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About John Baker

One of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop's most prolific and inventive composers, John Baker helped define the sound of the BBC with his themes and sound effects. Born on October 12, 1937, Baker grew up in the East End of London and displayed musical talent quickly, sight reading and playing the piano skillfully while still in his early teens. At the Royal Academy of Music, he studied piano and composition, becoming a GRSM (Graduate of the Royal School of Music) and LRAM (Licentiate of the Royal Academy of Music). After graduation, Baker joined the BBC in 1960, beginning as a studio manager and sound mixer, working on radio programs ranging from the news to music shows to broadcasts of plays. Three years later, he transferred to the Radiophonic Workshop, where he crafted distinctive music and sound effects using meticulous tape editing and manipulation and recordings of everyday sounds such as pulling the cork out of a bottle. At the same time, Baker was also providing music for commercials and performing with jazz groups, and that jazz background made his work among the most rhythmically interesting Radiophonic Workshop output. The way he combined electronic music with live performances also set his work apart. However, his busy working schedule sparked a drinking problem and depression that eventually led to his dismissal from the BBC in 1974, after which he didn't compose or perform in public again. After his mother's death, Baker's health worsened, and he moved in with Daphne Walker, an old acquaintance. They moved from London to the Isle of Man, where Baker contracted cirrhosis of the liver, and to the Isle of Wight, where he developed liver cancer in 1996; he died from it on February 7, 1997. In 2008, the U.K. reissue label Trunk Records put out two collections of work from his time at the Radiophonic Workshop. ~ Heather Phares

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