The Composers of DOCTOR WHO - Brian Hodgson

Christopher Morley looks at the work of influential Doctor Who Sound Designer, Brian Hodgson.

Just what is 'sound design'? In the context of Doctor Who, it's literally that more often than not, it is the creation of sound effects for the far future, or alien worlds from the frontiers of the imagination. And nobody did that better for Classic Who than Brian Hodgson! A native Scouser, born in Liverpool in 1938, he joined the Radiophonic Workshop in 1962- which meant he was on board in time for An Unearthly Child the following November. He would stay on as sound designer until 1972's The Sea Devils, with Dick Mills taking over, though he would return as a one-off for Carnival Of Monsters.

In late 1966 he founded Unit Delta Plus alongside fellow Workshop alumnus Delia Derbyshire & EMS ( Electronic Music Studios) founder Peter Zinovieff, though the group would last only a year- Hogdson & Derbyshire would set up the Kaleidophon electronic music studio in Camden Town with fellow sonic explorer David Vorhaus. The trio would record an album together as White Noise in 1968- An Electric Storm...

Initially only planning to record a one-time single, Chris Blackwell of Island Records liked the result so much he persuaded the three to record an album! Though both Hodgson & Derbyshire would depart after this first record, Vorhaus remained to put together White Noise II, III, IV & V. He still performs under the name to this day as a duo alongside Mark Jenkins.

That same year, Brian would work on his sole credits as composer for Doctor Who- the Second Doctor stories The Wheel In Space & The Dominators. Actress Sheila Grant's electronically- treated voice is what makes the sound of the Quarks so distinctive! He would go on to contribute music to the Standard Music Library under the pseudonym 'Nikki St George', with many of his works under the name going on to appear in the likes of Timeslip & The Tomorrow People...

Following his departure from the Workshop he set up the Electrophon studio in Covent Garden alongside John Lewis & would work with Dudley Simpson as the duo 'Electrophon', on an album entitled In A Covent Garden. The ambitious project saw them work on arrangements of several classical pieces for sixteen-piece orchestra & synthesiser! Two of them- their takes on Tchaikovsky's None But The Lonely Heart & Debussy's La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin would later be heard in the Fourth Doctor story The Robots Of Death.

The pair would make a further two records- Zygoat & Further Thoughts On The Classics- before Brian would move on to work with Lewis as 'Wavemaker' on Where Are We, Captain & New Atlantis. Next up was a spot of film scoring alongside Ms Derbyshire once more! 1973's The Legend Of Hell House was the film in question...

By 1977 he had returned to the Radiophonic Workshop to replace Desmond Briscoe as head of operations, where he would remain until resigning in 1995. Of his start with them, he said:
"I was a studio manager. I showed some creative initiative with effects so was asked to go to the Radiophonic Workshop [RW] for a three-month attachment in about February 1963."
He first heard about Doctor Who after a meeting with producer Verity Lambert & director Waris Hussein alongside his Workshop boss Desmond Briscoe, & remembered:
"They were both charming, amazingly attractive and full of confidence that the series would run. And a delight to work for because they knew exactly what they wanted."
You're probably dying to know how he came up with the famous TARDIS de/rematerialisation sound effect too?

Wonder no more!
"I remember a phrase about the 'rending of the fabric of time and space'. So I wanted a sort of tearing sound. What we definitely didn't want was a sound like an ordinary space rocket. When I first sketched it out there wasn't a rising note, but Desmond insisted we needed one or else it wasn't saying "spaceship" enough. So we put that in."
How did he do it? Using a broken piano frame...
"It was standing up in the corner of the workshop with its strings exposed and I scraped a front-door key down the bass string. We recorded that and added loads of feedback."
What of the Daleks?
"I'd done a voice for a robot butler in a children's radio series and used a ring modulation system. So we used that again and just had to make sure that [voice artist] Peter Hawkins gave a monotonous delivery. So it was a blend of my treatment and Peter's performance."
He took early retirement to the Norfolk Broads just before the Workshop closed its doors for good, viewing the development as...
"Inevitable. Originally, we were the only place that could do that sort of work. By the 90s, kids had more technology on their own computers."
Looking back, he seems pleased with his work!
"I am eternally amazed that people seem to value my contribution so highly, and I'm proud to have been associated with such a significant part of television history." 

Silva Screen Records reissued his soundtrack for The Krotons in May of last year. In order, the track-listing discounting the famous Who theme ( 1) goes -
  • 2 . Doctor Who: The Krotons - The Learning Hall
  • 3. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Door Opens
  • 4. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Entry Into The Machine
  • 5. Doctor Who: The Krotons - TARDIS (New Landing)
  • 6. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Wasteland Atmosphere
  • 7. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Machine And City Theme
  • 8. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Machine Exterior
  • 9. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Panels Open
  • 10. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Dispersal Unit
  • 11. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Sting
  • 12. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Selris' House
  • 13. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Machine Interior
  • 14. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Snake Bleeps Low
  • 15. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Silver Hose (The Snake)
  • 16. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Snake Bleeps High
  • 17. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Teaching Machine Hums
  • 18. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Forcefield
  • 19. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Burning Light
  • 20. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Birth Of A Kroton
  • 21. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Kroton Theme
  • 22. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Kroton Dies
  • 23. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Link - Rising Hum
  • 24. Doctor Who: The Krotons - Kroton Dies (alternative)
And you can party like its £9.99 ( which it is, on CD at least), so there's no excuse not to have a listen!
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