The Overcoat (1961)


‘The Overcoat’ was a BBC radio play based on the short story of the same name by Nikolai Gogol, a highly influential work of Russian literature, published in 1842.

There is not a great amount of information available regarding Roberto Gerhard’s contribution to the production. The instrumentation was credited to a small ensemble and magnetic tape, indicating that it was a modest production, especially when compared to productions such as ‘The Anger of Achilles’. A letter from producer Charles Lefeaux indicates that he charged Gerhard with six minutes of “radiophonic sound on which to ‘float’ the ghosts”. Given Gerhard’s previous use of electronic music to accompany the fantastical in ‘Asylum Diary’, this later sequence of the story, wherein the, now dead, protagonist haunts various characters, seems the most likely setting that Gerhard would choose to use electronic music. Gerhard’s tape archive contains some tape loops constructed from materials previously assembled for ‘Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter’ and ‘Asylum Diary’, indicating that it’s unlikely that Gerhard recorded any new tape materials for the production, and that the sound world of ‘The Overcoat’ likely occupied spaces previously explored in other works.