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The Radio 3 Documentary
44 minutes | Aug 5, 2022
Sunday Feature: Florence Price’s Chicago and the Black Female Fellowship
The remarkable female musicians and activists who helped Florence Price's music to thrive
47 minutes | Jan 2, 2022
Tchaikovsky's Island of Inspiration
If it hadn’t been for Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s love of jam, he may never have completed his first large-scale work. After graduating from the Conservatory of St Petersburg, the 26-year-old started composing his first symphony, ‘Winter Daydreams’, but quickly ran out of steam. “No other work cost him such effort and suffering… its composition was fraught with difficulty,” recalled his younger brother Modest. A school friend came to the rescue. The poet, Aleksey Apukhtin, suggested a visit to the monastery island of Valaam in Lake Ladoga near St Petersburg for some fresh ideas. Tchaikovsky refused but was lured on board a ship by the promise of delicious jam from the buffet. The trip inspired the symphony’s second movement ‘Gloomy Land, Misty Land’ with its haunting oboe that seems to echo over the Ladoga waters like a hymn. Founded in the 14th century, Valaam was a northern outpost of the Eastern Orthodox Church against pagans. Tchaikovsky was deeply entranced by its ancient monastery’s unique a cappella style of singing called Znamenny Chant. Throughout his life he was at once immensely drawn to church services and at the same time tormented by contradictions in his faith. His search for inner peace is reflected in his Liturgy of St John Chrysostom and the All-Night Vigil. This Sunday Feature interweaves Tchaikovsky’s music with Apukhtin’s poem, A Year in a Monastery as well as the composer's letters. Just like Tchaikovsky, Lucy Ash ends up staying on Valaam for longer than expected due to a ferocious autumn storm on Europe’s biggest lake. There she meets Brother Maxim, a young monk and a former import trader, and Father David, the head of a remote skete, or settlement of Orthodox monks, who happens to be a professionally trained jazz musician. Producer Tatyana Movshevich
44 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
Then there was Light - Stockhausen and LICHT, his opera cycle based on the seven days of the week
LICHT, the vast opera cycle composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen between 1977 and 2004 is an enigma, and composer and broadcaster Robert Worby goes on a personal journey to find out why it divides critics and audiences. Stockhausen was the most gifted composer of the post-war European avant-garde. In the 1950s, his early works - including some of the first electronic music created - confirmed his genius. But LICHT wasn't so warmly received. In LICHT Stockhausen wrote an opera cycle for the new millennium, bewildering in scale, and frequently baffling for audiences, but containing music as challenging as anything that he'd written. The seven operas, each named after a day of the week, total more than 28 hours. It took Stockhausen 26 years to compose them, and amazingly its musical architecture derives from a three minute 'Super-formula' inspired on a trip to Japan. Robert Worby speaks with Stockhausen’s family, life partners, critics, scholars and interpreters, who candidly put this extraordinary achievement in the context of his life and work. Producer Andrew Carter - A Radio Cumbria Production for BBC Radio 3 Photo - Rolando Paolo Guerzoni - Stockhausen May 2003 Teatro Comunale di Modena.
