Never heard of Oramics? Most people probably haven’t. It was a synthesizer, studio, and life time work of a groundbreaking woman from 1960’s London. Here’s why it matters.
1. It Was A Synthesizer Powered By Drawings!
That’s right. Here’s how Daphne Oram’s “Oramics Machine” worked. Electric motors pulled eight parallel tracks of clear 35mm film stock across scanners that operated like TV sets in reverse. On the film Daphe Oram drew curving black lines, squiggles and dots, all converted into sound.
This method of music composition and performance allowed the composer to draw an “alphabet of symbols” on paper and feed it through a machine that would, in turn, produce the relevant sounds on magnetic tape.
The first drawn sound composition using the machine, entitled “Contrasts Essonic”, was recorded in 1968. It looked and sounded strikingly modern. Take a listen below!
2. It Was Created By A Badass
Daphne Oram (creator and namesake of Oramics) was the first ever 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. That’s a hard act to follow…
3. The BBC Seriously Missed Out On It
Oram started her career in the BBC’s music department, founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. She eventually got tired of the broadcaster’s lack of vision for electronic sound and musique concrète (the ancestor of today’s electronic music) and set up her Oramics Studios for Electronic Composition in Kent. She provided background music and sounds for radio, television, theatre, short commercial films but also for installations and exhibitions.
4. It’s Back From The Dead
Long thought lost, the revolutionary music synthesiser was recently recovered and added to the Science Museum’s collections in co-operation with Goldsmiths, University of London. However, the Oramics Machine will never work again. To make it operational nowadays would mean replacing so many of its working parts that it would only be a replica.
5. There’s A Whole Museum Installation About It
A few weeks ago, the Science Museum in London opened a small but fascinating exhibition about the revolutionary music synthesizer and the extraordinary woman who created it in the 1960s.
The museum is showing the original machine along with an ’emulator’ that reproduces the elements of the Oramics Machine’s operation on a touch screen. Visitors can draw waveforms, input a tune, modify the sound according to various parameters.
So if you’re in London, be sure to visit and experience the magic of Oramics! For more info on Daphne and her work please visit Oram’s official site.
Wanna learn more about synthesis, electronic music, or electronic production? Then take one of our state of the art classes in Boston! Our instructors are just as cool as Daphne Oram and can teach you how to master the art of synthesis, production, and DJ’ing. Check out our website for more details.