Exploring different aspects of history, science, philosophy and the arts.
Sunday Feature: Tate Modern - Exploding the Canon
Director Frances Morris talks to artists and curators to understand how Tate Modern can not only explode the canon, but redesign the institution in which art is shown.
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
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.
The Crankiness of C.W.Daniel
New Generation Thinker Elsa Richardson on the radical 20th century publisher C.W.Daniel.
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.
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