David Bedford was born in London in 1937 of a musical family: his grandmother was the composer Liza Lehmann, and his mother, Lesley Duff, was a member of the English Opera Group just after the war and was thus involved in several Britten premières.
He began composing at the age of seven and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music with Lennox Berkeley. A grant awarded by the RAM in 1961 enabled him to study with Luigi Nono in Venice; in the late 60s he played keyboards with Kevin Ayers' cult band The Whole World, which led to numerous collaborations with musicians from the rock world, most notably in arrangements for Mike Oldfield, Elvis Costello, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Roy Harper, Propaganda, China Crisis, Enya, Billy Bragg and many more. 2008 saw the Barbican premiere of his Eight Beach Boys Songs for chorus and orchestra, co-commissioned by David Temple for the Hertfordshire Chorus.
He also orchestrated music for the films The Killing Fields, Absolute Beginners, Meeting Venus and Orlando, as well as writing original music for several of the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense TV series.
For over 30 years he received commissions from major orchestras, festivals, ensembles and soloists, including many BBC commissions; however another aspect of Bedford's work was composition for educational purposes. He was appointed Youth Music Director of the English Sinfonia in 1986, leading to such works as Seascapes (1986) and Frameworks (1989) in which students are encouraged to create their own music in the context of a public concert with a professional orchestra: these two pieces involved over 4000 students. His largest major educational piece was Stories from the Dreamtime (1991) for 40 deaf children and symphony orchestra; other educational commissions included Over the Wine-Dark Sea (2005) for young adults with special needs, a group of deaf children and chamber orchestra, while in 2007 Gods, Goddesses and Magical Creatures was the first ever commission for an orchestra of deaf children.