Exploring different aspects of history, science, philosophy and the arts.
Sunday Feature - Great Scott
Allan Little on the life and legacy of Walter Scott 250 years on from the writer's birth.
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.
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
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.
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
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