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The BBC Radiophonic Workshop Returns
Laurie Tuffrey , September 11th, 2012 22:51

Matthew Herbert heads up new iteration of the famous sound lab

The BBC’s historic Radiophonic Workshop is set to return as an online portal for the development of new sounds. The New Radiophonic Workshop will be hosted on The Space, a new digital arts service created by the BBC and the Arts Council, with an onus on making it a forum for discussing and facilitating music composition and sound design.

Matthew Herbert has been appointed its creative director, and this morning appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme to premiere a new piece by the Workshop, made using the old broadcast equipment in Bush House, the former home of the BBC World Service - have a listen here and to the Today programme report here.

Herbert says: “The closure of Bush House draws a line under what one aspect of the BBC used to be about: warrens of small rooms and big lumps of equipment hidden from the public. [The] new Broadcasting House is the opposite - open and visible with technology taking up a much smaller footprint.

“In its original incarnation the Radiophonic Workshop was certainly highly representative of this first description. In its new location, the current iteration of the Radiophonic Workshop is seeking to acknowledge and document this shift in broadcasting from an impervious, imperious presence to a more democratic, fluid and open system.

“In this context, this piece of music for Bush House is a small footnote, an audio reminder of how far we have come in the last 100 years of listening.”

The original Radiophonic Workshop, originally established in 1958 and based in the BBC’s Maida Vale studios, played a pivotal role in the development of electronic sounds. Its name became a byword for experimental sound effects, and the Workshop achieved its most celebrated moment with the theme tune for Doctor Who, created in 1963.

Along with Herbert, other members of the new Workshop include Mica Levi of Mica and The Shapes, composer Max de Wardener, artist Yann Seznec, sound designer James Mather, Tony Churnside of the BBC’s research and development department and technologist Patrick Bergel.

As well as Herbert’s Bush House piece, you can listen to the new Workshop’s first commission on The Space’. ‘The Sound of The Space’ (click on ‘listen to The Space’ at the top of all the site’s pages) features the audio of the 25 most recent pieces featured on the site, meshing the sound of music, theatre, dance, prose, poetry and discussion.

There’ll be more from the New Radiophonic Workshop over the next few months, including ‘The Radiophonic Workshop in Public’ on October 7 at the Southbank Centre, a day of talks and events, with members of the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop discussing its legacy.