The Composer's of Doctor Who - MURRAY GOLD

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Christopher Morley continues his look at the work of the many composers of Doctor Who.


Our trawl through the infinite music room of Doctor Who now leads us to the man who's taken care of all things tuneful since its 2005 revival- Murray Gold.



As composer/musical director he's now overseen a grand total of 96 episodes of New-Who, from Rose to Death In Heaven, having previously worked with Russel T Davies on Queer As Folk, The Second Coming (which starred Christopher Eccleston- the man who would become the Ninth Doctor) & Casanova (with David Tennant playing the legendary lover-man prior to taking over the TARDIS as the Tenth Doctor).

Born in Portsmouth on February 28, 1969, he has also contributed music to Shameless, Clocking Off, Single Father, Scott & Bailey & The Musketeers, with an oddly familiar face/set of eyebrows as Cardinal Richelieu!

Though he's been nominated for a BAFTA four times for his work on Doctor Who & other projects, he has never won- but he does have a Royal Television Society Award for Queer As Folk on his mantelpiece at least. All of which hasn't stopped most people recognising him solely as the man who soundtracks the Doctor's adventures- so how did he get the job?
"They decided they weren't happy with using the old theme. They kept saying things like 'We still haven't found something, so if you've got anything...' But I really didn't want to have anything to do with it. That piece is so complete on its own, it's like a piece of electronic art. And also, it's a piece in which the arrangement of the tune is everything, with no disrespect to Ron Grainer. So doing a new arrangement of a piece where the arrangement is everything... it's quite difficult, really!"
It was decided that elements from Delia Derbyshire's ' realisation' should be included alongside Murray's orchestral ideas, & so...
"One day, the parts turned up on a CD; Mark ( Ayres, former Radiophonic Workshop composer & now archivist, keeping the Radiophonic flame burning!)- must have sent it over. I used the electronic 'scream' at the start, the famous swooping top line, the organ harmony underneath, the bass line, and the 'time tunnel whoosh' at the very end."



Does he have any advice for anyone who might one day want his day job composing for the Doctor?
"Believe in the music you are making and learn from people but don’t copy them…. only yesterday somebody I really admire said to me ‘your music has so much mischief in it’ and I have never tried to take that away… it’s just me… if you can find the thing that is you that is through everything you do you will eventually have your own sound…"
Sage words indeed. But what was it like for the artist as a young man finding his own sound? Here he is talking to Sound On Sound- .
"Every week I was on Vanity Fair, I thought I'd be sacked at the end of it. I always tell myself that I never did that job; I was just never fired! I put a lot of myself into it, because I thought I was going to get the boot anyway. It contained a lot of things that I thought music should be; it was really expressive, but messy and anarchic too, with loads of woodwind and brass. Like Charlie Mingus's The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady, which is one of my favourite albums of all time."
His first musical love, though, was the synthesiser:
"I loved synths when I was younger, and even now something goes in my heart when I see the name Roland; I had a TB303 and a TR606 in their little cases, and I've still got a Juno 106 in my storeroom downstairs... although I should have got a Jupiter 6! But I've got this theory that synths are better to play with than they actually are to record with. I write everything for Doctor Who on the piano first, now — because on a synth you twiddle and noodle forever, and never get anything done! Also, I think some of the old Radiophonic Workshop composers only did everything on synths because that was all they had, not because they loved electronic music. For me, sequencing is the big revolution that came from synths. It's like word processing. In the old days, when people wrote letters on typewriters, you had to be really careful, and have everything planned out. Now you can get down the gist of what you want to say and then refine it. But you still have to be able to think of the idea in the first place, and you still have to have the ability to refine it!'
He feels he owes a debt to Danny Elfman, too:
"I think in the first series ( of Doctor Who) , I still owed a lot to Danny Elfman and his score for the first Batman film. It has what a lot of people would casually refer to as a big movie sound; they call it the 'Korngold' sound in Hollywood. There was a lot of that in the first series, and lots of four-to-the-floor drum loops and sequences, because I didn't have an orchestra, and I had to create some excitement somehow. And sometimes, to get through the sheer amount of music that I needed to, I would hold down a chord longer than I would now, and use that as a shortcut. I'd very quickly put eight chords down, two bars each, and then just draw controller information on them to put in some dynamics."



And for Series Two, he got a full orchestra!
"I got one day with the National Orchestra of Wales to record the 45 minutes of music I needed for the Christmas Special, and used the afternoon of that day to re-record some of my favourite cues from Series One, which I also used in the second series, and eventually to make the soundtrack album. Later on in the second series, we had another day with the orchestra, to record 45 more minutes of music which I needed for the series finale. So I had about 90 minutes of orchestral recordings to draw on in the second series. But I was still completely dependent on samples all through that series."
With that special he felt he had...
"...'nothing to lose, go for it!' I made the music exuberantly orchestral. I was thinking 'I want to use everything! We haven't used woodwind much; I want woodwind all the time, like Leonard Bernstein!' That Special has some of the best music I've ever written in it, all set free on an orchestra."
And the rest, as they say, is history...............

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