Haunted Science: The BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the lost futures of hauntological music

Christodoulou, C. 2018. Haunted Science: The BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the lost futures of hauntological music. Scene. 6 (2), pp. 107-120. https://doi.org/10.1386/scene_00012_1

TitleHaunted Science: The BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the lost futures of hauntological music
TypeJournal article
AuthorsChristodoulou, C.
Abstract

This article will explore the particular sense of nostalgia evoked by the sound and music of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop for a utopian future that has been irrevocably lost; a future contextualized in Britain by the post-war consensus and its attendant narratives of public service broadcasting, state planning and benevolent social engineering. I examine the relationship between the workshop’s output and the contemporary cultural experience Mark Fisher defined as ‘hauntology’, before investigating the workshop’s influence on the hauntological music of contempo- rary artists who use radiophonic sounds to recover a sense of the future lost as a result of the political and economic transformation of Britain which followed the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and which would eventually lead to the decommissioning of the workshop itself in March 1998. In addition, this article considers the workshop’s idiosyncratic output in relation to electronic dance music which, until recently, had been considered at the vanguard of musical futurism. However, in contrast to electronic dance music, ‘sonic hauntology’ looks to the past for its engagement with the ideas about the future; in particular, the techno- logical optimism associated with the post-war modernization of Britain, such as the belief in a paternalistic, yet benevolent state and in the progressive application of technology. In these ways, hauntological musicians place considerable significance on the sounds, music and other cultural signifiers encountered through the workshop’s productions, such as the use of analogue media, public information films, and science fiction and horror programmes, from the period in which BBC broadcasting dominated the British media landscape.

KeywordsHauntology
electronic dance music
futurism
intermediality
radiophonic
science fiction
BBC
JournalScene
Journal citation6 (2), pp. 107-120
ISSN2044-3714
Year2018
PublisherIntellect
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1386/scene_00012_1
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1386/scene_00012_1
Publication dates
Published26 May 2020
Published in print01 Dec 2018

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