The Composers of DOCTOR WHO - Malcolm Clarke - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

The Composers of DOCTOR WHO - Malcolm Clarke

Christopher Morley continues his look back at the many composers who have produced music for Doctor Who. This week, to fit our Cyberman theme, it's Malcolm Clarke, responsible for two classic Cyber stories and a whole lot more...

Malcolm Clarke joined the Radiophonic Workshop in 1969, with his first contribution to the soundscapes of Doctor Who being the incidental music for The Sea Devils. Matthew Sweet later writing for the Telegraph that:
"Malcolm Clarke, a wild-eyed, foul-mouthed maverick from the Workshop, used a vast machine called the EMS Synthi 100 to add ear-bleeding dissonance to a story about attacks on British shipping by a race of beaky underwater lizards."
Producer Barry Letts is said to have disliked the results of Clarke's experimentation with the Synthi, & decreed that his score be edited in time for the broadcast of the story on February 26, 1972. Fellow Doctor Who composer Mark Ayres loved it though, & recalled later:
"The Sea Devils is a benchmark in 'doing it your own way and hang the consequences'."
It also drew attention from With The DJ who, in a piece on the music of Doctor Who, said of it:
"At times it got really experimental, more so than any contemporary mainstream music at the time. Even to the point that it can annoy some viewers, perhaps most famously in 1972’s classic story, The Sea Devils. The almost too crazy score was by Malcolm Clarke and is mostly made up of weird electronic noise. If it were an album released at the time it would probably have been considered as important and artistic (if just as unlistenable to) as Tangerine Dream ( whose first record, 1970's Electronic Meditation, sounds like a Germanic Radiophonic experiment) , Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music ( Part 1 & Part 2) or any other electronic pioneer of the 70s. Once again, this demonstrates that even if you don’t like sci-fi or Who this was a worthwhile show, trying things that anything but a sci-fi show aimed at families would be stopped from doing."
It was only the second score fully produced by the Workshop, & they wouldn't be called upon to do so again until around ten years later when producer John Nathan-Turner took the decision to relieve Dudley Simpson of his duties- he had in effect been the staff composer for Doctor Who for an uninterrupted ten years, & departed after The Horns Of Nimon.

Responsibility for the musical accompaniment to the Doctor's travels in time & space now returned to the capable hands of the Radiophonic pioneers- Clarke on hand to provide the soundtracks to Earthshock, Enlightenment & Resurrection Of The Daleks during Peter Davison's three-year run as the Fifth Doctor, during which the Sea Devils would also return in Warriors Of The Deep.

A change of Doctor saw Malcolm taking compositional duties on three more stories, Colin Baker's debut as the new Sixth incarnation in The Twin Dilemma followed by another chance to get to grips with the Cybermen & then Terror Of The Vervoids. He regarded electronic music as a sonic equivalent to fine art, & Ayres said of him in an obituary that:
"Malcolm was undoubtedly one of the most colourful characters ever to work at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Fuelled by his keen interest in the visual arts, his music - always anarchic, never boring - holds a special place in my affections."
He also found time to appear in the 1979 documentary The New Sound Of Music with a trusty Synthi 100!

The BBC had first ordered this particular model from EMS ( Electronic Music Studios, London) in 1970 – Pete Townshend of The Who uses another variant, the VCS3, on 1971's Won't Get Fooled Again.

It would appear that he worked very closely with the sound designers for the show, too- Dick Mills remembering in an interview that:
"Malcolm Clarke would stick his head in and say ‘You know when the Doctor's up that thing with this, that and the other — what are you doing for that?’ I'd say ‘I'm just doing that now. It sounds a bit like this.’ He'd say ‘Right, I'll get my music well away from your sound, or hope you haven't got one of your dirty great monster machines going there, because what am I writing music for if nobody is going to be able to hear it?’ So, there was great interchange between us at the Workshop!"
But it would seem there was some confusion as to what counted as ' special sounds' & what could be classed as music- we return again to The Sea Devils...

Mills recalling:
"With ( writer) Malcolm Hulke's The Sea Devils, Malcolm Clarke, who did the music, and Brian Hodgson, who did the sounds, both used the big synthesiser ( the Synthi 100) at the Workshop. We were very fortunate at the Workshop that the Performing Rights Society allowed us to collect royalties on the music we produced. When it came to The Sea Devils, I think Brian probably got more money than he should have done because they credited half of Brian's sounds as music, and half of Malcolm's music was treated as sounds, because they both produced them from the same instrument. That's why I took the stand of separate sounds for different things."
Clarke left the Radiophonic Workshop in 1995, three years before its closure- brought about by John Birt, Director-General of the BBC. He changed the working methods of all departments at the good old Beeb by deciding that they should adopt a more commercial, businesslike method of working- they were to charge each other for services rendered as well as bidding against each other on projects. The Workshop was given five years to break even in 1991 & failed to meet that target, & so it closed its doors for the final time in March 1998. Its vast archive of tapes was collected on April 1, ready for archiving by Ayres - which by a quirk of timing was 40 years to the day that it had begun its original work producing music & sound effects for radio.

But for us here at Warped Factor, its a case of ' the Workshop is dead, long live the Workshop'!...


Post Top Ad