F.C. Judd (1914-1992)
In early British electronic music history, F.C. Judd is not the only overlooked and little discussed composer working in the late 1950s and 60s – in fact he is one of a number now largely forgotten. His unacknowledged importance hinges on a wide range of electronic activities – from his compositions, self-built synthesizer and sound visualisation system – to his books, magazine articles, radio broadcasts and lectures to amateur tape recording clubs up and down the country. Fred was the prime mover in disseminating electronic sounds and musique concrete to the general public – not just encouraging them to listen, but moreover to experiment for themselves with tape recorders and tone generators.
Frederick Charles Judd was born in 1914 in Woodford, east London, and like so many youngsters of his generation developed an early and abiding passion for radio. With the outbreak of WW2 he served in the RAF Coastal Command working with highly secret radar equipment, just as electronic music pioneer Tristram Cary was engaged in similar work in the Royal Navy. Both men were later in contact, and used their skilled engineering backgrounds to develop their musical interests through electronics. Fred had no formal musical training though he was competent on guitar and organ, and it appears that the combination of music, radio, tape recording and circuitry inevitably drew him to experimenting with electronic music during the mid-1950s.
The first of his 11 published books came out in 1954, containing circuit designs for radio controlled models and in 1956 he penned an article Effects with a Tape Recorder, for The Radio Constructor magazine. Fred was keenly aware of the opening of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop 2 years later, and by that time he had assembled a very basic studio at home in Woodford.
Daphne Oram, the first head of the Radiophonic Workshop, was in regular contact with Fred through their similar efforts in disseminating experimental tape music to the wider public. It is interesting to speculate that it is highly likely they would have discussed at length their 2 invented systems for using cathode ray tubes in connection with electronic music – Oramics and Chromasonics respectively. Fred’s radar background was a catalyst for the visualisation of sound via a black and white television, and Chromasonics involved his new amplifying and pulse generating circuitry to create full colour sound visualisation with moving Lissajous shapes, using a high speed mechanical scanning wheel in front of the screen. The images were directly activated by signals from tone generators or tape recorders, and Fred made patent applications and discussed manufacturing the system with Austrian electronics company Stuzzi.
In 1959 Amateur Tape Recording was launched; by 1960 Fred had taken the post of technical editor, and the magazine featured articles on electronic sound and tape manipulation. He became chief editor in 1963 and remained at ATR’s helm until it folded in October ‘67. His book Electronic Music and Musique Concrete was published in 1961, and is one of the earliest in the world to tackle the subject and provide circuit diagrams and practical information for creating experimental music on tape. He formed a company to supply sounds and effects to home audiences, and the Castle record label was born – the first run of 7” records appeared in 1963 made available through ATR. He established FC. Judd Sound Recording that same year, as an outlet for his electronic music in popular and commercial fields. Castle, Contrast Sound Productions and Recorded Tuition Limited were established and run by Fred and business partner John Ratcliff, and issued 3 Eps of electronic music; many of these tracks were collected as a library album Electronic Age released by Studio G in 1970.
Alongside the basic oscillators, filters and amplifiers of the typical private studio of the era, Fred also designed and built an electro-mechanical drum machine, and constructed his own experimental synthesizer. He had become very interested inMinimise
the RCA synthesizer first demonstrated in New York in 1955, and by early 1963 he had developed his own unique voltage controlled, keyboard operated unit for generating, switching and shaping electronic sounds. This is significant as it was complete and functioning more than a year before the Moog, Buchla and Synket synthesizers first appeared.
First broadcast on ITV in April 1963, several months before Dr. Who first appeared on the BBC, Space Patrol, a science fiction puppet show, features the first complete electronic soundtrack for a whole series on British television. Although overshadowed by the much celebrated puppet productions of Gerry Anderson, Space Patrol used no conventionally scored music, and even the theme tune had unnatural, futuristic machine sounds to evoke the passage through deep space. Although modest, but justifiably proud of his achievements, Fred’s Space Patrol soundtrack is a little known but highly effective combination of electronic sounds and tape manipulation. After Space Patrol, he did more electronic soundtracks for film, television and advertising, and his most creative time appears to be the first half of the 1960s. Much of his work had a functional purpose, and like that of other British electronic music makers of the period, has been overlooked and inadequately documented. Indeed it is clear that towards the end of the 60s Fred was dismayed by the lack of public and record label support for experimental sound in Britain.
The focus of historians when discussing early electronic music has generally tended towards the axis of France, Germany, and the USA, and given disproportionate attention to the Radiophonic Workshop when considering the UK. The lone British backroom experimenters operating outside of large broadcasting corporations or academic studios, have invariably been eclipsed. Allied to this is a somewhat ambivalent attitude in Britain towards experimental tape music from the public and the composers themselves. It’s apparent that many of the early pioneers became disillusioned with electronics and simply gave up struggling for acceptance, turning to pursuits more financially or critically rewarding.
In his last book on the subject, Electronics In Music in 1972, Fred sounded sceptical of much of the early experimental electronic compositions, and this signalled the close of his experimental phase. With his equipment sold and his master tapes lost after his death in 1992, it’s not difficult to see how he has slipped off the radar. Happily his remaining tapes stored by his widow Freda, plus the Castle and Studio G tracks, at long last provide a basis for the overdue acknowledgment and appreciation of his electronic music.
Ian Helliwell. 2011
A trailer for Ian Helliwell’s 2011 Documentary about an important and previously untold link in the history of early British Electronic Music.
F.C. Judd- Electronics Without Tears
Limited Digipack CD with booklet inc. Fred biography from Ian Helliwell , track-by-track notes and photographs.
(Prices Include Postage and Exclusive Public Information Sticker)