(May 5th, 1937 – July 3rd, 2001) was an English musician and composer of electronic music and musique concrète. She is best known for her electronic realisation of Ron Grainer’s theme music to the Britishscience fiction television series Doctor Who and for her work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
Derbyshire was born in Coventry. Educated at Barr’s Hill School, she then completed a degree in mathematics and music at Girton College, Cambridge. In 1959 she applied for a position at Decca Records only to be told that the company did not employ women in their recording studios. Instead she took a position at the UN in Geneva, soon returning to London to work for music publishers Boosey & Hawkes.
Some of her most acclaimed work was done in the 1960s in collaboration with the British artist and playwright Barry Bermange for the BBC’s Third Programme, which was later renamed BBC Radio 3. Besides the Doctor Who theme, Derbyshire also composed and produced scores, incidental pieces and themes for nearly 200 BBC Radio and BBC TV programmes. A selection of some of her best 1960s electronic music creations for the BBC can be found on the album BBC Radiophonic Music (BBC Records), which was re-released on CD in 2002. Several of the smaller pieces that Derbyshire created at the Radiophonic Workshop were used for many years as incidental music by the BBC and other broadcasters, including the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).
One set of recordings made for the Third Programme labeled “Dreams” was made in collaboration with Barry Bermange (who originally recorded the narrations). Bermange put together The Dreams (1964), a collage of people describing their dreams, set to a background of electronic sound. Dreams is a collection of spliced/reassembled interviews with people describing their dreams, particularly recurring elements. The program of sounds and voices attempts to represent, in five movements, some sensations of dreaming: running away, falling, landscape, underwater, and colour.