Serendipities and Synchronicities Pete Stollery

This piece was commissioned by the Reeling & Writhing Theatre Company, Glasgow as part of Standing Wave, a play about the life and music of Delia Derbyshire, who worked at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in London in the 1960s and 70s. She most famously produced the theme tune for the cult TV series Dr Who, although she never received any credit for this.

The title refers to the way Delia described her own compositional methods. When I came across this, it immediately struck a resonance with me and the way I work with technology. Studio composition for me is always a mixture of pre-determined plans and accumulation of material ‘happened-upon’ along the way.

Like the play, I wanted to create something which derived from Delia’s work in the 1960s. One of the things I remember about Dr Who as a kid was not so much the theme tune, but the visuals which went with it — video feedback, or ‘howlaround’. Twenty years ago, working with analogue resources, I created a vast amount of material generated from feedback loops (achieved by plugging the outputs of sound processors back into their inputs) and much of the material in this piece comes from those feedback loops. Some of these loops were reminiscent of Delia’s music, particularly layered pieces such as The Delian Mode.

Other Delian influences include a reliance on repetition with subtle timbral changes, the use of arpeggiated figures here and there, and a middle section created entirely from the isolated scratches and crackles from one of Delia’s vinyl recordings — and hidden in there somewhere might be Dr Who’s Tardis landing and the sound of his sonic screwdriver.

Serendipities and Synchronicities was premiered at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow in October 2004, as part of Standing Wave.

  • Year of composition: 2004
  • Duration of the submitted work: 5:58
  • Production: home/uni

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