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Roberto Gerhard and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

A discussion of Roberto Gerhard's connection to the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

While the BBC Radiophonic Workshop might not have helped Gerhard establish his studio, it came to be vital in terms of commissions and external support for his music.

The Workshop opened on 1 April 1958 some four years after Gerhard had started working with electronic music. When the Radiophonic Workshop opened, Gerhard’s work with electronic sound was already well-known. Gerhard was first brought into the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in March 1959 as a part of a two-day course designed to introduce English composers to the facilities for making electronic music.

Peter Manning writes that:

The ‘closed door’ policy of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, and the continuing lack of support from other quarters, severely retarded developments in Britain during the 1960s. Indeed, Roberto Gerhard was the only established composer from the broader community to be granted reasonable access to the BBC facilities during the decade. This permitted him to produce a number of pieces, primarily for radio, working both at the BBC and at his own private studio in Cambridge.
This opportunity acted as a catalyst for Gerhard’s ensuing connection to the BBC, and of the four composers offered this opportunity, it was only Gerhard who regularly returned to the Workshop from 1959-1964. These years were Gerhard’s most productive period for creating electronic music, resulting in a series of commissions creating music and electronic sounds for numerous radio plays, including Asylum Diary (1959), The Overcoat (1961) and The Anger of Achilles (1963-64).

References

Adkins, M. (2022) “BBC Radiophonic Workshop”. https://heritagequay.org/rgda/electronic-music/bbc-radiophonic-workshop/

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