The Art, Science and Philosophy of Electronic Music and Sound: The deconstruction of music through Daphne Oram and her contemporaries in the early British electronic music scene.
My research focuses on the musical aesthetics of Daphne Oram (1925 – 2003). Oram was a composer, and musical theorist, central to the establishing of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in 1958. Although much has been written about her pioneering work in electronic music from an historical perspective, Oram’s philosophical conceptions of sound have been largely neglected. My PhD project sets out to establish a fuller understanding of her approach to composition and her Oramics graphic notation system which will contribute to a richer scientific understanding of sound and music, both in praxis and in how composers conceive of it. Oram’s unique Oramics notation – a hybridization of graphics and sound – engenders an approach to the very conception of music and musical composition wholly different from standard musical notation. The project will give an interdisciplinary account of the philosophical implications of Oram’s work in relation to scientific approaches to sound studies and auditory perception, as well as a critical comparison of Oram’s work with other composer-led music technologies. It will explore how experimental technologies and techniques of electronic music composition, such as Oramics, can engage with current philosophical debates concerning the ontological categorization of sound. The project will develop in a two part-structure answering the following research questions: How can the work and ideas of Daphne Oram and her contemporaries offer new perspectives on both the practice and philosophy of electronic music composition? What might the integrated historical and philosophical study of Oramics teach us about sound and music cognition? By combining the science, theory, and practice of electronic music, it is hoped that a more unified conception of composition, performance experience, and musical aesthetics can be achieved.