raining womens’ voices as if they were dead” and it just sent shivers down me, it’s a beautiful poem. The way she was working with this fascinated me and in the archive you can actually hear the way she was working with the actress, trying to get her to give the right tone, so we reconstructed that bit with Maddalena (Saskia Reeves). When we come back to the church and they’re looking at all the female stained glass, I used this female chanting from Poetry In Prisons.

I loved the sound of the air raids sequence.

Delia said that was her first experience of electronic music: the air raid siren and the sound of the all clear. You don’t know what those sounds are as a child but they stay with you. It’s like she had that in her emotional memory. I’m very interested in that idea of how experience lives in your body and how that can be generative through art and invention and made into something you can share. That shared experience resonates on a deep level, which could possibly explain that shared experience of all these children ducking behind the sofa in Dr Who. I’ve always been fascinated by the frequencies and sounds that you don’t know are there and I think she somehow had that magic of being able to know what those things are that connect people.

She composes for visual image, whether real or imagined. She knows how to conjure up the right image…

Yes, she must have held these images within her and you also wonder about the snuff, and the wine and the late nights and the focused work of trying to clear everybody out so that she could be alone in her space. The snuff thing was one of the reasons I called it Myths And Legends but there are loads of myths. However she got into that zone was up to her, but she got into her zone where this magic would happen.

Towards the end there’s Delia’s dream with Mary Wollstonecraft and Ada Lovelace, and then you list historical female mathematicians, Aglaonice, Saint Fabiola. Delia would have loved live coding in today’s experimental music, alongside leading contemporary artist/programmers like Joanna Armitage, Kat Lovell. Why was it important to list these historic women mathematicians?

Another reason that I wanted to do the film and the reason why we have these stained glass windows and monuments to women is this idea of who writes history? It’s still problematic, isn’t it? Who gets written about? Who remains? Where do the stories go? And that’s why it’s so important that diversity in all its forms is rising slowly up the agenda, but it is slowly. It annoys me when people say we’ve made so much progress. No, it couldn’t be slower. That’s why the stained glass women are there. The John Rylands library was a gift to the people of Manchester by his wife, like a cathedral for books. An amazing place. It really inspired me for the main space of the film. But they have all these beautiful stained glass windows, all with writers and literary figures and not one female writer. However wonderful this place is, isn’t it such a tragedy? So that’s what made me want to create the main centrepiece of the film to be these stained glass women. Because how many monuments are female? That’s history: what we see and what’s available to us as role models.

 

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The tenth episode of The Bandwagon, Sabzian’s irregular series of film-related mixes, by Les Ateliers Claus’ artistic director Tommy Denys.

The Bandwagon is an irregular series of film-related mixes, hosted by Sabzian. These shows are brought together under the name “The Bandwagon,” after Vincente Minnelli’s 1953 eponymous masterpiece. The idea is to share journeys through film excerpts, dialogues, scores and songs, each instalment a filmic encounter with sounds, thoughts and worlds.

 

En nuisette ou en mini-jupe, Il expédie ses lives avec les convulsions d’un épileptique sous camisole. Et pour cause, la musique lui revenant moins chère qu’un suivi psychiatrique, Christophe Clébard en fait au surin.

Son procédé ? Extirper les entrailles d’un synthé pour les poncer à ses cordes vocales, le tout dans une synth punk aussi rêche que bancale. Version neuroleptique de Suicide, le rendu zone à la périphérie de la Triple Alliances Internationale de l’Est, au croisement de Noir Boy Georges et de ASS, le versant techno-broyeuse de Ventre de Biche. Autant de blases qui illustrent le renouveau d’un courant que l’on croyait crouler sous le poids de ses poncifs mais qui ressurgit aujourd’hui à l’interstice de la noise, de la no-wave et de la variété française sous méthadone. Du Punk Nouveau en somme, tout droit issu des scènes françaises, italiennes, belges et dont Christophe Clébard incarne sa plus radicale et difforme déclinaison. Un peu sous la forme d’un dépotoir où s’amoncellent pêle-mêle : reverb, schizophrénie, cul, boîte à rythme pétée, amour filial, coupe au bol, Dieu, mort et honte. Honte, comme le nom de sa sortie agencée le 3 septembre 2019 – co-édité par le label genevois Kakakids – 1000 Balles et Les Albums Claus – et SSS, son dernier-né avorté en février dernier. Deux jalons qui marquent probablement les deux dernières escales de sa fuite en avant. Un trip durant lequel il s’est efforcé d’éructer tout ce qu’il a su faire de mieux de sa vie : la foirer.

READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE HERE

 

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„Collaborating is the main life force for me.“

Two inspiring harpists have met for our 🔴 Darmstadt On Air podcast #13: Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir is an Icelandic harpist based in Berlin, founding member of Ensemble Adapter and harp tutor of the Darmstadt Summer Course since 2014. She invited harpist and improviser Rhodri Davies, who is a based in Swansea, South Wales. He plays harp, electric harp, live-electronics and builds wind, water, ice, dry ice and fire harp installations. Rhodri has released five solo albums and is also working in different constellations with artists like John Butcher, John Tilbury, Michael Duch and many others.

