Sound Alchemy in Visual Form
By Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau



The Delian Mode (2009)
Kara Blake

Let’s not be afraid of words: Delia Derbyshire was something of a magician, a bit of an alchemist, at the same time as she was a mathematician and a composer. She manipulated sound with skilful dexterity, something made all the more impressive by the fact that she did so at during the very early years of the analogue era. She was a pioneer of electronic music at a time when the term itself seemed experimental and uncertain. Still today, some forty years later, her compositions seem to come from another dimension; their sonorities seem to us both strangely familiar and perfectly extraterrestrial, as if they had risen up out of a forgotten past or a parallel universe. Pieces such as Dreams, part of the series Invention for Radio, still haunt us today; her famous theme music for the television series Doctor Who has comfortably lodged itself in the collective subconscious; and the first LP by the group White Noise, An Electric Storm, remains an essential mainstay of the British psychedelic repertoire.

In short, one can’t go wrong in making a documentary on Derbyshire, but to do justice to a subject like this, something Kara Blake has accomplished admirably, you must go beyond the boundaries of mere reportage. This young Montrealer had already broken with the art of harmonizing music and images through music videos for the Besnard Lakes and Krista L.L. Muir, for example. The success of her film derives in part from the finesse with which, while providing the viewer with the inevitable (and necessary) informative content, the editing succeeds in following the thread of the sound to create an authentic aesthetic experience. By melding the interviews with the various electronic beats and sustained oscillations, she has created an elegant sound collage that bears along more abstract images, providing a well thought out counterpoint to traditional film interviews.

In this respect, Blake’s choice of interview subjects is judicious. In addition to Derbyshire’s colleagues at the BBC Radio Workshop, who couldn’t be overlooked, Blake sought out several contemporary musicians who have been inspired by this visionary artist: Adrian Utley of Portishead, Ann Shenton of Add N to (X) and the former member of Spacemen 3, Peter Kember (alias Sonic Boom). Apart from their intrinsic interest, these interviews confirm Blake’s approach to Derbyshire: through her music, which always determines the documentary’s development, more so than biographical or anecdotal considerations.

As a result, The Delian Mode’s approach to its subject does it justice, avoiding the superfluous and, in the space of twenty-five quite compact minutes, painting a complete portrait of Derbyshire and especially of her hallucinated body of work. When all is said and done, a mystery thus still hangs over her: what remains are her prophetic electronic airs, curious and fascinating, which Blake places at the heart of her project. Hovering in our memories like a spectre, they are the final trace of the Earthly passage of this true eccentric, a sorceress of the sine wave still too little known today to whom The Delian Mode pays sober and intelligent tribute. The film is a fine introduction to a major figure of the twentieth-century avant-garde, a brief visit to Delia Derbyshire’s laboratory that will also satisfy music lovers already familiar with her work, who will rejoice that it is treated here with so much respect and sensibility.


Consult Kara Blake's author sheet +


http://www.panorama-cinema.com

Sound Alchemy in Visual Form
By Alexandre Fontaine Rousseau



The Delian Mode (2009)
Kara Blake

Let’s not be afraid of words: Delia Derbyshire was something of a magician, a bit of an alchemist, at the same time as she was a mathematician and a composer. She manipulated sound with skilful dexterity, something made all the more impressive by the fact that she did so at during the very early years of the analogue era. She was a pioneer of electronic music at a time when the term itself seemed experimental and uncertain. Still today, some forty years later, her compositions seem to come from another dimension; their sonorities seem to us both strangely familiar and perfectly extraterrestrial, as if they had risen up out of a forgotten past or a parallel universe. Pieces such as Dreams, part of the series Invention for Radio, still haunt us today; her famous theme music for the television series Doctor Who has comfortably lodged itself in the collective subconscious; and the first LP by the group White Noise, An Electric Storm, remains an essential mainstay of the British psychedelic repertoire.

In short, one can’t go wrong in making a documentary on Derbyshire, but to do justice to a subject like this, something Kara Blake has accomplished admirably, you must go beyond the boundaries of mere reportage. This young Montrealer had already broken with the art of harmonizing music and images through music videos for the Besnard Lakes and Krista L.L. Muir, for example. The success of her film derives in part from the finesse with which, while providing the viewer with the inevitable (and necessary) informative content, the editing succeeds in following the thread of the sound to create an authentic aesthetic experience. By melding the interviews with the various electronic beats and sustained oscillations, she has created an elegant sound collage that bears along more abstract images, providing a well thought out counterpoint to traditional film interviews.

In this respect, Blake’s choice of interview subjects is judicious. In addition to Derbyshire’s colleagues at the BBC Radio Workshop, who couldn’t be overlooked, Blake sought out several contemporary musicians who have been inspired by this visionary artist: Adrian Utley of Portishead, Ann Shenton of Add N to (X) and the former member of Spacemen 3, Peter Kember (alias Sonic Boom). Apart from their intrinsic interest, these interviews confirm Blake’s approach to Derbyshire: through her music, which always determines the documentary’s development, more so than biographical or anecdotal considerations.

As a result, The Delian Mode’s approach to its subject does it justice, avoiding the superfluous and, in the space of twenty-five quite compact minutes, painting a complete portrait of Derbyshire and especially of her hallucinated body of work. When all is said and done, a mystery thus still hangs over her: what remains are her prophetic electronic airs, curious and fascinating, which Blake places at the heart of her project. Hovering in our memories like a spectre, they are the final trace of the Earthly passage of this true eccentric, a sorceress of the sine wave still too little known today to whom The Delian Mode pays sober and intelligent tribute. The film is a fine introduction to a major figure of the twentieth-century avant-garde, a brief visit to Delia Derbyshire’s laboratory that will also satisfy music lovers already familiar with her work, who will rejoice that it is treated here with so much respect and sensibility.


Consult Kara Blake's author sheet +


http://www.panorama-cinema.com