ARTS / Cries & Whispers

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The Independent Culture
NICHOLAS KENYON, the new Controller of Radio 3, is a Catholic and a Thoroughly Nice Man (two things more than you could say for one or two of his predecessors) who must know by heart that peaceable text from Isaiah about beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruninghooks. Indeed, his policy for the future of the station as announced this week seems to be based on it. Out go the swords and spears of weekday evenings of Xenakis and prickly Sunday-morning interviews by Peter Paul Nash. In come 'lively entry points for new listeners' and three guaranteed painless hours on Sunday mornings with the listener-friendly Brian Kay. Why?

In the interests of accessibility, says Kenyon, who is buying in the services of Saatchis (By Appointment to Baroness Thatcher) and a PR executive, the LPO's charming Judy Graham, to tell him how it's done. I hope the first thing they tell him is that it's a touch ironic to launch an accessibility campaign in the most inaccessible venue I've ever had to track down for a Press do - a hot, sweaty and scantily signposted conservatory somewhere in Holland Park. And, meanwhile, maybe I can tell him (no charge) that the joy of Radio 3 resides in its intimacy. There's nothing like settling down to an evening of Xenakis's recent works for double bass and cowbells, knowing that throughout the country not another pair of ears is listening. Is this pleasure to be sacrificed to history?

The most curious part of the new package is a new music magazine, populist in nature and dancing on the grave of the recently deceased Listener. Presumably the BBC does know that almost every specialist music publication launched in recent years has folded, including its own Three Magazine. And that was before the recession. Of course, I don't mean to be wholly negative about this. Anything that gives a bit of work to decent, impecunious critics is to be applauded. Just so long as it can pay them when the crunch comes.

THE QUEST for a great film named after a song continues. 'Easy,' writes Michael Keenan of London SW9. 'Renoir's La Marseillaise. By the way, Cavalcanti's Champagne Charlie is probably greater than Oh Mr Porter (C&W, last week).'

Loretta Ordewer of Pinkneys Green, Berks, nominates Stand by Me and Someone to Watch over Me: 'great movies, great directors - Rob Reiner and Ridley Scott'. (Great songs too - Ben E King and Ella Fitzgerald.) They're certainly very good films, but I'm doubtful whether they're great. Stand by Me has great charm and a measure of originality, but isn't Someone to Watch over Me just a glamorous, well-made thriller of the sort that Hollywood used to turn out once a month?

Stand by Me is seconded by Alan Morrison, film editor of The List in Edinburgh, who rates it 'certainly a better use of an old soul title than that advertisement for infant euthanasia, My Girl'. He also puts in a word for Brazil ('Terry Gilliam insists that Ary Barroso's title tune was the inspiration for the film'), The Harder They Come, Starman and Mona Lisa - probably the best film named after a song named after a painting.

A NICELY symmetrical development this week. Lady Thatcher, high priestess of the free market, released a CD - a selection of Abraham Lincoln's speeches, declaimed with all the powers of elocution for which the former PM is justly celebrated. Its retail price

is around pounds 14.50 - about 29 times what it costs to produce, and a pound or so more than the already overpriced CDs in the charts. The result? The Press Association reported dismal sales. Memo to Maggie - slash that price] Memo to everyone else: don't pay full price, even for a good CD, if you can help it.

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