The Composers of Dr Who: Barry Gray - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

Home Top Ad

Post Top Ad

The Composers of Dr Who: Barry Gray

Christopher Morley pays tribute to the man behind Dr Who & The Daleks' electronic effects and a whole host of Supermarionation classics...
Many a curiosity can be found in the Dalekmania filler that was Dr Who & The Daleks. Not least the casual airbrush treatment of continuity, Peter Cushing's non- canonical incarnation presented as a human inventor & TARDIS presented as the result of his latest bout of tinkering! Oh, & there's the coloured Daleks- which would be revisited in a sense alongside the very much canon Matt Smith in Victory Of The Daleks.

But well before their return in wartime London, the enterprising folks at Amicus set about remaking their first televised appearance for a bigger screen, William Hartnell nowhere to be seen! Nor for that matter was composer Tristram Cary. Malcolm Lockyer would be the man tasked with supplying much of the soundtrack to the Daleks' first big screen outing, with Bill McGuffie drafted in for the second. Assisting them with the odd & very Sixties electronic side of the score to the film was one Barry Gray, which gives us as good of a reason as any to pay tribute to the man who will forever be associated with the music for many of Gerry Anderson's Supermarionation projects.

A former child prodigy, one of Gray's early piano teachers observed,
"Here’s a young lad who takes to manuscript paper like a duck takes to water!"
The theme from Thunderbirds is probably his most famous composition. Gerry Anderson himself even raved over.
"I watched from the monitor room…I’ll never forget the incredible feeling I got when Barry conducted the first take…It sent shivers down my spine…I knew straight away that it was something special."
We can aslo count Fireball XL5, Joe 90, Stingray & Captain Scarlet & The Mysterons among his Century 21 scores!

Electronic sound was in its infancy, so Gray's work could not be rushed.
"At that time, one had to rely on tape manipulation; and on using any type of instrument to get a basic sound from which to work. In those days I had to use an electric steel guitar quite a lot, and Hammond organ, and I worked basically on tape. I also used an audio-sweep oscillator and a ring-modulator, which I had specially- built.

I would get the basic sound onto tape and then I would start working on it. I used to do things like chopping the head off a piano chord, and then reversing one side of the chord and splicing it onto itself, so that one could get a very slow-sounding approach which rose in a crescendo to the top of the chord, and then would fade out again.

That's quite a lot of work. and it took a long time to do even a short section. Of course today, with the advent of vocoders, synthesizers and what-have-you, one can produce these things very, very quickly."
His array of instruments included a Clavioline which he used on Torchy. The electronic organ had featured in Four Feather Falls and his next acquisition, an Ondes Martenot, debuted in Supercar in 1961.

Over the years the Cordovox, Transicord, Baldwin Electronic Harpsichord, Miller Spinetta and Hammond Organ along with an audio sweep oscillator and ring modulator were added to his collection of weird sounds.

As well as electronic music he developed his own electro-musical sound-effects, which he named “Musieffects”. And indeed Supermarionation as a whole owes its soundtracks to him. Gray saying of Anderson that,
“Gerry has some idea of the type of the music he wants and he works very closely with you on the first episode, or on the pilot episode as it might be. And then after that you’re on your own, you know! But, initially he had some sort of idea that he’d like to do, something in his mind. Although he’s not knowledgeable about music, he is very musical as far as the type of music that he likes. And the type of thing he thinks is right for that particular episode, or film, or whatever it might be.”
Stingray would later finally offer him the chance to realise his music in the way he'd intended all along, as it was the first of Anderson's shows to be filmed in colour and the series’ bigger setup and budget allowed Gray a larger orchestra than he had been able to use on any of the previous series.

Gray was able to afford a 32-piece orchestra for the Stingray titles recording at the Pye Studios on August 9th , 1963. Gary Miller performed the two songs, ‘Stingray’ (opening titles) and ‘Aqua Marina’ (end credits) backed by soprano Joan Brown and five boys from The Mike Sammes Singers.

He would also work on UFO & Space 1999's first series, after which he left the world of television & film scoring behind altogether.

He later used a 1993 interview with Cinema Score to set the record straight on his perception of electronic music.
"Well, I'm afraid that electronic music is mostly suitable only for visuals that are concerned with such things as laboratories, space, very weird and perhaps even strange situations, astral sequences, etcetera.

I'm not enamoured of writing orchestral music and producing it on synthesizers. Much as I appreciate the use of a synthesizer today, I don't go along with scoring ordinary music for a bundle of synthesizers.

An outstanding example of this, for me, is Chariots Of Fire. A very simple musical theme, but produced on multi-track synthesizers, and although the music was very suitable to the film, because the action of the film was 'round about 1924, I did not really care for the synthesized sound.

Although it had a semblance of a large orchestra, you could still tell that it was synthesized sound."
If you were intrepid enough on this year's Record Store Day, you may well have picked up one of the limited edition reissues of the vinyl release of the results of his collaborations with Lockyer & McGuffie.

Several shades of Gray, you could say!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post Top Ad