Tuesday, December 28, 2010

There Will Come Soft Rains, Bradbury Speaks

In 1976 there was a modest BBC Radio adaptation of Bradbury's Martian Chronicles story "There Will Come Soft Rains". It combined simple reading and performance with some remarkable creative audio effects, and remains one of the most effective Bradbury media adaptations.

Until recently, all I knew about the production barely filled a couple of paragraphs, as you can see from my page about the programme. Even the BBC Written Archives - one of my favourite places for doing research - was unable to help me find more information, for the simple reason that they only make pre-1970 files available to researchers.

Now, to the rescue comes Dave Tompkins. His new book How to Wreck a Nice Beach tells the story of the Vocoder, a legendary piece of studio equipment that allowed the human voice to modulate a non-human sound, producing a variety of otherworldly effects. Without the Vocoder, BBC science fiction productions of the 1970s and onwards would have been much more mundane.

Dave has a blog to accompany the book. He has also given BoingBoing.net permission to publish a lengthy extract from the book, which details the making of "There Will Come Soft Rains". He was in contact with the show's producer Malcolm Clarke before Malcolm's untimely death, and had access to some of Clarke's out-takes and experiments for the production.

On YouTube, CBC has posted a film of Bradbury speaking about his ideas in 1969. It's from the time of the making of the film The Illustrated Man - and it is probably excerpted from the "making of" featurette for the film, which is available on some DVD versions (I say "probably" because (a) I recognise it from somewhere but (b) haven't had time to compare it to the DVD featurette!). Here's the clip:

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