Fred Judd

Thursday 9th February 2012


Door Times : 8pm

£4 on the door

A contemporary of pioneering radiophonic composers and inventors such as Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram and Ron Geesin, in the 1950s and 60s, FC (Fred) Judd was one the unsung heroes of British electronic music. The author of 11 books and a regular contributor to a host of technical hobbyist magazines, in the early 60s Judd created the soundtrack for the sci-fi puppet serial Space Patrol, the first programme on British TV to feature a full electronic score for each episode.

Photo: Fred Judd

This editon of The Wire Salon centres on a screening of Practical Electronica, a new hour long documentary by the Brighton based film maker, composer and instrument inventor Ian Helliwell which examines early British electronic music through the work of Judd. The film tells Judd’s story using 8mm cine, archive footage, animation, experimental video, sound visualisation and electronics. An intuitive montage rather than a traditional narrative based documentary, the film remains rooted in the amateur tape recording world that Judd inhabited during the 50s and 60s.

Sound visualisation is a key element in Practical Electronica, both in the realisation of the film and in the story of Judd’s experiments. By the start of the 1960s Judd had developed Chromasonics, a means of colour visual representation of sound signals using new circuitry housed inside an ordinary B&W TV. Previously unaware of Chromasonics, Ian Helliwell has been pursuing his own explorations in the field since the mid-90s with a series of short films and invented analogue machines, which involve a direct interaction between image and electronic sound, such as the Megatherm, a piece of 1950s hospital apparatus customised to integrate sound and image using a specially made super 8 film which is projected onto the machine, allowing the Megatherm to play an electronic soundtrack by reacting to changes in light levels in the film.

In addition to the screening of Practical Electronica, the Salon will feature a discussion of both Judd's and Helliwell's work chaired by Angus Carlyle, joint director of CRISAP (Creative Research into Sound Arts Practice) at London's University of the Arts, and the appearance of a range of Helliwell's Hellitrons and Hellisizers, self-built tone generators and synths that have provided the soundtracks to over 60 of his short films, three of which will also be screened on the night.

Even as it celebrates FC Judd's overlooked early electronic music and the audio hobbyists he set out to encourage, this Salon reveals Ian Helliwell’s continuation of the DIY experimental tradition that Judd personified – tinkering away, often in isolation, with obsolete equipment, creative soldering and a wide variety of sounds and images. The night will evoke the spirit of a bygone age with the use of tone generators and tape loops for soundtracks, and envision a future defined by the freedoms offered by computer editing and the hybridisation of analogue and digital technologies.

Ian Helliwell

The Wire Salon is a monthly series of events, hosted by The Wire magazine, dedicated to the fine art and practice of thinking and talking about music. The events consist of talks, panel discussions, film screenings and DJ sets.


FC Judd website
Ian Helliwell website
Ian Helliwell's YouTube channel
The Wire