Oramics to Electronica: Revealing Histories of Electronic Music


Discover the history of electronic music from the 1950s until today. This exhbition has been co-produced with a group of musicians and with the help of people who made electronic music in the 1960s. Back then, electronic music was still an avant-garde experiment. How did it become part of the musical mainstream?

The exhibition celebrates the boundless creativity and ‘make do and mend’ mentality of musicians and engineers. It shows iconic instruments alongside home-built synthesisers and one-off inventions. New instruments such as synthesisers and samplers not only changed the sounds musicians could make, but also influenced the way they composed and performed their music.

The exhibition highlights the work of three British studios that produced electronic music in the 1960s and 1970s. Electronic Music Studios (EMS) experimented with computer music while developing some of the earliest commercial synthesisers to pay the bills. The BBC Radiophonic Workshop introduced electronic sounds to the masses through the theme tunes and sound effects its members made for radio and television. In the meantime, in her private studio in Kent, Daphne Oram developed a technique that allowed her to draw sounds. She called it Oramics, and the unique instrument she developed over the years, the Oramics Machine, is also on display.

Commissioned by The Science Museum, London. Directed, Produced, Filmed and Edited by Nick Street and Jen Fearnley. View a transcript .

In the spring of 2011 students from the National Youth Theatre’s Acting Up 2 course wrote and produced a play about Daphne Oram and the history of electronic music, which they performed in the Science Museum. Students from City University made a short documentary about this project.

In the autumn of 2011 a group of women writers used the themes of sound, invention and Oramics as inspiration for a series of monologues and dialogues.

Oramics to Electronica: Revealing Histories of Electronic Music is part of the Public History Project. For more information about this exhibition, why not follow the Oramics Machine on Facebook?

On display

Oramics machine waveform scanners, c. 1959

The Oramics Machine is a unique electronic instrument invented by Daphne Oram and controlled by painting on strips of 35mm film.

VCS3 synthesiser by EMS

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop bought a VCS3 by EMS in the same year we bought this example. It was soon heard in Doctor Who and other programmes.