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Daphne Oram's Mini-Oramics synth is built and played for the first time in 40 years

PhD student Tom Richards has researched and built Daphne Oram's Mini-Oramics Synth based on the original prototype plans.

The prototype Mini-Oramics Synth was developed in 1973 as a smaller version of the much larger Oramics synthesizer. Both the Oramics and Mini-Oramics employ graphic or 'drawn synthesis' as it's more widely known, whereby information is drawn on film or paper and then read by the sound source.

The Oramics bore similarities to the Variophone. which was developed by Evgeny Sholpo. with both instruments using 35mm film. The drawn shapes on the film modulate the light received by the photocells to generate information that affects timbre, frequency, amplitude and duration. Oram's version featured multiple film strips, as a form of polyphony, and housed in a large metal frame

Daphne saw that the Oramics was too large to be used anywhere other than the studio, so she developed the Mini-Oramics. Unfortunately, Oram's smaller version never made it off the page as the financial backing wasn't available.

Fast forward to 2008 and a large archive of Daphne Oram's work was donated to Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research was then picked up by Tom Richards who was invited to reimagine the Mini-Oramics by the director of the Daphne Oram Archive at Goldsmiths.

"The rules were simple. I had to imagine I was building the machine in 1973, interpreting Daphne Oram's plans and using only the technologies that existed at that time."

And so, the Mini-Oramics was finally born... 40 years after its inception.

(Via Goldsmiths, University of London)

Simon Arblaster

I take care of the reviews on MusicRadar and Future Music magazine, though can sometimes be spotted in front of a camera talking little sense in the presence of real musicians. For the past 30 years, I have been unable to decide on which instrument to master, so haven't bothered. Currently, a lover of all things high-gain in the guitar stakes and never one to resist churning out sub-standard funky breaks, the likes of which you'll never hear.