Daphne Oram is one of the central figures in the development of British experimental electronic music.

Daphne Oram chose a practical career over an academic one after she declined a place at the Royal College of Music to become a music balancer at the BBC. She was co-founder and the first director of the world-renowned BBC Radiophonic workshop. She left in 1959 and carried on her own research into sound in relative secrecy.

Her work, collected papers and other items passed into the care of her friend the artist Hugh Davies after her death in 2003. It was subsequently bequeathed to the Sonic Arts Network (one of Sound and Music’s founding organisations). It is now available to researchers, musicians and others at Goldsmiths College in London. This archive also includes fascinating documents relating to her approaches and studies of electronic music.

Oram most famously developed Oramics, one of the earliest forms of electronic sound synthesis and one that is audio-visual in nature. The composer draws onto a synchronised set of ten 35mm film strips which overlay a series of photo-electric cells, generating electrical charges to control amplitude, timbre, frequency, and duration.

Key works include Pulse Persephone (1965), Bird of Parallax (1972), Rockets in Ursa Major (1962), Broceliande (1969-70), and the soundtrack to the feature film The Innocents (1961).

Fun Fact

Besides being a musical innovator, she was the first woman to direct an electronic music studio, the first woman to set up a personal electronic music studio and the first woman to design and construct an electronic musical instrument.

About this Contributor

Given name
Family name
Birth date
Death date
Contributor type
Minutes created
Collection 1 #21, Collection 1 #34

Minutes by Daphne Oram