Innovative and thought-provoking features that make adventurous use of sound and explore a wide variety of subjects. Made by leading radio producers.
The Virtual Symphony
The joys and horrors of the internet, evoked by stories, sounds and an exciting new electronic and vocal work composed by Kieran Brunt. Opens with an introduction by the composer.
30 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee created the very first website. This powerful edition of Between the Ears explores how the internet has dramatically reshaped our lives over the following three decades.
In 1990s Glasgow, a young woman in a physics computer lab glimpses a different future for the world - and herself. In Luton, the web awakens a young man’s Sikh identity - a few years on, it will bring him riches. In 2001, a young mother in France finds escape through Wikipedia. Ten years later, an Austrian law student is horrified when he requests his personal data from Facebook…
Over four movements of music and personal stories, the Virtual Symphony moves from sunny optimism to deep disquiet, as our relationship to the internet shifts. Around these stories, composer Kieran Brunt weaves electronic and vocal elements in an exhilarating new musical work commissioned by BBC Radio 3.
Kieran Brunt and documentary producer Laurence Grissell worked in close collaboration to produce a unique evocation of the way in which the internet has fundamentally changed how we experience and understand the world.
Composer: Kieran Brunt
Producer: Laurence Grissell
Melissa Terras, Harjit Lakhan, Florence Devouard and Max Schrems
Electronics performed by Kieran Brunt
Vocals performed by Kieran Brunt, Lucy Cronin, Kate Huggett, Oliver Martin-Smith and Augustus Perkins Ray of the vocal ensemble Shards
Programme mixed by: Donald MacDonald
Additional music production: Paul Corley
Additional engineering: Ben Andrewes
Rhythms of Remembering
A radiophonic exploration of The Gododdin, a lament for the fallen, bringing to life one of the oldest, yet enduringly relevant, treasures of European literature
The Gododdin occupies a unique place in the literature of the United Kingdom. The oldest Welsh poem - a battle elegy from around 600AD - it was passed down orally, possibly in the form of song, for hundreds of years. Written down by two scribes in the 13th century in a form of proto-Welsh - Brythonic - then spoken from Scotland down through Cumbria to present day Wales, it's as strange yet accessible to Welsh-speakers today as Chaucer is to English-speakers. The events commemorated are real, but took place before Wales and England even existed, and long before there was such a thing as the English language.
The Gododdin were a tribe based south of present day Edinburgh, who, as Britannia was reshaping itself in the post-Roman era, were fighting off incursions of Anglo-Saxons from the east. The poem describes a real battle. The time is the 7th century; the site of the battle near Catterick; the context, a warring world of rival tribes and chieftains. We can identify the lord, Mynyddog Mwynfawr, who gathers the Celtic warriors together from his own tribe, calling for help from Gwynedd in present-day Wales. And we know that the poem was composed by Aneirin, who must have been present at the battle.
Aneirin recorded what he witnessed in a series of 100 elegies for the fallen. What we hear is an evocation of the men who went into battle, hopelessly outnumbered, and were cut down. Their names in themselves are a form of poetry, the naming a sacred act of commemoration. The characters of the fallen are here preserved like bog-men of fifteen hundred years ago. 'Madog cut down men like rushes, but was shy before a girl'; 'At court the quiet one, Erthgi made armies groan'.
The Gododdin, largely forgotten, re-emerged in the early twentieth century. Its tale of the pity of individual lives ended in battle, often young lives, carries clear relevance today. The Gododdin also deals in what we would now call collateral damage: the bereaved and the bereft. The epigraph to David Jones's First World War masterpiece In Parenthesis is taken from The Gododdin, and it collapses the distance between the 20th century and the 6th century: 'Sennyessit e gledyf ym mhenn mameu' - 'His sword sounded in the heads of mothers'. Today, the Gododdin's ancient tale of warriors, far from home, serving a nobleman and paying with their lives, seems both timeless and timely.
Between the Ears: Rhythms of Remembering enters into the world of The Gododdin, weaving extracts of Gillian Clarke's new English translation of the poem with an immersive soundscape and music. Her translation of Aneirin's words - the first complete one by a poet - read by Lisa Jen Brown, provide the backbone of the programme, and the poem's history and resonance today is explored through interviews with Gillian, theatre director Mike Pearson, and Ieuan Jenkins, who recalls his experience of serving as a young soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With music specially composed for the programme by Georgia Ruth.
Produced for BBC Wales by Megan Jones
The Nightingales of Berlin
In early summer, as darkness descends, Berlin resonates with the sound of nightingales. You can hear their haunting, ever-changing songs in parks, woodlands and gardens across the city. From Kreuzberg to Treptower, Tempelhof to Hasenheide, Berlin has become a refuge for one of the most celebrated and mythologised birds on earth.
The city is the summer home for over one and a half thousand nesting pairs. Nobody’s quite sure why nightingales have adopted the city so enthusiastically. Maybe it’s Berlin’s enlightened policy towards park management which leaves areas of untended scrub and dense bushes providing ground-nesting nightingales with perfect cover.
Whatever the reason, this blossoming of nightingales means that their song has become the soundtrack to countless moments in Berlin’s residents’ lives: lovers listening to the nightingale’s melody in the depths of the night; a childhood memory of illness soothed by hearing the song – and the German name Nachtigall – for the first time; and a visit to one of the few architectural remnants of Germania, Hitler’s megalomaniacal plan for a new city on the site of Berlin.
