Go back to article: Oramics to electronica: investigating lay understandings of the history of technology through a participatory project

Online audience 2: the Oramix remix competition

Many of the electronic music enthusiasts that we encountered online were musicians or DJs. Some of them lived at a distance from London, several abroad. We believed that a remix competition would give these more geographically dispersed audiences the opportunity to engage with the project’s historical content in a creative way. We worked together with Soundcloud, the online audio distribution platform, to run the competition. We also collaborated with the Daphne Oram Trust and record label Boomkat who together manage the rights to Daphe Oram’s work and who kindly provided us with samples. We felt that a request to ‘sample Daphne Oram’s music’ would have been too vague a challenge. Instead we decided to link to content that was being developed for the new gallery on the history of communications, because the two exhibitions addressed overlapping themes. The competition challenge read: 'Daphne made music for TV shows and commercials […] Imagine that the producer of Our World, the 1967 TV programme that first linked the world via satellites, had commissioned Daphne Oram, the pioneer of electronica, to make its soundtrack.'[19] To promote the competition, we worked with music magazine The Wire, as well as Sound and Music, an agency promoting and supporting UK contemporary music. The musicians Brian Eno and DJ Spooky and an editor from The Wire were our judges. Prizes were made available, but it is likely that most contestants were drawn by the challenge of working with Oram’s material and contact with the judges, rather than the prizes. Contestants were generally supportive of each other and commented on each other’s pieces, but also pointed out and commented on sections of the samples they were provided with.

The practical organisation of the competition was quite complex, because so many partners were involved.[20] Communication with our audience also proved to be more of a challenge than it was for the Facebook page. Several people sent us messages through Soundcloud with questions and concerns. Others approached us through Facebook. All these people spent hours working on their tracks and cared greatly about the competition. This meant it was even more important to us to communicate with them in a clear and open way.

The remix competition was much more successful than expected, with 150 entries  submitted, leading to considerably more work for the Museum team than anticipated in producing the judges’ short list. The 22 tracks in the shortlist were chosen on the basis that they best respected the terms of the competition, especially in making creative and audible use of the Oramics samples; they ranged in style from melodic electronica to the kinds of musique concrête that Oram would have recognised. The winner selected by the sum of the judges' scores was Chris Weeks with Telescopic Moon.

Audio 2

Winner of the the Science Museum OraMIX Competition. An experimental, exploratory & melodic ambient piece, compiled from elements of stems from the music of Daphne Oram.

The whole experience showed us that engaging people online involves time and commitment. However, it also taught us that it is worthwhile to open up to the enthusiasm and knowledge of people outside our organisation. When an organisation is open with people about the way it works and is willing to share not just what is meaningful to itself, but also what is meaningful to its audience, people will share unexpected things with the organisation as well. It is precisely this unexpectedness that speaks to our public history programme’s concern to understand better how visitors think.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/140206/010