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'Kraftwerk Who?' Pioneering '50s Synthesizer unearthed in French Barn

Daniel Cooper, @danielwcooper
August 13, 2011
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So there Dr. Mick Grierson was, wandering around a French barn, minding his own business when all of a sudden he happened upon an antique: one of the earliest modern synthesizers. Grierson, a professor at Goldsmiths University in London did what any expert in the field of electronic music would do, and whisked it back to the motherland for restoration. The Oram "Oramics" Synthesiser (sic) was built by Daphne Oram in 1957, a year before she co-founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop to research and develop electronic music. Political wrangling within the corporation forced her to leave in 1959, and she retreated to a farm in nearby Kent to tinker with her invention. After her departure, the Workshop shot to fame for creating the original electronic theme to Doctor Who. In order to create music on the Oram, a composer painted waveforms directly onto 35mm film strips which were fed into the machine. Inside, photo-electronic cells read the light pattern and interpreted it as sound. Check out the video to see the arrival of the machinery back into England where it'll be on display all the way through December 2012. If you're really interested you can tap Dr Grierson's homebrewed Oramics iPhone app (linked below for your downloading pleasure) to create your own futuristic theme songs, '57-style.

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