Humphrey Searle studied classics before beginning composition with John Ireland at the Royal College of Music; he went on to study privately with Anton Webern in Vienna - a turning point for him, as he became a pioneer of serialism in Britain; as a BBC producer in the 1940s he was able to promote it to some extent.

His works include Poem for 22 Strings (1950), premiered at Darmstadt, opera The Diary of a Madman (1958, based on Gogol's novella and awarded the first prize at UNESCO's International Rostrum of Composers in 1960), and five symphonies (the first of which was commercially recorded by Sir Adrian Boult); he also wrote many film scores, for (among others) Dr Who and horror film The Haunting.