In 2003, Daphne Oram died. Her life’s work was passed to the care of Hugh Davies, a British composer and musician who knew Daphne and her work better than anyone in the UK. Following Hugh’s death in January 2005, Sonic Arts Network, the leading UK body for electronic music and sound art, was asked by Daphne’s descendants to care for her collected papers, recordings and other items. It was with the benefit of experimental electronic music practice in mind that Goldsmiths Electronic Music Studio (EMS) collaborated with the Sonic Arts Network (SAN) to bring this collection into the academic community where it could be properly studied and developed. To this end, a grant was awarded to Goldsmiths, University of London in 2007 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, to catalogue the collection, digitise the audio tapes and initiate related research.
This collection houses a number of important recordings, including some of her key works such as 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). There are also a number of professional showreels (including adverts for ICI and Heinz), and recorded lectures/demonstrations (for research purposes). Additionally, the collection includes Daphne Oram’s research documents detailing her theoretical approaches and studies in electronic music. Also included is early computer software relating to her composition practice, instrument design and synthesis techniques. In total, there are roughly 1000 papers, 200 7” reel-to-reel tapes, some 10” and 12” reel-to-reel masters, and a collection of floppy disks for the Acorn Archimedes and Apple 2 computer systems. These disks contain technical details and versions of Daphne Oram’s audiovisual synthesis and composition system, Oramics. Although this system is widely known to have been of some significance, it has not been studied or researched in any great depth. The software is considered to be possibly the first computer software designed by a woman for the purpose of creating electronic music. This alone highlights the importance of the collection. In addition, the tapes themselves are of great interest to musicologists and electronic musicians, serving as a record of both her personal research focus, and also as an indication of her aesthetic. Finally, the collection includes a great deal of personal correspondence, photographic documentation, and press cuttings.
The physical archive matches the digital archive records (contained on the Goldsmiths’ CALM archiving system). The collection is comprised of nine archive boxes (excluding reel-to-reels and computer disks). They each represent a ‘series’.
- Computer code
- Education (Lectures, recorded music performances, work with schools)
- Computer & Electronic Music Associations
- Published writing and drafts, performance programmes, press cuttings.
- Musical scores and scripts
- Personal effects, diaries and correspondence