Howell's Odyssey

Remixed by Marinedalek
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It's been a while - over eight years in fact - since I submitted anything to Whomix! With the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who it seemed the right time to have another go. I decided to try recreating Peter Howell's theme from scratch, with no samples whatsoever - no matter how tempting it was! 

The prelude is basically phased white noise leading into a reverse-echo of the opening bass notes with lots of harmonizer swirlyness. This leads into the opening sting; contrary to Peter Howell's demonstration, examination of the original sound revealed it was just a simple octave, ring-modulated on the CS-80 (recreated on the Memorymoon ME80) and mixed with the end of the opening swirls. The bass is made up of three parts: The instantly recognisable "dum-de-dum" part (ME80), a second layer of "lurches" (GForce Oddity) and finally some bass thumps emphasising the second layer (TAL Noisemaker). The warbling "catherine wheel" effect over the intro is pulsating white noise fed through numerous phasers and various delay effects, as well as being finally octaved to thicken the sound. 

The main theme is played in two layers on the Arturia ARP2600V, as the GForce Oddity doesn't simulate the ARP Odyssey's portamento correctly. Instead I used the lag generator on the 2600 to slew the keyboard voltage in the way the original ARP's portamento would have. The secondary theme was the most difficult to achieve, as it is a heavily equalised vocoder sound. The original was possibly performed on the Workshop's EMS 5000 Vocoder (Not the Roland SVC-350 featured in Peter Howell's demonstration), a massive beast that fetches tens of thousands of pounds today. I approximated the sound using two vocoders (TAL Vocoder and Image Line Vocodex) and layering the results. I shall never release the tracks containing my voice that trigger the vocoder. I sound like I belong in a very secure and very soundproof hospital...

The bridge, or middle-eight was originally performed on a Roland Jupiter 4 which had a rather quirky arpeggiator. When set to octaves, it would only arpeggiate notes present on the built-in keyboard, no higher. The sound was recreated using a modulated square wave patch arpeggiated on the TAL-U-NO-LX, carefully triggered with only the notes present on the Jupiter 4's keyboard. This was submerged in heavy harmoniser feedback, the notes falling down on the left channel and rising up on the right, as in the original LP release.

The lead-in and out to the bridge were simply held arpeggiated chords, manually pitch-bent and faded in and out.

The brass is a combination of two CS-80 (ME80) brass presets, again bathed in harmoniser feedback and chorus. 

The end of the theme features the same warbles as the intro, then the opening swirls played backwards leading to the closing boom. This effect was apparently originally a sound from one of Dudley Simpson's Doctor Who scores played through heavy effects. In the end I replicated it with resonant white noise, plus manual comparison with the original and tweaking of the EQ.

One final note on the structure of the theme - It follows the master-tape structure with the swirling opening, however I decided to have the closing explosion in its LP release position as I think this brings the theme to a less ponderous end.

Having completed this, at least to the extent that my continued sanity allows, I have a new respect for Peter Howell's efforts back in 1980. It took me several weeks with 2013's equipment, so to achieve such a precise and complex piece of music in a similar time 33 years ago was remarkable!

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