BBC Radiophonic Workshop

For Gerhard, his contact with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, came to be vital in terms of commissions and external support for his work. It opened on 1 April 1958 some four years after Gerhard had started work in the medium; the technicians working in Room 13 at Maida Vale (Radiophonic Workshop headquarters) included, among others: Daphne Oram (who resigned in January 1959, after 15 years with the BBC, to follow a career as a composer); Delia Derbyshire (who joined the BBC in 1960 and collaborated with Gerhard on his Prix Italia winning Anger of Achilles) and Dick Mills (who assisted with performances of Gerhard’s work (particularly the Symphony No.3 ‘Collages’) at the Royal Albert Hall and the Royal Festival Hall). When the Radiophonic Workshop opened, Gerhard’s work with electronic sound was already well-known.

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.

The years 1958-1965 were the most productive regarding Gerhard’s electronic music output. It is perhaps because of the regular commissions (Asylum Diary (1959), The Overcoat (1961) and The Anger of Achilles (1963-64)) that Gerhard received from the BBC for music for radio plays and William Glock’s admiration of Gerhard’s work that afforded him to work in his home studio and in the BBC Studio with such great flexibility.