Doctor Who: THE GOLDEN YEARS

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Chris Morley pays tribute to the outgoing Doctor Who composer Murray Gold.


Time to descend once more into the music room of the TARDIS, minding the battered piano & frame, source of that iconic sound of dematerialisation, & watered down gong otherwise known as the Cloister Bell, as we mark the passing of a tuneful torch. For Murray Gold is departing the post he has held since 2005.



Series Eleven of Doctor Who will be minus the man rivaled only by the late great Dudley Simpson in terms of sheer longevity as its its musical director. Gold came aboard very late in the day for Series One of Doctor Who - press screenings of Rose featured a Mark Ayres remaster of Delia Derbyshire's trailblazing original 1963 theme in lieu of what Murray would later come up with in its place.

Russell T Davies clearly had his own composer of choice, as he'd previously employed Gold's musical skills for 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).

Though he's been nominated for a BAFTA five times for his work on Doctor Who & other projects, Gold 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 has soundtracks the Doctor's adventures since 2005 - 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."


A glimpse at the short trailer released by the BBC in the run-up to broadcast (above) would suggest Murray did a little experimenting with drum & bass before going with a final piece which attempts to pull off the bold gambit of sounding orchestral without access to a proper such ensemble...



...before getting his hands on a real one in time for Series Two.



The lucky devil, eh? But now the time has come for Gold to quite literally pass the baton. A Tweet from the Doctor Who Page appears to confirm that Twice Upon A Time was his last contribution-
“NEWS: It’s OFFICIAL. Murray Gold has confirmed himself at the Gallifrey One convention that he is leaving Doctor Who and will not be composing the music for Series 11 onwards. Goodbye Murray Gold, you provided the absolute best music since the show returned in 2005.#DoctorWho
There are few who could argue against that last statement, and whoever replace Murray has some big musical boots to fill. Does he have any advice for anyone who might find themselves 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 when he got his hand on that full orchestra for Series Two...
"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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