A pioneering facility in the world of electronic music, established by the British Broadcasting Corporation originally to supply sound effects and incidental music for its television and radio productions. The Workshop was established in 1958 at a BBC facility in London, to meet the demand for new, modern sounds and timbres particularly from its various producers of television programming. As the facility evolved, it began producing whole scores for television programs and movies, in addition to occasional music singles and album releases under various monikers.
The Workshop cemented its early reputation with the original theme to the British Doctor Who sci-fi television program (since re-recorded numerous times), composed by Ron Granier and realized by Delia Derbyshire in 1963. Derbyshire, like the other Workshop's performers, developed the theme using tape studio techniques, as the Workshop possessed no proper synthesizers and was not to have any until around 1970. Sound sources came from laboratory instruments (e.g., function generators) and purpose-built electromechanical devices, in addition to found objects such as plucked bed springs. Both the TV show and its theme were instant hits, and established the Workshop's reputation.
In the 1970s, a rift developed between the Workshop pioneers who preferred the tape studio techniques, and younger composers who wanted to make more use of synthesizers. Much of the original staff left at this time. Despite this, the Workshop continued its work developing scores, and putting to use several unusual and rare synthesizer models, such as its massive EMS Synthi 100. A close working relationship with the EMS company gave the Workshop access to a number of prototype instruments, such as vocoders.
The Workshop fell victim to cost-cutting measures and closed on April 1, 1998, forty years to the day after its dedication. Since then, Mark Ayers has been employed by the BBC to organize the Workshop's vast tape archives. Ayers has compiled and arranged for the release of numerous discs of Workshop music and incidental material.