44 minutes | May 9, 2021
Even more Kershaw Tapes
During the 1980s and 1990s, DJ Andy Kershaw travelled around Africa and the Americas searching out great music and taping it on his Walkman Pro, a new broadcast-quality cassette recorder that was bringing about a revolution in mobile recording. He also used it to capture his celebrated Kitchen Sessions, held in his small flat in Crouch End. In this episode, Andy meets Malian blues man Ali Farka Touré on a boat on the Niger and wins a bottle of BBQ sauce at Fred’s Lounge in Louisiana whilst enjoying some live cajun music from the Mamou Cajun Band. We witness the breakneck speed of Scottish accordionist Phil Cunningham and banjo player Gary Petersen in an impromptu session in a pub in Shetland and we take a look at the iconic Cuban song Guantanamera, with versions by Cuarteto Iglesias on a roof top in Cuba and Celina Gonzales in Andy’s Crouch End kitchen. Also from the kitchen we have vintage sessions from Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore and English psychedelicists, Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians. Plus Andy dusts off the Walkman Pro to records a brand new session with folk singer-songwriter and guitarist Steve Tilston. Producer: Martin Webb
44 minutes | May 4, 2021
More Kershaw Tapes
In this episode, Andy meets Kenyan harpist Ayub Ogada on a beach in Cornwall, the Antioch Gospel group in a car park in New Orleans, Cuarteto Iglesias on a roof top in Cuba and a young Ballake Sissoko next to the railway tracks in Bamako, Mali. On his very first day recording with his Walkman Pro, Andy visits the Edale Bluegrass Festival then travels to Leeds to record a rare performance from guitarist Mark Knopfler in a pub with his early group The Duolian String Pickers. Back in Andy’s kitchen Louisiana comes to Crouch End with sessions from blues man Lazy Lester and Cajun stars DL Menard, Eddie LeJeune and Ken Smith. Plus we pay another visit to Wilkinson's HiFi in Nelson to find out just why the compact cassette format is so enduring and well loved.
14 minutes | Mar 14, 2021
New Generation Thinker short feature: Hilltop Histories
Seren Griffiths uses a walk along a sandstone ridge in Northern Cheshire to explore the way a landscape can hold multiple histories, and in doing so make it easier for us to contemplate distant futures. The landscape in question is bordered on the north by the M56 motorway. Commuters making their way into Manchester see it to their right for all of about a minute. But up on the ridge you can see that it stretches South towards Whitchurch in Shropshire. Seren starts her journey in a quarry used variously by the Romans, Iron Age settlers and latterly the victorians. She makes her way up to one of the string of Hill top forts that can be found along the sandstone escarpment, and then moves along to an old Cold War listening station, and not far away, the Frodsham Anti Aircraft Operations Room. And all the while the vista shows the canal work of the industrial revolution, the chemical plants of the 20th century and the wind turbines of the last decade. The ancient landscape hums with history and archaeology brings them into focus in the present. For Seren, and many before her, this is a magical, mysterious place which draws out timelines like a strand, with artefacts from the past projecting forwards, enduring into the present. Producer: Tom Alban
16 minutes | Feb 28, 2021
NGT The Balcony
New Generation Thinker Dr Islam Issa has a strong cultural attachment to the Balcony. In his native Egypt, the place where architectural historians believe the balcony was first developed, the balcony is a pivotal part of family homes, a place that blurs the line between private and public living. He recalls it being a place that linked communities and allowed an external life without the risks of life in the open streets. When he saw Italians singing from their balconies during the early weeks of the COVID pandemic he was reminded that they have many other roles in political, cultural and literary settings. With the help of Egyptian film maker and photographer Alia Aidel and Shakespeare scholar Reverend Paul Edmondson, Islam explores the use of Balconies from Romeo and Juliet to Buckingham Palace and reflects on his own upbringing in which he learned to look up and in to the family balcony and yet as he matured, realised he thought of it principally as a place to look out and down. Producer: Tom Alban
44 minutes | Jan 17, 2021
The Apple and the Tree
When he was a boy and returned to the family home from primary school in the afternoon, Carlo Gébler would often hear the sound of typing coming from the shed at the foot of the garden. This was where his mother, the writer Edna O’Brien, sometimes went to write her novels. Later, when he lay in bed at night, Carlo would again hear the sound of typing. This time it would be coming from the downstairs front room where his father, Ernest Gébler, wrote plays for television. Now 66 and an acclaimed author himself, Carlo wants to know why the children of writers often follow their parent’s footsteps into literature. Exploring the dynamics of literary lineage and his own journey into writing, Carlo asks if it is simply an iron law that the apple rarely falls far from the tree - or if the truth is something far more complex. Producer: Conor Garrett
44 minutes | Dec 15, 2020
Sunday Feature - Dissecting Beethoven
An exploration of Beethoven’s music through the body that gave him so much trouble.
