19 February, 2009
Two Machines: 2 - Oramics
The Oramics system is currently residing in my workshop, until it gets moved to a permanent home. As you can see, it's in a bit of a sorry state, having had several owners since the passing of Daphne Oram, and having spent the last few years in a barn. My reason for posting these images was partly so that I could talk about patina; and I use this word in its broadest sense. The Oramics system (it is in fact two machines, a rack of amplifiers and two speakers) wasn't designed in the normal sense of the word, it is an agglomeration of small inspirations and problem solving, tweaks and bodges. As such it has an aura of endeavour and complexity which is impossible to fake or design - a patina of many, many meaningful decisions and actions effected over years.
This patina is not about surface and age (as the dictionary would have it), but rather it is a composite of visual noise, manifest functionality and guessed-at heuristics; a personality transmitted as though a radio signal, or more pertinently, modulated light.
As with the ANS, there were things going on with Oramics which will most probably remain unsolved - small modifications, planned but never realised features. Amongst the odds and ends that have accompanied the main instrument is a rather mashed up Ondioline. Why was Oram planning on adding a keyboard element? It's been retro-fitted with a lot of wiring, terminating in multi-pin sockets, so this part of the project got to a reasonably advanced stage. Odd, considering the incredible amount of ingenuity and resources directed toward producing a sound who's every parameter could supposedly be altered with a paint brush. Perhaps Oram got bored with having to define pitches with carefully placed little squares of electrical tape stuck to film, and just wanted to tickle some ivories... We may never know.