The Radiophonic Workshop – ‘The Band That Never Was’

This short documentary looks at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.… Read More The Radiophonic Workshop – ‘The Band That Never Was’

BBC gives away 16k WAV sound effects, but disallows you using them

Maybe it’s time for the idea of a “commons” to get a new boost. Whatever the reason, BBC’s 16,000 sound effects are available to download – but with strings attached.

The BBC Sound Effects site offering has gotten plenty of online sharing. This is a sound effects library culled from the archives of the BBC and its Radiophonic Workshop, a selection of sounds dug up from broadcast sound work. There’s both synthetic sound design and field recording work – sometimes not really identified as such. I know this, because I used what I believe is the edition of this that was once released on a big series of CDs.

If you just want to listen to some interesting sounds, you can stream or download WAV files of sounds ranging from “‘Pystyll Rhadn’ falls, North Wales, with birdsong” to lorries, and, this being England, lots of exotic sounds from the far reaches of the former British Empire and a bunch of business to do with ships. (There’s a reason English is dotted with obscure boat-related idioms like saying someone is “two sheets to the wind” when they’re drunk.)

And it’s good fun. Right now the sound of a parrot is trending:

http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

The catch is, you’re probably thinking of downloading those files and making a Deep House track with the parrot. But you can’t – not legally. If you want, you can wade through the murky terms, which seem to be written for schoolchildren in terms of language level, but oddly evasive about what it is you’re actually allowed to do:

https://github.com/bbcarchdev/Remarc/blob/master/doc/2016.09.27_RemArc_Content%20licence_Terms%20of%20Use_final.pdf

I can save you the trouble, though. There’s no explicit allowance for derivative works, which rules out even “non-commercial” sampling. That is, your parrot track is out, even if you plan to give it away. Non-commercial use itself suggests you need to have a site that not only has no ads (like this one does), but may even explicitly have some educational purpose. “Personal” use implies you can sample the sounds, so long as no one else hears your remix, which rather defeats the point. So you almost certainly can’t sample the parrot and even upload the result to SoundCloud.

The easy way to look at this is, you can build an educational app around these sounds or listen to them on your own, but you can’t really use them the way you’d tend to use sound samples.

For that, you need to buy a licensed product. Sound Ideas has the full library for around four hundred bucks. And then you can use, they advertise:

1936 Raleigh Sports Bike
Euston Railway Station
St. Paul’s Cathedral
1986 Silver Sprite Rolls Royce
Audience Reactions at the Royal Albert Hall
County Cricket Match
Big Ben
Markets in Morocco, Algeria, Niger, Zaire, Ethiopia, Kenya…

I’m sure the CDs themselves also had a lot of license restrictions attached, though owning a physical object might make you feel as though you had purchased rights for use.

British taxpayer license fees fund this sort of work, just as taxpayer money funds media in many countries of the world. That raises the question of what a government funded archive should be, and how it should be made available.

For background, this project came out of a now-ended four-year project to make UK archives publicly available:
https://bbcarchdev.github.io/res/

I’m not arguing the BBC have made the wrong choice. But it’s clear that there are two divergent views on public archives and content in the public sphere. One looks like this: the government retains copyright, and you can’t really use them beyond “research” purposes. The other is more permissive. For instance, the US space program actually does allow commercial use of a lot of its materials, provided an endorsement is implied. So even while releasing content into the public domain, the US government is able to avoid implications of endorsement or people posing as their space agency, which the BBC agreement above does, while allowing people to get creative with their materials.

And that ability to be creative is precisely what’s lacking in the BBC offering. Restricting content to “research” and “noncommercial” uses sounds like a lofty goal, but it often rules out the activities of artists – the very impulses that generated all those BBC sound effects in the first place. The reason is, unless you explicitly allow derivative and (often) even commercial use, it’s too easy for those creative uses to technical qualify as a violation.

It seems like this idea of commons could use a fresh boost, around the world. (The British taxpayer-funded sounds should have been an easy one; it gets much harder as you go to other parts of the world.)

The US government’s notions of public access content date back to the 1960s. But there are signs governments can begin fresh, digital-friendly initiatives. For one example, look to the European Space Agency, who last year managed an open access programs across a variety of different governments and private contractors (no small task):

http://open.esa.int/

Anyway, for now, it is still fun listening to that parrot.

http://bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk/

By the way, speaking of Creative Commons: the feature image for this story comes from Paul Hudson, taken at Rough Trade East (of a tape machine from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop collection), under the attribution-only CC-BY license. It was released on Flickr, from a time when this sort of license metadata was deemed important.

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Chris Carter On Recording & Mixing ‘Chemistry Lesson’

“If there’s an influence on the album, it’s definitely ‘60s radiophonic,” explains Carter.… Read More Chris Carter On Recording & Mixing ‘Chemistry Lesson’

Inside The Radiophonic Workshop In 1976

The BBC shared this 1976 video, which features Roger Limb, of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, demonstrating how electronic music was made for TV and radio. … Read More Inside The Radiophonic Workshop In 1976

Unlocking unimaginable sounds with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop now has its own cover band.

