Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes Documentary

SXSW Review: ‘Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes’

March 20, 2021Ben MK

When you think of electronic music, you might think of artists like Daft Punk and Deadmau5 or the work of Depeche Mode and The Prodigy. If so, then you might be surprised to know that one of the pioneers of electronic music was actually a woman by the name of Delia Derbyshire, a mathematician from Coventry, England best known for realizing the signature theme song for Doctor Who.

Told through reenactments of scenes from Derbyshire's life, interviews with her friends and collaborators, as well as fragments of recordings sampled from the 267 tapes discovered in the attic of her Northampton home shortly after her death in 2001, Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes offers an unconventional look at one of the genre's unsung heroes. With a particular focus on the groundbreaking work she did at the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, the film paints a picture of Delia as a gifted talent far ahead of her time, but at the same time, it also portrays her as a woman tragically haunted by her own personal demons.

Not quite a documentary and not quite a biographical drama in the traditional sense, writer-director Caroline Catz's character portrait certainly won't be in sync with the sensibilties of all audiences. But if you're in the mood for something as experimental as the music Derbyshire created, this is a fitting tribute.

Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and the Legendary Tapes screens under the Visions section at the 2021 South by Southwest Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 41 min.

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