This programme gathers memories of the nightingale’s lingering, multi-faceted song and the sounds of city evenings to create an audio portrait of Berlin, its people and the bird to whom it’s given refuge.
We hear too from a group of musicians who seek out nightingales in the city’s parks to play alongside them. They describe feeling their way into the nightingale’s song, the call-and-response between bird and human and the sense of each listening to the other. Some even describe themselves as nightingales: they’ve travelled from far countries to make music in Berlin.
The programme is made in collaboration with Berlin Museum of Natural History’s Forschungsfall Nachtigall project that asks members of the public to record nightingales and send in their recordings – along with stories and memories of the bird which has become a symbol of the city.
With the voices of Sarah Darwin, Korhan Erel, Gaby Hartel, Volker Lankow, Christopher and Erika Lehmpfuhl, Charlotte Neidhardt, Philip Oltermann, Sascha Penshorn, Tina Roeske, David Rothenberg and Cymin Samawatie.
Featuring music from David Rothenberg’s 'Nightingale Cities' project and 'Berlin Bülbül by David Rothenberg and Korhan Erel.
Location recordings in Berlin by Martyna Poznańska and Monika Dorniak.
Producer: Jeremy Grange
Photograph courtesy of Kim Mortega
Telling the Bees
Maria Margaronis surrenders to the life of the hive to explore the ancient folk customs around the telling the bees.
The lives of bees and humans have been linked ever since the first hominid tasted a wild hive’s honey. Neither domesticated nor fully wild, honey bees are key to our survival, a barometer of our relationship with nature. Without them, we’d have no fruit, no nuts and seeds, and eventually, no food. No bees; no songbirds. Silent woods.
For centuries, we’ve projected stories and beliefs onto these strange, familiar creatures, seeing them as messengers between this world and the next. In this Covid-wracked year, Maria Margaronis explores the old customs of “telling the bees” about a death or significant event, lest they grow angry and leave us. She enters the sonic world of the hive to hear what the bees might be telling us in the company of wise bee guides like Toxteth’s Rastafarian Barry Chang, Mississippi's Ali Pinion, Lithuania's Paulius Chockevicius and young beekeeper Zhivko Todorov in London’s busy Finsbury Park. Others tells us and their bees their significant news. Follow bee tellers and bee callers on a seasonal journey from summer through winter into spring, tuning in to to the hum of the hive and the buzz of the universe.
Producer: Mark Burman
Additional bee recordings Mark Ferguson
Bogs have always captured the human imagination, inspiring both fear and fiction. Between the Ears wades into this treacherous netherworld in a search for the lost and found.
These liminal spaces have a unique and troubling consistency: neither absolutely water, nor absolutely earth, but a potentially dangerous mix between the two.
Writers have long been fascinated by the dangerous pull of the bog but also by the secrets that lay buried the peat , from 'The Slough of Despond' in John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' to Seamus Heaney's 'Bog Poems'
Producer Neil McCarthy and author and former rock climber Jim Perrin attempt to cross a bog called Waun-y-Griafolen in Snowdonia. A living entity, the bog erases paths over time and the duo's navigation becomes as uncertain as the ground beneath them. As they make their way, and as the days fades, they are accompanied by the reflections of Hetta Howes ('Transformative Waters'), Karin Sanders ('Bodies in the Bog'), and artist Mark Daniels who also finds he's strayed from the path.
They squelch their way, hoping to understand the bog's contradictory nature before getting swallowed up.
Featuring the poem 'Bog Queen' by Seamus Heaney
Original composition and sound design by Phil Channell
Produced by Neil McCarthy
Flight of the Monarch
Composer and sound artist Rob Mackay traces the migratory route of the monarch butterfly, from the Great Lakes in Canada to the forests of Mexico, via the shifting coastal landscape of the eastern shores of Virginia.
Along the route of this sonic road-movie Rob meets people working to protect this extraordinary species: Darlene Burgess, a conservation specialist monitoring butterfly populations on the shores of Lake Eerie; Nancy Barnhart, coordinating the monarch migration programme for the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory at Kiptopeke State Park, where we also encounter composer Matthew Burtner, whose sonifications of data from the local seagrass beds help track changes in the monarch's environment; and butterfly expert Pablo Jaramillo-López giving a tour of the Sierra Chincua and Cerro Pelón reserves in Mexico. We also hear reflections from the late Lincoln Brower, the American entomologist whose legacy has inspired many of today's research and conservation efforts.
The programme features Rob Mackay's binaural field recordings, and audio from live stream boxes, set up in partnership with the ecological art and technology collective SoundCamp to monitor the monarch's changing habitats. Plus Rob’s own flute playing, recorded in the Mexican forest meadows with David Blink on handpan and trumpet, alongside poetry in Spanish about the monarch by Rolando Rodriguez.
As an audiophile, this is where I nerd-out. An aural documentary covering the most diverse topics of sound and the world we exist in.
Hit or miss
Sometimes it is really compelling, from an aural perspective, even when the content is droll like early episodes. Other times, like today while listening to the M1 Symphony episode I’m just bored. I feel like it is the soundtrack to watching traffic cameras and not really a symphony. It’s sound clips put to original music. I am just slugging through. It comes out sporadically as well, and is free, so I guess you get what you pay for.
say it ain't so
what? nothing new? just when it was getting compelling it slows to none almost ever