An Interview with Desmond Briscoe: By Norma Beecroft

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Desmond Briscoe
b. Birkenhead, England, 21 June, 1925 – d. 7 December, 2006

Interviewed by Norma Beecroft as part of her ebook, Conversations With Post World War II Pioneers of Electronic Music.
Recorded on audio cassette.
Digital transfer and editing: William Van Ree

Regarded as a pioneering sound engineer, Harry Desmond Briscoe was acclaimed as one of the first in Britain to realize the potential of electronic music in the 1950s. He began his musical career in Manchester as a drummer and the conductor of ‘Harry Desmond and his Band’, but was determined to find employment with the BBC. He first found work there as a junior program assistant, interrupted by service during World War II, and then returned to the BBC features department in London where he developed his profound interest in the spoken word, and eventually unusual sound effects leading to the influence of music by Pierre Schaeffer and Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Briscoe’s first public success came through the realization of Samuel Beckett’s first radio play, All That Fall, in which emerged a new kind of radio blending dialogue, music and sound effect. This led to the formation of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958 with Briscoe as composer and manager, with cofounder electronic music composer Daphne Oram, and engineer Richard Bird. Scores for hundreds or radio and television dramas were produced there under Briscoe’s encouragement and management, most famously the signature tune for Doctor Who by Della Derbyshire. The Workshop under Desmond Briscoe became one of the most acclaimed electronic studios in the world. He retired in 1983, and the BBC closed the Workshop in 1998.

You can read the transcript of the interview, along with interviews of 22 other electroacoustic composers, by purchasing the ebook here.