44 minutes | Nov 29, 2020
Sunday Feature: The Fake Poet
Why does the image of the forlorn and abandoned poet Thomas Chatterton haunt us today?
14 minutes | Oct 18, 2020
New Generation Thinker short Feature: COVID and The Black Death, an imperfect fit.
It's understandable that, with the onset of a global pandemic, commentators have looked to the past for comparisons. But Dr Seb Falk is concerned that with the easy headlines about the mortality rate or the economic damage, or even the positive transformations inspired by plagues of the past and particularly in his field, the Black Death of the medieval period, more subtle comparisons emerging from exciting new Plague research are being overlooked. He hears from Dr Monica Green, a leading authority on the true origins and journey of the Black Death and finds, in her use of palaeogenetic research, refinements about the plague and its impact on those who lived with it. And he talks to Dr Zoë Fritz, consultant physician and Wellcome Fellow in Society and Ethics at the University of Cambridge, about the human responses beyond the science today that echo the experiences of our ancestors centuries ago. Rather than mortality rates and economic trauma, the more profound links might be the twin challenges of uncertainty and impotence and the human desire to overcome or deny both. Producer: Tom Alban
44 minutes | Jul 15, 2020
Silent Witness: John Cage, Zen and Japan
John Cage is arguably the most important composer of the 20th century, even though he's perhaps famous, or infamous depending on your point of view, for writing a piece of music that is 4'33" of silence. Famous because it made his reputation - after all composers write music not silence – and infamous because not unsurprisingly, it's outraged, perplexed and fascinated audiences since its premiere in 1952. Cage though was deadly serious about his silent piece, and Robert Worby goes on an odyssey to find out what Cage thought silence was, and why silence was central to his life and work. Robert goes to the quietest place in the UK - so quiet you can't hear a pin drop - to experience what John Cage did, when he entered an anechoic chamber in the 50s in search of silence. But it's not as straightforward as you might think, as Robert discovers Cage didn't find the silence he was seeking, and instead found something even more surprising. The key to understanding 4’33”, and Cage’s fascination with silence, is his interest in the discipline of Zen Buddhism, which unlocked a whole new world of hearing sound that he charted through chance operations. It led to a meeting of like minds when Cage met Yoko Ono in New York who instantly saw the Zen influence on his work. In 1962 Ono and her husband, Toshi Ichiyanagi, invited Cage to visit Japan - his Zen spiritual homeland - a trip that later became known as the ‘Cage Shock’. It was a turning point in his career whose ground breaking performances sealed his reputation as the most controversial and experimental composer in the world. The programme features two UK premieres on Radio 3, an interview Robert recorded with John Cage when he met the composer in NYC in the 80s after finding his number in the phone book, and Cage reading his Lecture on Nothing, his enigmatic musing on silence. Produced by Andrew Carter - A BBC Radio Cumbria Production. Photograph of D.T.Suzuki and John Cage meeting in Japan 1962, courtesy of the John Cage Trust.
15 minutes | Apr 26, 2020
The Crankiness of C.W.Daniel
New Generation Thinker Elsa Richardson on the radical 20th century publisher C.W.Daniel.
44 minutes | Mar 13, 2020
The Queen Of Technicolor
Marie-Louise Muir traces her childhood idol Maureen O’Hara’s journey from Dublin's suburbs to star of the Golden Age.
43 minutes | Mar 12, 2020
The East Speaks Back
We are used to getting a worldview from the west, but what did the east make of us? Jerry Brotton heads to Istanbul on the trail of one the world's great travellers, Evliya Celebi
44 minutes | Jan 19, 2020
Ken Campbell as Never Heard Before
David Bramwell with actors whose lives were transformed by director Ken Campbell.
14 minutes | Dec 29, 2019
Glitter and Villainy
Daisy Black, Radio 3 New Generation Thinker, investigates the camp villain in history.
