Basil Kirchin (August 8, 1927 – June 18, 2005) was a British drummer and composer. His career spanned from playing drums in his father's big band at the age of 13, through scoring films, to electronic music featuring tape manipulation of the sounds of birds, animals, insects and autistic children."
Basil Kirchin was born August 8, 1927 in Blackpool, Lancashire. He debuted at age 13, playing drums with his father's orchestra at the Paramount, Tottenham Court Road in London. After the war he left his father's band to play with the bands of Harry Roy, Teddy Foster, Jack Nathan and Ted Heath, but he returned to work with his father again in 1951. The Kirchin Band traveled with their own PA, which meant Basil was able to record the band's live performances live off the soundboard. By 1957, the rise of Skiffle and Rock and Roll had brought an end to the Big Band era and Kirchin decided it was time to move on "because you're a prisoner of rhythm. And I was fed up playing other people's music.".
A decade before it became fashionable, Kirchin went to India and spent five months in the Ramakrishna Temple. He then moved to Sydney but as his possessions were being unloaded from the ship a strap broke and everything, including his recordings of the Kirchin band, was lost beneath the sea. This loss would trouble him for the rest of his life.
In 1961, he returned to Britain and worked with Keith Herd on experimental pieces, "soundtracks for unmade films". He also produced material for the De Wolfe library using the talents of young session musicians like Jimmy Page and Mick Ronson. In 1967, the Arts Council awarded him a grant to purchase a Nagra tape recorder. This he used to collect ambient sounds, animal noises at London Zoo and the voices of autistic children. Kirchin experimented with slowing down the recordings to reveal "Little boulders of sound". "Take birdsong, all those harmonics you can't hear are brought down -sounds that human ears have never heard before." His experimentations were partly financed by composing film music for Catch Us If You Can (1965), The Shuttered Room (1967), I Start Counting (1969) with Jenny Agutter, and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971).
His experimental pieces were released on two albums both called World Within Worlds. The first was issued in 1971: Worlds Within Worlds, EMI Columbia (SCX6463) and included Part I - Integration 2; Part II - The Human Element. The second was not issued until 1974: Worlds Within Worlds Island Records (HELP 18) Part III - Emergence; Part IV - Evolution. Liner notes for the second release included laudatory comments from Brian Eno. Neither record sold more than a handful of copies, and it wasn't until much later that their pioneering techniques were recognized. Meanwhile Kirchin became frustrated with the record companies meddling with his material, and went into seclusion.
Yet he continued to compose throughout his life, and thirty years after it initial release his music became acknowledged by a new generation with the release of material by Trunk Records. Kirchin said "I wanted to try and leave something for young people who are starting in music and looking for something as I've been looking all my life."
He spent the later years of his life living back in Hull in a modest terraced house with his beloved wife, Esther - his early fame and eventful life not known in the ex-fishing community of Hessle Road where he lived until his death in June 2005.
Many musicians have since acknowledged the influence Kirchin had had on their own works. From Brian Eno and Nurse With Wound to Broadcast - "We need role models like Basil Kirchin to go forward, and, as we can see parallels in his music and ours, hearing this confirms that we're doing the right thing."
- 1968 - States of Mind
- 1970 - Charcoal Sketches
- 1971 - Worlds Within Worlds: Part 1 - Integration/Part 2 - The Human Element
- 1973 - Worlds Within Worlds: Part 3 - Emergence/Part 4 - Evolution
- 2003 - Quantum: Part 1 - Once Upon a Time/Part 2 - Special Relativity (recorded circa 1970)
- 2005 - Abstractions of the Industrial North (a collection of library music for De Wolfe Music)
- 2007 - Particles
(see main article under Ivor Kirchin)
- 1957 - Six-Five Special - season 1 episode 35 (TV series)
- 1958 - Six-Five Special - season 1 episode 78 (TV series)
- 1965 - Primitive London
- 1965 - The Dave Clark Five: Catch Us If You Can (called "Having A Wild Weekend" in the U.S.) (uncredited)
- 1967 - The Shuttered Room
- 1967 - The Jokers
- 1968 - Assignment K
- 1968 - Negatives
- 1968 - The Strange Affair
- 1969 - I Start Counting
- 1969 - Journey to the Unknown - "The Madison Equation" (TV series)
- 1971 - The Abominable Dr. Phibes
- 1971 - Freelance
- 1974 - The Mutations
(Kirchin also released many "Library Music" discs, including "The Wild One,' "Abstractions of the Industrial North," "Mind on the Run," "Town Beat," "Don't Lose Your Cool" and others)
- "A journey into the unheard", The Times Jun 3, 2003; Bob Stanley; p. 21
- Obituary The Independent Jul 2, 2005; Pierre Perrone; p. 38
- Trainspotting: Home entertainment: Broadcast, The Guardian; Aug 22, 2003; Will Hodgkinson; p. 22
- Basil Kirchin Profile
- A Brief History of Basil Kirchin
- Basil Kirchin: A Brief Memoir
- Who's who of British Jazz, by John Chilton; ISBN 0-8264-7234-6, ISBN 978-0-8264-7234-2
- The Rough Guide to Jazz, by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, Brian Priestley, Charles Alexander; ISBN 1-84353-256-5, ISBN 978-1-84353-256-9