A blog of Radio 4. Not about Radio 4 but of it. We point to the bits we like, the bits you might have missed, the bits that someone might have sneakily recorded. And other bits of speech radio might find their way here too.
Of course, one day this might turn into something else, maybe a new skin for Radio 4, maybe a new way of curating radio, or maybe it won't.
Your hosts on this not very wild ride are Steve Bowbrick, Russell Davies and Roo Reynolds. Drop us a line with your thoughts, unless you wish to complain about continuity announcers and their accents.
Here we go: another one from the archives. The thing about Pierre Boulez is that he’s quite difficult to like - and his music is so prickly and deliberately inaccessible. But he’s got the magisterial Gallic charm thing going on. Oblique, Mercurial, uncompromising, obsessed. He’s kind of Napoleonic (Godardian?).
This hour long profile - which went out on Radio 3 a couple of years ago on his eightieth birthday - is really good value: lots of use is made of the Beeb’s exceptional access - all the top names are involved. The result is a portrait of the man but also of a fascinating and contradictory period in musical and intellectual history (MP3).
The pic is from the Wikimedia Commons.
Today (by which I mean ‘yesterday’ because I forgot to click ‘save’ last night), in Britain, is Remembrance Sunday. The day we remember the ‘glorious dead’ of all the wars since 1914. It’s a complicated and emotional day for me (more so, I find, since my Dad died back in March). It’s a day when I feel like an especially pudgy and pointless middle-aged man while we remember the braver and less pointless men who died in defense of something I take for granted and winge about in approximately equal measure.
I observed today’s two-minute silence standing next to a rugby pitch where my nine year-old was busy training. The boys - girls too - lined up quietly against the low sun while the awful and inspiring stories of those other young men crowded in and made some of us cry.
My Dad (an undemonstrative man who did his national service just after WWII) would listen to the service from the Cenotaph on the radio, weeping every year on this day. This, in fact, is how I learnt that men could cry. He was crying for the men he knew and loved and for the brave men he didn’t know.
Here’s a small and lovely programme that’s full of memory and emotion, about the memorial and crematorium for Indian soldiers who fought and died for Britain. It’s on the South Downs above Brighton and sounds like a lovely place (MP3).
The pic shows Lt. Hardit Singh Malik, a Sikh airman during World War One. I got it from Sikh Heritage in Britain.
It’s the weekend, so my dog walking is accompanied by a new edition of Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s weekly film review
(Image taken from the BBC user on YouTube. Thank you, BBC, for sharing interesting clips)
My early teenage years were informed by Mark Kermode on the Mark and Lard show on Radio 1, where he introduced me to a wide range of cult movies. In fact, I still can’t watch Blue Velvet without hearing his voice. These days, the Good Doctor works well when paired with Simon Mayo, who does a great job of popping Kermode’s pretension and dropping in his own interpretations and insights, balancing Kermode’s often over-the-top rants (both for and against) recent films. Kermode, normally very eloquent, is particularly enraged by ‘Good Luck Chuck’ in this week’s episode
Kermode: And I’m literally sitting there thinking, I’m getting ill. It’s like, it’s infecting me, it’s like this… Mayo: There’s a Woody Allen impression coming up now. […] Kermode: This thing is eating my soul from the inside. I can actually feel my soul being sucked out through my ears. I can feel everything starting to shut down…
This began to remind me of an earlier review
; Mark famously hates ‘Little Man’.
Kermode: I have seen some films that I consider to be grotesque, but I struggle to think of one more grotesque than ‘Little Man’. It is, in every way, an evil-minded, bad, profoundly depressing indictment of the way the modern movie industry works. … It is the most horrible, retrograde, nauseating, inward-looking, smug, repulsive, grotesque, ill-advised, badly judged… Mayo: Patronising?
If you like Kermode’s reviews as much as I do then you’re probably already subscribed to the podcast. You’ll really enjoy the archive of his reviews going back to April 2005 too.
As we’ve been seeing on Speechification recently, Radio 4 is not the only place to go for intelligent speech. The World Service should be an obvious choice, and I’ve recently been addicted to Mike Williams’ three part series “Inside the Climate Change talks” which I discovered thanks to the documentary archive podcast. It soon gets out of being an introduction to climate change, and becomes a fascinating guided tour of the behind the scenes action at G8 in May, and the preparations for the December UN Summit in Bali. Part one
At its best, it’s like Today in Parliament on an international stage. I would have liked to hear more of the international negotiations on the floor of the G8 from the horses mouths though; Mike Williams is so keen to explain what we’re hearing in these meetings that we sometimes don’t get much of a chance to hear it for ourselves. Other than that, it’s an enjoyable and fascinating series.
Photo credit: intimaj on Flickr.
