Private Dreams and Public Nightmares is a unique concept album which re-works and re-interprets original, unheard sounds from the Daphne Oram archives to create completely new pieces of music. The album also includes two pieces which were written and performed live by Andrea Parker and Daz Quayle (owner of the scsi-av label) for 'Oramics: The Life and Works of Daphne Oram' at The Royal Festival Hall and also for the Short Circuit Festival at The Roundhouse, where they supported the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
The story behind this album began in 2008, when Parker was called in to a meeting with Phil Howlett, who was putting together the 'Oramics' night at The Royal Festival Hall. He was looking for an artist who could write and produce an original piece of music incorporating some of Daphne Oram's sounds and then perform this piece live. As one of her idols and an inspiration to her throughout her career, Parker could scarcely believe the opportunity that she was being given. Shortly after this meeting, four CD's full of Daphne's original sounds dropped through her letterbox and for Parker this was a defining moment. Along with Daphne's numerous recordings of found sounds, there were some of the first examples of 'drawn' sounds - the concept of creating sounds by drawing waveforms traced from graph paper onto 35mm film. Ten separate loops of this film controlled different sound parameters like pitch, volume and intensity, triggering sounds through voltage control as these shapes, or waveforms, interrupted a constant stream of light shining onto sensors below as they were run through the Oramics machine simultaneously. This was an entirely new way of making sound, the pioneering concept that paved the way for electronic music as we know it today and the earliest form of the electronic synthesiser. These sounds, like Daphne's Oramics machine itself, are a part of British musical history and only now is this history and Daphne's legacy starting to be given the recognition it deserves, most recently with the installation of a replica of the Oramics machine at London's Science Museum. Where America had Robert Moog, Britain had Daphne Oram. Both of these pioneers were as important as each other to the future of music production, but it was Daphne's unique Britishness that led to her building The Oramics Machine into the empty shell of her own dressing table.
Having used hundreds of samples and all 100 channels of their mixer for this one piece, Parker and Quayle knew that they could not stop there. They felt like they had only scratched the surface and now they wanted to dig deeper into the life and works of Daphne Oram to create an entire album, to unfold the story even more. As experienced producers and remixers they wanted the chance to re-work, re-interpret and manipulate these sounds to create a unique concept album as they hoped Daphne Oram may herself have done in a modern day environment. Parker arranged to meet with Dr. Mick Grierson, Director of the Daphne Oram Collection at Goldsmiths College and Secretary of the Daphne Oram Trust and, after hearing her ideas, Mick finally gave them that chance. In 2009, Parker became one of the first people to be given unrestricted access to the Daphne Oram Archives, containing photographs, diagrams and hundreds of reel-to-reel tapes of original, unheard sounds created by Daphne Oram. Needless to say, Parker and Quayle were like two kids in a sweet shop!
They soon discovered how descriptive Daphne had been with the titles of a lot of her own sounds; 'getting a cold', 'toothache' and 'rheumatism'. Sounds that literally throbbed and pulsated as their titles suggested. She described in an interview For Women's Hour on the BBC (sampled in the opening track on the album) how some of the sounds she created even made her feel like she wanted to hide behind the curtains. Parker certainly knew how she felt.
Done purely as a labour of love in their spare time, driving between London and Leeds, Parker and Quayle spent hundreds of hours sampling these sounds and treating them through various noise reduction processors, all the while trying to strike the balance between making them audible in the mix without losing the individual characteristics of those original sounds. They set out to use some of the less-obvious, unnerving sounds they had found hidden in the archives to explore a different side of Daphne Oram, a darker side, incorporating them alongside sounds from Parker's own archives (made using analogue synthesizers like her beloved arp2600 as well as her 808) and relying on Quayle's modern day techniques and expertise to create the balance. What developed was a deeply personal album, an intense piece of work. Minimal, yet in some pieces over 100 individual sounds were used. Haunting, or itself perhaps... haunted?
ap003 Private Dreams and Public Nightmares - out now on aperture records
"Highly Recommended" - Boomkat
Read the full review at boomkat.com