Research Data Leeds Repository

Mini Oramics: Potential and Actuality

Richards, Tom (2016) Mini Oramics: Potential and Actuality. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

This item is part of the Alternative Histories of Electronic Music collection.

Dataset description

This paper will outline briefly the continued research into the legacy of the British composer and innovator Daphne Oram (1925 – 2003), before going into some detail about a less researched part of her legacy. Oram was a proponent of drawn sound techniques and the inventor of the Oramics Machine: an innovation that bears comparison to both the RCA and ANS synthesisers. Having had privileged access to both the Daphne Oram Archive at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Oramics Machine in the Science Museum collection, the author is in the final stages of a practice based PhD study of Oram’s work with a specifically hands on and forensic, techno-historical approach. This research has led to the initial conclusion that the Oramics Machine was never really finished, and was beset with technical problems, despite the remarkable conceptual vision and technical efforts of Oram and her collaborators. This goes some way to explain its relatively limited musical output despite the fact it was in operation for about ten years. Having had an acute awareness of these issues, Oram realised that compromise was necessary if the commercialisation of her drawn sound technique was to be successful. In the early 1970s she turned her thoughts to the production of a smaller, simpler version of her machine, to be marketed to private and educational studios. Oram’s insight here is pertinent, given the relative success of smaller and cheaper products such as the Synthi AKS and MiniMoog when examined next to their bigger and more expensive cousins. Oram’s Mini Oramics is still an under-researched area of her practice, and unlike her original machine we do not have a physical artefact to study. However, the archival designs for Mini Oramics are far more complete than those of her original machine, and so in many respects her intentions and ideas are easier to interpret than with the original. After examining Oram’s plans and contrasting them with contemporaneous developments in music technology, it will be argued that Mini-Oramics could have had an important impact had it been launched at the right time and with sufficient backing; in an era when electronic music sequencing techniques were often restrictive, lacking in temporal nuance, with un-intuitive interfaces (until the advent of MIDI and affordable computing). This line of research has been significantly augmented by the practice-based element of the study, where a hardware version of Mini-Oramics has been constructed, and will be evaluated alongside its contemporaneous technological ‘competitors’. This reconstructive research methodology has provided significant insight into the difficulties Oram and her collaborators faced in the design and construction of her machines. In addition it will enable further research into the practical interface of Oramics, and whether the painstaking nature of programming such a machine was worth the extra degree of compositional nuance it would have provided.

Subjects: W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music
W000 - Creative arts & design > W300 - Music > W310 - Musicianship/performance studies > W316 - Electronic/electro-acoustic music performance
Divisions: Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures > School of Music
Related resources:
Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:44



Research Data Leeds Repository is powered by EPrints
Copyright © 2023 University of Leeds