M captures Oramics opening

The Oramics machine, one of the most significant advances in the history of electronic music, has gone on display at the Science Museum for the first time. M went along yesterday to film the technicians as they installed the primitive synthesizer, and meet some of the musicians involved in the project…

The machine was invented by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s first director, Daphne Oram, in the 60s, and was recently discovered in the vaults of Goldsmith’s University in London.

Daphne at work

Compositions were created on the machine by drawing or painting on strips of 35mm film, which were then passed over light sensitive elements. The elements would interpret the marked film into sound, with varying pitch and volume.

Although the machine no longer works, a new iPhone app has been developed to recreate its sound.

The machine forms the centrepiece of a wider exhibition at the Science Museum called Oramics to Electronica. It was co-curated by the museum and 12 independent musicians, composers and record label owners. Between them, they worked out the best approach to bring Oram’s work to life and reach out to the wider public.

The collective will develop a series of electronic workshops based on her concepts, such as an introduction to circuit bending. They are also working on new compositions inspired by the Oramics machine, with performances and live improvisation sessions planned for October and November.

They will take place on the last Wednesday of the month in a disused part of the Science Museum, and will coincide with late openings at the venue. Some of the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop and EMS Studio musicians are also planning to take part.

M caught up with Martin Swan, from Vile Electrodes, and Jobina Tinnemans, of Blatnova, to find out more. Watch the video below…

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