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Dr Alison Garnham

Dr Alison Garnham

Affiliated Researcher, Faculty of Music


Dr Alison Garnham
Affiliated Researcher
(Hans Keller Centenary Project)

 Alison Garnham read music at Magdalen College Oxford, followed by a PhD at Goldsmiths’ College London, before spending a year in Cambridge as a Research Associate in 1996-7.  She was the initial archivist of the Hans Keller Archive at Cambridge University Library, set up when the UL acquired Keller’s papers after his death.

Keller’s vast archive is an wonderful medium through which to study half a century of this country’s musical culture.  Alison’s first book (Hans Keller and the BBC: the musical conscience of British broadcasting, Ashgate 2003) looked at broadcasting over three decades, from the early ideals of the Third Programme, with which Keller so deeply identified, through the excitement of his years with William Glock in the 1960s, to ‘Broadcasting in the Seventies’ and the disillusion that followed.  At the same time she worked with Christopher Wintle on Keller’s early Freudian writings, previously unknown (Music and Psychology: from Vienna to London 1939-52, Plumbago 2003).  Later, the discovery in 2006 of Keller’s letters from British internment camps in 1940-41 led to a study of British wartime policy towards continental émigrés.  For Keller, as for many others, internment was a period of disturbing yet unexpectedly fruitful mental dislocation, in which the shock of exile was intensified by the extraordinary intellectual life created by the internees in the camps. Alison’s resulting book Hans Keller and Internment: the Development of an Emigré Musician 1938-48 was published in 2011.  This book was followed by the publication of Keller’s writings on Benjamin Britten (Britten: the Musical Character, ed. Wintle and Garnham, Plumbago 2013), to which Alison contributed a study of Keller’s relationship with Britten though their letters.

 The Faculty of Music and the University Library at Cambridge are collaborating with the Cosman Keller Art and Music Trust on a project to commemorate the centenary of Keller’s birth in March 2019.  As part of this, Alison and the current archivist of the Keller Archive, Susi Woodhouse, are writing Hans Keller 1919-1985: a musician in dialogue with his times, to be published by Routledge for the centenary.  This book combines an intellectual biography of Keller (illustrated by his own letters and other writings) with the history of British musical life from 1945 to 1985, showing how Keller’s ideas developed in response to the new culture in which he found himself after the war.  It was a vital period for music in Britain, fuelled by unprecedented public funding and the stimulating effect of pre-war immigration – while at the same time, broadcasting and recording were changing for ever how music was experienced.  Keller was unique in his intense engagement with everything happening around him and his profound insight into the impact of the changes as they unfolded.

In addition to her work on Keller, Alison has been working for several years on the history of the BBC’s post-war music policy.  This has included her contribution to The Proms: A New History (ed. Doctor and Wright, Thames & Hudson 2007) and work on the legacy of Sir William Glock.  Alongside the Keller Centenary project, she is writing a monograph on The BBC and Music in Britain after 1945.