Papers, personal research, correspondence and photographs documenting the life and work of Daphne Oram, including a full history of the Oramics System. The Collection also includes approximately 600 audio tapes of music and 100 computer discs (details of which are held at the Goldsmith's Music Dept and not included here as of 31/11/07).
Daphne Oram Archive
- This material is held at
- ReferenceGB 2603 ORAM
- Dates of Creation1925 - 2003
- Name of Creator
- Language of MaterialEnglish
- Physical Description10 linear metres
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
Daphne Oram (December 31, 1925 - January 5, 2003), was a pioneering British composer and electronic musician. She was the creator of the "Oramics" system, a technique used to create electronic sounds.
Educated at Sherborne School For Girls, Oram was, from an early age, taught piano and organ as well as musical composition. In 1943 she was offered a place at the Royal College of Music but instead took up a position as a "music balancer" at the BBC. During this period she became aware of developments in "synthetic" sound and began experimenting with tape recorders. She also spent some time in the 1940s composing music, which remained unperformed, including an orchestal work entitled Still Point. In the 1950s she was promoted to become a music studio manager and began to campaign for the BBC to provide electronic music facilities for composing sounds and music, using electronic music and musique concrète techniques, for use in its programming. In 1957 she was commissioned to compose music for the play Amphitryon 38. Using a sine wave oscillator, an early tape recorder and some self-designed filters, she produced the score from only electronic sources; the first of its kind at the BBC. Along with fellow electronic musician and BBC colleague Desmond Briscoe, she began to receive commissions for many other works including a significant production of Samuel Beckett?s All That Fall. As demand grew for these electronic sounds, the BBC gave Oram and Briscoe a budget to establish the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in early 1958. In October of that year, she was sent by the BBC to the "Journées Internationales de Musique Expérimentale" at the Brussels World Fair (where Edgard Varèse demonstrated his Poème électronique). After hearing some of the work produced by her contemporaries, she decided to resign from the BBC less than one year after the workshop was opened, hoping to develop her techniques further on her own.
In 1959 she installed her Oramics Studios for Electronic Composition in Tower Folly, a converted oast house at Fairseat, near Wrotham, Kent. Her output from the studio, mostly commercial, covered a far wider range than the Radiophonic Workshop, providing background music for not only radio and television but also theatre and short commercial films. She was also commissioned to provide sounds for installations and exhibitions. Other work from this studio included electronic sounds for Jack Clayton's 1961 horror film The Innocents, concert works including Four Aspects and collaborations with opera composer Thea Musgrave.
In February 1962 she was awarded a grant of £3500 from the Gulbenkian Foundation. These funds supported the development of the Oramics drawn sound technique. A second Gulbenkian grant of £1000, awarded in 1965, enabled the Oramics composition machine to be completed. The first drawn sound compositions using the machine had been recorded by 1968.
Throughout her career she lectured on electronic music and studio techniques. In 1971 she wrote An Individual Note of Music, Sound and Electronics which investigated electronic music in a philosophical manner. Besides being a musical innovator her other significant achievements include being the first woman to direct an electronic music studio, the first woman to set up a personal studio and the first woman to design and construct an electronic musical instrument.
In the 1990s she suffered two strokes and was forced to stop working, later moving to a nursing home. She died in 2003, aged 77.