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Daphne Orem – Oramics: Drawing Music

  • Music
  1. A Little Synth History – Tom Oberheim
  2. Suzanne Ciani — Electronic Musician, Composer, Sound Designer
  3. Laurie Spiegel — Innovator of Electronic Music
  4. Daphne Orem – Oramics: Drawing Music
  5. Elaine Radigue — musique concrete to ARP and beyond
  6. Delia Derbyshire — The Sound Behind Dr. Who
  7. Isao Tomita — Pioneer of Electronic and Space Music
  8. Else Marie Pade — First Danish Composer of Electronic and Concrete Music
  9. Wendy Carlos — My Introduction to Electronic Music
  10. The History Of Electronic Music in Under Twenty-Four Minutes
  11. Histories of the Modular Synthesizer
  12. How A Russian Composer And An Australian Inventor Created The Most Iconic Sound In Popular Music
  13. Bob Moog — Inventor, Enabler, Inspirer
  14. Bernie Krause — Making the Moog Cool
Daphne Orem at work in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

This time, as we look back to the pioneers of electronic music, I’ve collected some pieces about Daphne Orem, an electronic composer, inventor of the Oramics Machine and co‑founder of the highly influential BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

She was one of the first British composers to produce electronic sound, and was a pioneer of musique concrète in the UK. As a co-founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, she became a central figure in the evolution of electronic music. Her uncredited scoring work on the 1961 film The Innocents helped to pioneer the electronic soundtrack.

Oram was the creator of the Oramics technique for creating electronic sounds using drawn sound. Besides being a musical innovator, she was the first woman to independently direct and set up a personal electronic music studio, and the first woman to design and construct an electronic musical instrument.[1] In her book An Individual Note of Music, Sound and Electronics (1971) she explored philosophical themes related to the physics of sound.


Oram’s biography and resume are fascinating, and indicates that the BBC was a quite progressive organization, even during the 1940s and 1950s, despite their reputation for being stodgy and conservative. A short version can be found here, on the website devoted to her. I fact, the whole contains a wealth of insights into early electronic music at the BBC, and her projects after her retirement. The website also as a wide selection of recordings of Oram’s work.

The optical “machine” was a large and complex affair that allowed, quite literally drawing on 35mm film to represent notes and what we would now refer to modulators — envelopes and reverb levels and vibrato and the like. The notation is actually quite similar to what became a fairly common way of notating electronic music for many years.

Orem’s pioneering work in translating graphical representations of sound and music became the inspiration for an iPad app called, appropriately, Oramics. Note that this app is very old, and has seen few, if an, updates.

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