Basil Kirchin

Basil Kirchin (8 August 1927 – 18 June 2005) was an English 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".[1]

Early life

Basil Kirchin was born 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 travelled 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".[2]


A decade before it became fashionable, Kirchin went to India and spent five months in the Ramakrishna Temple. He then moved to Sydney in October 1959 with his wife Theresa 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.[2]

In 1961, Kirchin 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 such as 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".[2] His experimentations were partly financed by composing film music for Catch Us If You Can (1965), The Shuttered Room (1967), The Strange Affair (1968), I Start Counting (1969) 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 was not until much later that their pioneering techniques were recognised. Meanwhile Kirchin became frustrated with the record companies meddling with his material, and went into seclusion.

Yet Kirchin continued to compose throughout his life, and thirty years after their initial releases 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.[3]

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".[4]



Big Band

(see main article under Ivor Kirchin)


Library music

(Kirchin also released many Library music discs, including The Wild One, Abstractions of the Industrial North, Mind on the Run, Town Beat and Don't Lose Your Cool amongst others)

See also


  1. Richard Williams. "Obituary: Basil Kirchin". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 "A journey into the unheard", The Times 3 June 2003; Bob Stanley; p. 21
  3. Obituary The Independent 2 July 2005; Pierre Perrone; p. 38
  4. Trainspotting: Home entertainment: Broadcast, The Guardian; 22 August 2003; Will Hodgkinson; p. 22
  5. "Charcoal Sketches/States of Mind". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  6. "Basil Kirchin Worlds Within Worlds – Factory Sample UK vinyl LP album (LP record) (456750)". 3 May 2014. Archived from the original on 21 May 2014. Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  7. "Quantum". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  8. "Abstractions of the Industrial North". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  9. "Six-Five Special: Season 1, Episode 35 (12 October 1957)". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  10. "Six-Five Special: Season 1, Episode 78 (16 August 1958)". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  11. "Primitive London". Retrieved 21 May 2014.
  12. "Having a Wild Weekend (1965) : "Catch Us If You Can" (original title)". Retrieved 21 May 2014.

External links

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