Arturia have done a new documentary on England’s proudest home for electronic sound, the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Founded in 1958, the laboratory had the wildly ambitious mission of producing any sound any BBC program might ask for – foley to sci-fi. That of course took on especially unusual possibilities thanks to this trippy show for kids about an eccentric time traveler, Doctor Who – and the inventiveness of the likes of Delia Derbyshire made sounds with brute-force tape manipulations that seem futuristic even today.

Derbyshire and Daphne Oram may no longer be with us, but surviving Radiophonic veterans Mark Ayres, Peter Howell, Dick Mills, Roger Limb, and Paddy Kingsland join in this film. Apart from watching way too much Who, I feel especially inspired by the Workshop thanks to growing up with Kingsland’s score for the radio Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and getting to work with my composition teacher Thea Musgrave, who spoke fondly of her own adventure working in the facility.

What’s interesting now is, apart from Ayres’ efforts to archive the exhaustive products of the lab, the gang have formed a live band to play greatest hits and experiment with new compositions. That generation’s efforts seem nicely aligned with younger artists’ own fascination with DIY technology – now mixing analog, acoustic, mechanical, and digital – and the growing interest in live electronics.

The plucky playground spirit of the early BBC seems right at home with today’s post-digital experimentalism:

We’d crash, bang, hit, stretch, reverse, and everything with tape. Most things were done with tape, cutting with razor blades, and putting things together. It was highly skilled and took weeks to make things. Whatever’s available, that’s what you’ve got to use.

Everything was highly original, because the sounds were all ‘found sounds’ so it might be a cork coming out of a bottle if it was a sort of theme tune, anything that twanged or clanged, scraping stuff, highly manipulated to get the final sound.

Of course, now with your phone a recording device, finding sounds is easier than ever.

That may mean that revisiting media archeology will prove a respite for those bored with presets and predictable outcomes. So, take a lesson from Delia:

When Delia Derbyshire did the Doctor Who theme, the bassline is basically a plucked string, a single plucked string. She’d record the single plucked string onto tape, make a loop of it, then record that onto another machine and you’d have a whole line of these notes, but then you’d vari-speed the loop so to create all the pitches, then you’d record those loops all onto the other tape, so you’d have half an hour of D’s and half an hour of E’s and half an hour of F’s, and that’s the way you’d go through it, that’s how you’d make music, you’d cut your notes from a piece of tape.

If you’ve got an Arturia MatrixBrute (you lucky sound pioneer, you), you can download a free sound pack from Arturia made by these BBC pioneers – and everyone can learn more about their work:

https://www.arturia.com/radiophonic

The post Unlocking unimaginable sounds with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Delia Derbyshire gets her own road

Here’s a sure new pilgrimage site for electronic music fans. Late great composer Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop will have a street named after her in her hometown of Coventry, as reported by the BBC.

And because Delia is more than a composer, but a state of mind:

Pete Chambers BEM, director of The Coventry Music Museum, was among those to campaign for the recognition. He said: “Originally it was to be named Derbyshire Road, but I suggested “Way” instead, so it gave a double meaning, as Delia was a genius and strong personality and really did do things in her own way.”

Once you’ve Instagrammed yourself next to the Derbyshire Way sign, maybe you’ll want to visit The Coventry Music Museum. If you’re not a fan of ska, the museum pleasantly reminds you that 55% of the museum isn’t ska. If you are, well, apparently 45% is all about 2-tone music, including a “2-Tone Village,” a Caribbean restaurant, shops (including record shops), and a recreation of a 1980s bedroom.

But more likely of interest to readers of this site, there’s Delia’s tape recorder in the permanent collection.

Even better, it seems (from their somewhat spotty website) they have the infamous “tatty green lampshade.”

I think Delia Derbyshire is the only composer in history to have a lampshade associated with her approach to timbre, let alone extensive frequency analyses of that particular lampshade. (Cool. iPad app, anyone? iLampshade?)

For more:
http://www.covmm.co.uk/2016/the-delian-way/

Other UK stops for fans of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop pioneers? The Science Museum London is a must, natch, as it has a display of Daphne Oram’s machine:

http://daphneoram.org/oramics-at-the-science-museum/

Photo: BBC.

delia

The post Delia Derbyshire gets her own road appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Synth Secrets Of The Dr. Who Theme

This vintage video takes a look at story behind the BBC Radiophonic Workshop‘s arrangement of the classic Ron Grainer Dr. Who theme.  While the original version was created with a setup closer to a classical tape music studio, this version makes use of 70’s era gear, like the Yamaha CS-80, ARP Odyssey and Roland SVC-350. via House… Read More Synth Secrets Of The Dr. Who Theme

New Version Of Daphne Oram Book, An Individual Note, Planned

The Daphne Oram Trust has launched a Kickstarter project to fund a new printing of electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram’s 1972 book on ‘music sound and electronics’, An Individual Note. The book offers a look at the technology and ideas behind creating … Continue reading

After 40 Years, You Can Hear Daphne Oram’s Lost Mini-Oramics Synthesizer

In the 1960’s, electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram, above, the first Director of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, created a unique synthesizer, the Oramics Machine. The Oramics Machine was a huge device, which moved film strips past a series of photo-electric cells. The … Continue reading