Monday, 25 May 2020

Daphne Oram - "Still Point " (London Contemporary Orchestra July 11th 2016) 1948/2016

In 1948,yes,1948(!), whilst working as a radio programme engineer at the BBC, Daphne Oram began composing a new and highly innovative piece for double orchestra, entitled "Still Point". Oram was only 23 years old when she wrote Still Point, and the piece reflects her earlier experiences working under the glass dome of the Royal Albert Hall as bombs rained down over London. Bloody Nazi's!

Writing a piece like this would have labelled the composer 'degenerate' in Nazi Germany,and sealed a date with the mobile guillotine unit for a public execution......and this was years before 'nice German', Stockhausen had even touched a transistor. In fact transistors weren't even invented back then. This was done with vacuum tubes!?
Still Point is thought to be the earliest example of a composition specifying realtime electronic transformation of instrumental sounds, and in retrospect can be seen as decades ahead of its time with its explorations of space and acoustic architecture. And you all thought it was John Cage what dunnit first?
In the work the double orchestra is ‘acoustically treated,’ creating one ‘dry’ orchestra (using acoustic baffles) and one ‘wet’ orchestra, which are then manipulated live in performance through turntables, amplification and echo effects. Still Point was to be the last piece that Oram wrote for orchestra before she co-founded the BBC Radiophonic workshop in 1958, laying the roots for the new fields of British,and international electronic music that were to come.

Apart from some Theremin versions of the classics, this is the year Zero for electronic music, as performed by The London Contemporary Orchestra at the Deep 'Minimalism Festival", London, 2016, and in 2018 at the BBC Proms.
It was originally submitted to the BBC as a potential entry for the inaugural Prix Italia in 1950. However, it was turned down on the basis that the work could only be judged as a ‘straight score’ and the adjudicators wouldn’t understand the ‘acoustic variants and pre-recording techniques’ utilised. Brian Hodgson, a colleague at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, later commented to Oram that ‘if they had understood it, one feels they would have been even more ‘anti’!’.Thats the story of the BBC,even to this day.


1. "Still Point"(1948) (59:50)


Rob said...

John my man... if you please, for the completists chomping at the proverbial bit, they will find King Cutler EP. 6 here:

Thanks for all the great stuff!! Be well brother

echopk said...

I did not have this one. Thanks so much for all you do.

Kzka said...

Mrs Bob Dobbs. I should have known.

Jonny Zchivago said...

We have achieved Slack!

rev.b said...


Ian said...

Going to have a hard time with this one...she looks too much like that dickwad Conan O'Brien on the cover.