Musical Lamp Shades | Discover More & Download Audio Files

Factorylux commissioned composer Tom Parkinson to create music using the sounds of Factorylux lamp shades.

It’s an ongoing project and the latest pieces are Christmas carols. Here’s Good King Wenceslas:

Tom is an internationally recognised musician, performing and recording across a range of musical styles, including contemporary music. He composes and performs the soundtrack to the films showing Factorylux products being made. Tom spent a day at the Old Trouser Factory capturing sounds from Factorylux collection.

Delia Derbyshire operating a reel-to-reel tape recorder the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in Maida Vale

Delia Derbyshire at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

Musician and composer Tom Parkinson at the BBC

Tom Parkinson

We thought #SonicShades was an original concept, but to prove the adage that nothing is completely original, we discovered that electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire got there first. Delia worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in Maida Vale from 1963 and is a leading figure in the development of the electronic recording techniques, including sampling, transposing and looping. Delia produced the original Dr Who theme and a favourite instrument was a 1930s Coolicon shade found in the Radiophonic Workshop. She processed and filtered the sound from the shade on the Workshop’s oscillators and early reel-to-reel tape recorders to use in a range of projects.

Here’s the short edit of the piece of music composed by Tom:


The green enamel shade used by Delia Derbyshire to create sounds

Delia’s green enamel Coolicon shade

Tom was proud to follow in Delia’s footsteps and used a Balinese reyong mallet to capture the sounds of 48 shades in the Factorylux collection. Each shade has a distinct pitch and set of harmonic overtones – features which stem from the shades being individually created rather than mass produced. The sound each shade makes is comprised of several distinct tones each with their own envelope structure. Unlike conventional instruments such as a piano, these overtones have an unpredictable harmonic relationship.

We asked the Whitechapel Bell Foundry – makers of Big Ben and the Liberty Bell – for an explanation why our shades ring. Nigel Taylor, Head Tuner of bells, said “Creating metal objects that sound musical because the shape is right and the harmonics are good is anything but easy. We ought to know: we have been casting bells for over 500 years. These shades may not compare with tuned bells, but are exceptionally musical for light shades!” Perhaps Factorylux shades are exceptionally musical because they are created with such skill and care: see how they are made here.

Using much more modern techniques than were available to Delia, Tom assigned each type of shade its own EXS24 sampler instrument and laid the samples out in ascending pitch order. As well as the short film showcasing the sounds, Tom has composed a longer piece for those with a taste for experimental music. Here’s the full mix:


Download the full collection of audio samples here. The #SonicShades films and the downloadable .wav and .exs audio files are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Creative Commons Licence

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