White Noise

“‘They were totally useless,’ David Vorhaus says, remembering the initial reaction from Island Records to his album . ‘This guy skims through bits of it. Oh, I don’t understand this album. I don’t think you can have any publicity budget for this because it’s not very commercial. That was all they said.’ Island’s incomprehension was perhaps understandable. No one had ever made a record like White Noise’s An Electric Storm. A suite of seven songs written by a man who until a year or so earlier had scarcely ever listened to pop music, realised using the then-novel techniques of musique concrète and analogue synthesis. Though producer Joe Meek had added a few loops and tape effects to his hits from the beginning of the decade and The Monkees and The Doors had recently begun tinkering with the Moog, almost nobody had tried to make an entire record electronically outside the classical avant-garde. It still sounds wild and unusual today; in 1969 it was totally unprecedented. But in the year of Woodstock and the Third Ear Band at the Isle of Wight Festival, An Electric Storm also tapped into something that was ready to emerge from the cultural underground into the mainstream. ‘White Noise was always known as the tripper’s album,’ Vorhaus says. ‘Everyone said it was the trippiest thing they heard.’ … Sitting in Vorhaus’s studio in the attic of a terraced North London house, with views extending over the city, I found myself surrounded by electronic music history. Racks of old modules pile up on the floor. The pioneering German hybrid synth, the PPG Wave, sits beside a vast old mixing desk. ‘That was the first Fairlight,’ Vorhaus says, standing in trainers and a deep blue shirt, gesturing at a monitor here, a system box over there, parts of the earliest model of the system which Kate Bush used to make Hounds of Love and Jan Hammer Miami Vice. In amongst a jumble of other gear sits the first British-made vocoder. Perched on top of a speaker in another corner sits the synthesizer used on the early White Noise albums, The EMS VCS3, serial number 001. … If it wasn’t for Zinovieff, Vorhaus might never have met his two principal collaborators on An Electric Storm, Brian Hodgson and Delia Derbyshire, of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. ‘Delia Derbyshire was my girlfriend. She showed me everything that was known about electronic music in a couple of weeks,’ Vorhaus explains, adding, ‘There wasn’t much more to know than that then.’ For the son of a film director, the idea of producing a continuous stream of music by editing tiny fragments together came quite naturally. …”
Red Bull Music Academy (Video)
W – White Noise (band)
David Vorhaus – Electronic Music Pioneer
YouTube: Delia Derbyshire – Love Without Sound (Live)
YouTube: White Noise (Full Album) 1 / 7

The Unit Delta Plus studio at Hammersmith, as set up in 1966 by Delia Derbyshire, Brian Hodgson and Peter Zinovieff. In 1969 Brian and Delia joined American-born David Vorhaus, a classical bass player with a background in both physics and electronic engineering, to create the famous White Noise album.

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