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‘Still Point’ - An Unknown Precursor of Today's Electronic Music

Feshareki, Shiva and Hewitt, Ivan (2016) ‘Still Point’ - An Unknown Precursor of Today's Electronic Music. University of Leeds. [Dataset]

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

Dataset description

This paper will discuss an unknown work by a pioneer of electronic music, Daphne Oram. Oram is best known as the co-founder and first director of the BBC Radiophonic workshop, where she created numerous musical scores for radio and TV productions. What is less well-known is that she created a theory of electronic sound synthesis known as ‘Oramics’, and wrote a large quantity of concert music, most of which has never been performed. Our paper will focus on the most substantial score in this neglected body of work. Entitled ‘Still Point’, it is scored for double orchestra, electronically treated recordings on 78-rpm discs, microphones, and Echo and Tone controls. It was composed in 1949, which means it has a good claim to be the first work in history which combines a fully written-out orchestral score with live, real-time manipulation of electronic sound. Oram entered Still Point for the Prix Italia in 1950, which it failed to win, and unfortunately the score was never returned to Oram and is now presumed lost. What survives are approximately one hundred pages of pencil sketches in the Oram Archive, now housed at Goldsmith’s College, London. The composer and co-author of this paper, Shiva Feshareki, is now working on a reconstruction of the piece, in collaboration with James Bulley, for performance by the London Contemporary Orchestra at St. John’s Smith Square London in the summer of 2016. The authors aim to address the following topics: 1) We will set this work in the context of Oram’s work as a whole, looking into the relationship between her technical speculations and her aesthetic outlook. 2) We will ask what the influences were on this genesis of this work, with particular emphasis on the poem of T.S Eliot (Burnt Norton from The Four Quartets) which provided the work’s title. 3) We will give a detailed description of the surviving performance materials, with an explanation of the work (both creative and re-creative) required to bring those materials into a performable state. 4) We will attempt to situate the work, and Oram’s work as a whole, in the wider history of electronic music. This is not a straightforward task. On the one hand, she was a visionary, who in this work created a “Concerto for Turntables” a good sixty years before the genre was invented. On the other, her work has many links to earlier traditions in music. The fact that Oram took as her title a line from the most outspoken cultural conservative among 20th -century poets looks significant, but significant of what exactly? And if it turns out on closer inspection that Oram had a vein of cultural conservatism in her make-up, is that peculiar to her? Or might it point to a wider theme in electronic music which is hidden from view, by the rhetoric of radical, technological modernism through which we habitually discuss the genre?

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
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Date deposited: 27 Jul 2017 19:45



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