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The Alchemists of Sound (2003)

TV Movie  -  Documentary  -  19 October 2003 (UK)
8.0
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 58 users  
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A documentary about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, responsible for creating some of the most memorable television and radio music in British popular culture, including "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and Doctor Who (1963).

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Oliver Postgate ...
Himself - Narrator (voice)
Roger Limb ...
Himself - Radiophonic Composer 1972-95
Mark Ayres ...
Himself - Associate Radiophonic Composer / Archivist (as Mark Ayers)
Brian Hodgson ...
Himself - Radiophonic Composer 1962-72 / Organiser 1977-95
Desmond Briscoe ...
Himself - Founder Member and Head of Radiophonic Workshop, 1958-83
Maddalena Fagandini ...
Herself - Radiophonic Composer 1959-66
Dick Mills ...
Himself - Radiophonic Composer 1958-93
Adrian Utley ...
Himself - Composer / Performer
David Cain ...
Himself - Radiophonic Composer 1967-73
Delia Derbyshire ...
Herself - Radiophonic Composer 1962-73 (archive footage)
Malcolm Clarke ...
Himself - Radiophonic Composer 1969-95
Peter Kember ...
Himself - Composer / Performer
John Baker ...
Himself - Radiophonic Composer (archive footage)
Milton Babbitt ...
Himself - Electronic Composer (archive footage)
Huw Wheldon ...
Himself - Interviewer (archive footage)
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Storyline

A documentary about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, responsible for creating some of the most memorable television and radio music in British popular culture, including "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and Doctor Who (1963).

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Documentary

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Release Date:

19 October 2003 (UK)  »

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1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

In many shots there is a clock which shows the time as 19:58. This represents the year in which the BBC Radiophonic Workshop was founded (1958). See more »

Quotes

[after the Radiophonic Workshop closed, Mark Ayres was made curator of the tapes]
Oliver Postgate - Narrator: One day, he learned to his horror that all the tapes recorded after 1983 had simply been thrown away.
Mark Ayres: So I hit the roof, and then spent a couple of weeks opening every door in Maida Vale and saying "Where would these tapes have gone? What was the process by which these tapes were skipped?" And they said "Well, we get a guy in. He'd move the tapes out and then he'd order the skip." "Where would he put the tapes ...
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Connections

References Blue Peter (1958) See more »

Soundtracks

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Composed by John Baker
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User Reviews

Helps if you remember the sounds but it is done with sufficient fun to make it an entertaining watch even if you only have a passing awareness of the subject
24 February 2007 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In 1958 the BBC set up the Radiophonic Workshop in order to come up with a new type of sound for use in scores and special effects. Between this creation and its gradual death in 1995, the group came up electronic scores and noises that were used in cult classics such as Doctor Who, Blake's Seven, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as well as countless other programmes that have been forgotten with time.

Executive produced by Victor Lewis-Smith, this documentary was always going to have a sense of humour about it and indeed it does. In some ways it doesn't work (having a bloke hanging around behind every interview didn't work at all) but mostly it is helpful to the material that it isn't too serious or full of itself. This approach makes it easier to swallow as it is much more light entertainment with a documentary edge rather than the other way round. This was useful to me because really I'm only just in the target audience and I only remember a couple of the cult themes and the shows that the music was used on. Thus it didn't totally work for me because if you didn't totally recognise everything then some of it will have no meaning for you.

The history of people playing with tape and so on is not that fascinating if you think about so to the credit of the film it does do a good job of making it quite interesting and engaging. The contributions and use of archive footage is all good and well put together though. Of course it does help if you remember the sounds and the times because if not the film may be of limited appeal but it is done with sufficient fun to make it an entertaining watch even if you only have a passing awareness of the subject.


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