Daphne Oram and the Oramics machine

Sound generator unit of Oramics Machine, 1960s (credit: Science Museum / Science & Society)

This is the truly unique Oramics machine, designed by electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram. It will go on display at the Science Museum later this year. There was a great report on Friday’s PM programme about it.

Daphne Oram was a founding member of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. There are many people that are called pioneers of electronic music. But Daphne Oram is surely one person that genuinely fits the bill.

Delia Derbyshire has a mass following for her work with the Radiophonic Workshop, and rightly so. But Daphne Oram, “the unsung pioneer of techno”, deserves just as much of a following.

The sounds that were made by Oram over 50 years ago — and the methods of making them — are almost unfathomable. The Oramics machine worked using “drawn sound”. The composer would feed a piece of music drawn on graph paper into the machine, which would then convert it into its signature otherworldly, haunting sounds. Daphne Oram thought of herself as “a ‘painter’ in sound”.

A couple of years ago a 2CD set of Daphne Oram’s work, called Oramics, was released. If you are interested in electronic music, I would strongly recommend you check it out.

Update: There is now an article about Daphne Oram on the BBC News website, complete with video and the full original radio report.

1 comment

  1. The picture shown here reminded me of the talking computer Orac from the TV series Blake’s 7. Perhaps the writers had seen the Oramics Machine.