Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daphne Oram

The 20 pence machine stands in the kitchen, waiting for its dinner.
It has a high opinion of itself, standing there in its red garb, and as a punishment for its over-assertiveness, it has been moved to a corner next to the framed bad-taste packets.
On Friday I went to look at the Daphne Oram exhibition at the Science Museum. She was a fascinating scientist who experimented with sound and imagined all sorts of developments in music in a quite visionary way, inventing machines at the BBC that processed sound waves that she drew on to film.
What a terrible disappointment! They have no right to advertise it, because there's scarcely anything there- yet, they say.
There are a couple of electronic displays, one of which is good because it demonstrates the way that a continuous sound wave can be altered with visible changes to its form, and there is an original machine housed in a converted commode cupboard, which is amusing. Apart from that, there are a series of display cases full of promises: we will have this here, and that there; but even the promises are vague, and do not tell us either what will eventually be there or the names of the artists and scientists that it promises it has asked to contribute to the exhibition in future. There is more about Oram here:
I made a special trip to see the exhibition and found the Science Museum to be a total con. A huge amount of the ground floor is taken up by a gift shop with repeat-displays of not very scientific gifts (a bit like a Tescos for plasticky science toys) and there are one or two very expensive-looking commissioned pieces, such as the beautiful grasshopper clock. But there are what appear to be acres of empty wooden floor on the upper levels, which is a total disgrace during the summer holidays.
Want more grumbles? Why doesn't Douglas Kahn mention Daphne Oram in his otherwise excellent book Noise, Water, Meat? ( I know why, and so do you).

1 comment:

Wilky of St Albans said...

Pre-GCSE I thought it might be a good idea to take the Wilkyette to the Science Museum as a bit of encouragement - y'know, big models of atoms and stuff.

By my reckoning, theres not one mention of an atom in the place, and all the good stuff I remember from my youth, like how a nuclear power plant works, or how pulleys allow you to lift huge weights, has all gone. Very disappointing. We stayed for a couple of hours then went for lunch.

I did fancy the Daphne Oram exhibition, but I may now give it a miss