A episode of You and Yours on the Internet. I don’t mean just it was made available via the internet (that’s been true for a while), instead I mean that back in early September they dedicated an hour long call-in edition to the subject of The Internet, including the thoughts and ideas of the ever-provocative Andrew Keen. There were other guests too:
The real stars are the members of the public who phone in though, such as Ralph from Nottingham who shares his opinion around 8m40s:
I think as an information vehicle the net is rather crude. I mean it returns thousands of possible answers for every appropriate hit, from a scrambag (?) of unconsidered trifles, and yet it’s an incomplete guide to sources of knowledge. It destroys responsible research, and the result now can be seen in most newspapers. It’s little more than an unkempt bridlepath. It signposts to motorways and it leaves the bewildered at the stile…
Here’s how it worked: Jem bookmarked this page on del.icio.us a while ago. By the time I got to it, that week’s edition had already been overwritten with a new one (which incidentally makes we wonder if URLs like bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours/listenagain/tuesday.shtml are really so sensible). Anyway, I dug around and found this (hopefully) permanent archive of the programme. So here’s another chance to listen to the most compelling episode of Call You and Yours for some time.
Peckinpah’s butch glamour is persistent. That handful of quite awesome movies from the end of the Sixties and the beginning of the Seventies won’t fade away. They’re in the culture - we use the language (“bring me the head…”) and enjoy the unhinged masculinity of those drifters and killers more than ever.
Anyway, the best bit of this terrific profile of Peckinpahs’ long-suffering girlfriend/fixer/producer/gofer Katy Haber - a woman whose loyalty to the old git was so total as to practically destroy her - is the distinctly odd comic narration from Andrew “Creighton Wheeler” McGibbon (oh, and Ali McGraw on the phone). Don’t ask me how McGibbon got this gig. It’s unusual but it works (MP3, Real).
Thanks to Jem and my wife for the tip. The pic is from the set of the film The Getaway.
Two reasons to post this soggy sound poem: first there’s sound legend Chris Watson’s astounding… er… sound. The man has something going on with the sound fairies. His recordings are so preternaturally authentic - kind of ‘hyper-real’.
In fact, I half expect to learn - in the report of a sweeping internal ‘fakery’ enquiry perhaps - that Watson just makes them all up, never leaving the warmth of his garden shed-cum-studio in leafy Chigwell (“yeah. I just squirt a bit of sea otter in here, bit of cormorant there and Bob’s your Uncle.”).
Second, there’s the very handy explanation of the tides given early on in the show. As a parent of school-age kids who’s had a go at explaining the action of the moon on the earth’s oceans once or twice, I just feel sure I’m going to need this again… (MP3, Real)
We love Jacques Tati in our house. Well, I suppose it’s mostly me that likes him. My kids put up with him but only because they think he’s a sort of bleached Mr Bean. Mr Bean’s creator Rowan Atkinson makes an appearance in Rory Bremner’s half hour about the French genius - Atkinson reckons Bean isn’t as nice a person as Tati’s creation Hulot.
I like the part about Tati’s pioneering and inventive use of sound: the distinctive (and inexplicably hilarious) sound of that hotel swing door in M. Hulot’s holiday and the quite brilliant ‘silent door’ in Playtime, for instance (MP3, Real)
The pic is a still from Mon Oncle, which I think is the best of Tati’s films.
Hey, did you notice we have a new contributor? Roo Reynolds will be chipping in from now on. And Roo’s not just a contributor: he’s our CTO (I think I prefer ‘Chief Engineer’). Of course he has a proper job too. He’s Metaverse Evangelist at IBM. We’re really chuffed to have Roo on the speechification team.
Right, now something for the podcast. If you didn’t catch them when they went out over two weeks in October this lone MP3 won’t help much I suppose. Anyway, Professor Eamon Duffy’s Ten Popes who Shook the World is a thing of beauty: ten fifteen-minute jewels of scholarhip and communication. I grabbed one about Paul III, a tough, political Pontif who started the fightback against those uptight Northern Europeans and their nasty Reformation (MP3). Fascinating.
Speaking of comedy, I want to remind you that tomorrow (that’s Monday) at 11:30 on Radio 4 you can hear the final episode of the first series of the best comedy on the radio right now (if you ask me): Sanjeev Kohli and Donald McLeary’s Fags, Mags and Bags: the surreal sitcom set in a Glasgow sweet shop. My family and I have been laughing like drains more or less continually since the first episode caught us completely by surprise in September.
I also, obviously, want it put on record that Fags, Mags and Bags is speechification’s first official tip for TV transfer in 2008. When the show turns up on the telly, please remember you heard it here first - and if they’ll take bets on this sort of thing at Ladbrokes I’d get round there sharpish. Here’s last week’s episode in case you missed it (MP3).