Gunnhildur and Rhodri both studied with the Welsh harpist Sioned Williams and it was through her that they first heard of each other. The two harpists have both been doing pioneering work in order to invigorate the harp repertoire with new pieces. They also share an artistic approach that is very much based on collaboration and cooperation. Their conversation is about choosing collaborators, about ego and trust, about Rhodri’s collaboration with Eliane Radigue, who wrote the first of her OCCAM pieces for him, about verbal transmission of interpreters‘ knowledge, about the grey area between improvisation and composition, and about diving into a composer’s world and inhabiting in it with one’s own ideas and sounds.

More about Rhodri Davies: http://www.rhodridavies.com
More about Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir: http://ensemble-adapter.de/english/ensemble/gunnhildur-einarsdttir.html

HERE'S THE PODCAST

Darmstadt On Air is also available on SpotifyApple Podcastsand Google Podcasts.

Excerpted from Aksak Maboul’s very first live performance of music from the “Figures” album. Recorded on 21 September 2020 at Les Ateliers Claus by Kiosk Radio, and livestreamed as part of the 'Support Your Local Scene' campaign

Why did you choose this place? Was this your idea or the idea of Christophe Albertijn, because Westrand is not a recording studio.

The place – Westrand, Dilbeek – has been chosen by Christophe Albertijn, producer of the work and founder of the new label HUIS. One month before the session Christophe told me he was planning a new series in which he would invite musicians to make solo-recordings. For each musician he would choose a different architectural context in which the musician, in his opinion, might fit. I told him I really liked the concept, thought he would call me in a few months or a year. Already a week after he sent me an email with a link to the Westrand building with the question: ‘What would you think about this?’. I said I would give it a try, so we decided to visit the building to explore the possibilities.

Westrand, of course, isn’t a recording studio, it’s an interesting example of brutalist architecture, completely structured out of concrete geometric shapes.

When I have to play a concert or record in a studio, a gallery, concert room or whatever space I don’t know yet, the first thing I do when I enter the space is whistle. It’s a kind of reflex that immediately tells me how tough the job is going to be; in the Westrand building I immediately knew it was going to work! The acoustics of the place are quite unique, the building has a soul! Christophe really made a good choice!

How do you see the relationship between the saxophone and the space where the instrument is recorded?

Both, the saxophone and the Westrand building are conceived out of cold inert materials: the saxophone out of metal – the Westrand building completely out of concrete.

The first impression you get when you enter the building is an almost serene distant coldness, a sense of tough solidity; when you make a sound you hear a cool echo which reminds of a church but sounds much more worldly. On the other hand the atmosphere in the Westrand building isn’t cold, there’s a certain warmth in it as well.

The saxophone isn’t a wooden flute, a clarinet, hobo or fagot – it’s an industrial version of these instruments. It sounds much sharper but can also reach a warmth that didn’t exist before. The Westrand building hasn’t got the warmth of a -let’s say- a wooden temple, it sounds more like a cave, but the acoustics of the spaces as I just said also reflect a hybrid warmness. If you blow the instrument in the ‘right’ way -and this was of course the exercise of the journey- you discover a kind of concrete double bass sound box.

Perhaps the saxophone and the building have this same stoic distance in common. At first sight they give the impression of being cold but a few moments after, when the instrument starts to breath or when you enter the space the soul of both comes to life.

The rough brutalistic character of the building makes a direct appeal: it wakes you up, demands a certain lucidity; it doesn’t make you nervous but makes you aware of yourself walking through the different spaces. Maybe the sound of the saxophone, yet how I hear the instrument, appeals to this same kind of involvement.

READ THE INTERVIEW HERE

JOAO LOBO

Simorgh

 

Les Albums Claus/Shhpuma

2020

Een plaat van João Lobo trekt altijd onze aandacht. Zeker wanneer hij vervoegd wordt door Norberto Lobo en ook nog een verrassing uit zijn mouw schudt in de vorm van Soet Kempeneer, de beloftevolle bassist die in 2019 nog het podium deelde met Ambrose Akinmusire.

Met een energie die doet denken aan Irreversible Entanglements schieten de drie meteen stevig uit de startblokken. En ook in het aanstekelijke Chosta roept de baslijn van Kempeneer herinneringen op aan de hypnotiserende grooves van Luke Stewart. Maar hier houden we op met zinloos name droppenSimorgh, vernoemd naar een feniks uit de Perzische mythologie, moet het uiteraard hebben van de eigenheid van deze inventieve muzikanten die zichzelf telkens opnieuw uitvinden. Rock, punk, free, psych, spiritual... Dit trio kan alle kanten op.

Soms gebeurt dit nog binnen hetzelfde nummer. 71-72 start met een ongelooflijke drive om vervolgens stil te vallen en plaats te ruimen voor een verkenning van distortion, de trillengte van een noot op de bas en stervende cymbalen. Omdat alles werd opgenomen in Les Ateliers Claus voel je op zo’n momenten ook plots de ruimte. Een beetje livegevoel op vinyl, wat wil je dezer dagen nog meer? Een groezelige interpretatie van een Portugese traditional? Die krijg je er op het einde van de plaat zomaar bij.

Caralho, dit is één van de meeslependste half uurtjes van dit najaar!

Jordi De Beule - Read it HERE

João Lobo (d), Norberto Lobo (g), Soet Kempeneer (cb)

 

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