Saturday, 31 January 2009

Why I Listen To Doctor Who Incidental Music

I don't mean Dudley Simpson's orchestral stuff here, nor Murray Gold's modern version, but the synth outpourings of Roger Limb et al in the 80s.

Well, it's like this. A lot of Doctor Who music is well written, vaguely atmospheric and reminds me of being a kid. It is also, unsurprisingly, almost devoid of serious emotional content. Adric's theme, the end of Earthshock - it's alright, but it's no Love Will Tear Us Apart. For me, this is good. It means I can listen to tunes without being battered by the contents of my own mind. Goodness knows why we like to see our pain reflected in our music - what on earth is this for? Is it to express the pain, through tapping and dancing or whatever, or is it to deepen it, and enable us to spend hours in brutal melancholy?

Listening to these synth themes obviates this problem. In fact the best of them are not even the 80s guys but the sheer brilliance of Delia Derbyshire, who seemed to have a feel for electronic sound like no-one else. the 80s stuff is much more conventional, it doesn't really push boundaries like hers does, but it does use synths and samples to tell the story in sound, which I find appealing. Peter Howell's music for The Five Doctors for example is the story, as much as the teleplay or the camerawork is.

The appeal is also nostalgic. I was given a record of Doctor Who music by a friend when I was 10, and I taped it; then later I bought it on CD; now I have it on iTunes (and am listening to it now in fact) - the form has shifted, like my own in these twenty two years, but the tunes still carry the information of those early days, when I could see Leckhampton Hill from my classroom and you could still have a teacher throw a board rubber at your head. In fact, when I listen to this, I am listening to the story of my own life, as I see it, as much as I am to the stories behind the music.

And it is music: sounds, phasing, rhythm, themes - it's just not three minute statements of the bleedin' obvious.

But there's little point overstating the theory or the nostalgia. I listen to it because I like it, because I can get on and do other stuff as well, and because I don't have to listen to some kid spewing out my own romantic problems in the process.

Now there might be another question here - why not just silence?

But that's another story altogether.

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