44 minutes | Dec 22, 2019
Rewiring Raymond Scott
At the height of his fame as a jazz composer and band leader in the late 1930s, Raymond Scott was billed as ‘America’s Foremost Composer of Modern Music’. Jazz legend Art Blakey confessed that his music ‘scared the hell out of me’. Electrical engineer, inventor, composer and musician Raymond Scott became adept at creating music that demonstrated a unique commercial appeal. He wrote for Broadway and Hollywood, he appeared weekly on national radio, his ‘novelty jazz’ tunes were licensed to Warner Bros for use in their Looney Tunes cartoons. The financial success this brought enabled Scott in the 1950s to build one of the first commercial electronic music studios in America, stocked with musical devices he himself had invented, designed and built - the Clavivox, the Circle Machine, the highly complex and ambitious Electronium, to name just a few. Scott focused on composing and recording jingles, spots and commercials for radio and TV, grabbing Americans “by the ears”, as he described it. His soundtracks for the likes of IBM provided the wider listening public with some of their first encounters with electronic music, conjuring up visions of a future that chimed with the times. General Motors commissioned him to provide the soundtrack to their ‘Futura’ pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair; and the founder of Tamla Motown Records, Berry Gordy, later brought Scott out to California to help create the label's pop hits of the future. Scott was forever experimenting, intent on pushing his instruments and the studio he had built as far as they would go. But too exacting to produce anything quickly, too secretive to share his inventions with others, Scott was eventually overtaken by the designers of keyboard-based synthesizers and mass-produced electric instruments who quickly exploited the territory he had so creatively mapped out for himself. In 'Rewiring Raymond Scott' the writer Ken Hollings offers a personal reassessment of Scott's career and legacy. Ken talks to family members, archivists, music historians and producers, telling the story of how this brilliant eccentric, all but forgotten at the time of his death in 1994, changed the sonic landscape of the twentieth century. With thanks to the Marr Sound Archives, UMKC. Presented by Ken Hollings Produced by Dan Shepherd A Far Shoreline Production for BBC Radio 3
44 minutes | Nov 15, 2019
The unknown tale of cold war communist Poland’s unlikely love affair with electronic music. Robert Worby finds out Warsaw was a beacon of musical freedom behind the iron curtain. It was here that the remarkable Polish Radio Experimental Studio was established in 1957, and this was the first electronic music studio in the Eastern Bloc and the fourth in Europe. This futuristic facility was at the cutting edge of modern music, and was a serious rival for existing studios in Paris, Milan, and Cologne in the West. But at a time when contemporary music was viewed with deep suspicion in the satellite states of the Soviet Union, and Warsaw itself had been destroyed during WWII, a shiny new electronic music studio hardly looked like a priority. But when Stalin’s murderous legacy was condemned by the new Soviet leadership in 1956, a loosening of the Eastern European communist stranglehold began. Uniquely in Poland the church and intellectuals struck an unparalleled bargain with the Polish authorities, allowing each to rub along with the other, as long as they agreed to keep their nose out of one another’s business. This suited the Communist People’s Polish Republic who were keen to distance themselves from Moscow, and supporting the Polish Radio Experimental Studio helped promote a positive image of what appeared to be a progressive society, not only to itself, but to the world. Now a new generation of Poles have re-discovered the rich musical archive of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio, that created the sounds of the future, not in spite of, but because of the complex postwar history of the People’s Polish Republic. A BBC Radio Cumbria Production for BBC Radio 3. Presented by Robert Worby and produced by Andrew Carter. Photo of Eugeniusz Rudnik ©Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw https://culture.pl/en/gallery/the-polish-radio-experimental-studio-image-gallery 15 Corners of the World https://ninateka.pl/film/15-stron-swiata-zuzanna-solakiewicz
44 minutes | Nov 15, 2019
The Hidden Reservoir
Carlo Gebler on the role of art in remembrance and reconciliation in Northern Ireland
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