Time Tunnel

New at the New Yorker Culture Desk:  The Music of “Doctor Who” Makes a Glorious Return to Form.

My brain is far too full of Doctor Who trivia, musical and otherwise. A few things I left out of the essay:

Dudley Simpson died last November at 95, a passing I wasn’t aware of until this week. I once spoke to Simpson briefly on the phone. At that time I was doing a few interviews for the BBC, and thought it would be great to give Simpson some space. While in Sidney for a few days I called all the “D. Simpsons” in the Australian phone directory and reached the legendary composer. The BBC passed on the interview and Simpson was already in frail health and wasn’t up for a visit. However, at least I got to tell Simpson how much his music meant to me. He’s certainly a direct influence. One time in the late 90s I played the VHS of “Pyramid of Mars” for Reid Anderson and Jorge Rossy. They both started laughing at how much the music on the TV serial sounded like some of my compositions for Construction Zone.

Many of the 60s Doctor Who stories are lost. Recently “The Enemy of the World” was rediscovered and released. I loved the novelization as a child so couldn’t resist sitting through all six slow-moving episodes. There’s not much music, what’s there is “stock” and by Béla Bartók. I suspect in the end 20th century genre TV and movie composers imitated Bartók more than anybody else; he’s certainly a big influence on Simpson.

For “Rosa,” Segun Akinola uses some horns borrowed from the Aaron Copland tradition. It’s quite delicate but also suggests the whole span of American experience, which helps the episode from becoming too preachy.

About Murray Gold: Hiring a symphony is obviously a classy move, but the sampling, compression, and click track used in the studio to create a “flawless” product removes the natural grain of a real orchestra playing with a human beat. When auditing this kind of modern product (which is heard everywhere these days, from Hollywood on down), it is hard to tell the difference between real instruments and a good sample library. I want the players to have a gig, of course, but what’s the point of having a real band if they aren’t going to be at least a little out of tune once in a while?