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Delia Derbyshire
Delia DerbyshireCourtesy of Zopf PR

These composers are transforming the internet into a musical instrument

BBC’s The Radiophonic Workshop are using the natural lag of online calls to make ‘a loop of music’

The BBC’s The Radiophonic Workshop is in the process of turning the internet into a big musical instrument.

A performance of “Latency” (named after the word used to describe the delay in a transfer of digital data) will take place at an online event on November 22 using a technique inspired by Zoom calls. The band includes composers from the OG Radiophonic Workshop, who created the themes for most shows on the network between the 60s and 90s.

“The idea (of playing the internet) reflected our time,” workshop member Peter Howell told the Guardian. “We’re all subject to the internet now in a way that we never thought we would be.”

The piece is made up of internet delay that’s been stretched from a few milliseconds into several seconds. Instead of playing it all at the same time, the Radiophonic Workshop will play the latency sounds one after another.

“We had the bright idea of using that latency to make a loop of music,” The Radiophonic Workshop’s Bob Earland said. “The sound gets sent to someone, and they add to it, and it keeps going round. So you’re not relying on everyone being on the same clock.”

The performance comes the day before November 23, which is Delia Derbyshire Day, in honour of the Radiophonic Workshop leading member and electronic music pioneer who is credited for bringing early electronic techniques of musique concrete and tape manipulation to a wider audience.

“Latency” will be performed along with other Radiophonic Workshop works on their YouTube channel on November 22 in support of Delia Derbyshire Day and The Girls’ Network. In the meantime, read our feature on Derbyshire here.