Music on Radio

Choosing a radio station is a funny business. In Britain it's less about music than a social bonding ritual. Try Sunrise if you find that hard to believe - or, if you are a Radio 3 regular, ask yourself how often you turn to Radio 2. The station identities could hardly be more different, with continuity style and jingles (or the absence of them) calling to apparently quite distinct forms of human life. Yet, more and more, the contents meet and overlap. You wanted a contemporary composition for shakuhachi, ocarinas and Western classical instruments? Radio 2 was your place.

Musical explorers who have to get up in the mornings often discover the station's themed evenings by chance. Here, in prime time, they can catch what Radio 3 would put late at night or in an afternoon slot for young people. Wednesdays are for traditional music, dominated but not overrun by British folk. Currently Rob Provine is presenting a four-part "beginner's guide" to Japanese music and instruments (The Music of Japan), which is like an extended Music Machine for grown-ups. For the shakuhachi programme last week he brought in Yoshikazu Iwamoto to demonstrate, perform and explain. Iwamoto is a visiting fellow at Durham University and does the bamboo-flute business with some panache. Nonchalantly playing a bent-note version of the station identity jingle, he let slip that the vibrato technique may take three years to learn. That's after you have spent a month trying to produce a note in the first place. If you were really unlucky, you had to learn on a metre-long version where the notes are so far apart that you can only reach them by deliberately dislocating a shoulder.

There were performances of slow, concentrated solos - longer than less popular stations will sometimes risk - followed by ensembles with koto and shamisen. They only took a short bite at the new work. ("That's a very interesting piece," said Provine laconically - it was Frank Denyer's After the Rain.) But at least it was accepted as part of the mid-evening mixture; back on Radio 3, access to some options is denied to the unlucky souls who must drop off at half- past 10. Jazz Notes, Mixing It, even Hear and Now (if the wind is blowing in the right direction) - all are programmes to stay up for.

The one-time Friday afternoon traditional music slot has moved there, too, on Sundays. Most weeks, this half-hour is where the rest of the world has its say, except for Mixing It's forays into world and cross-cultural musics. So it carries responsibilities towards a daunting range of classical, folk and religious traditions. It has sometimes met them in quaint ways, relying on old-style ethnomusicologists who present them like curators showing off their treasures.

But there has been a gradual opening-up. The eight-part Sacred Music of India series, which concluded last month, caught a real sense of place and event. Out of the roar of Delhi traffic a reed-and-percussion wedding band pressed its demands on the ear as it would if you were standing there, across the street from the Red Fort. There was nothing revolutionary about the format - a series of extracts presented by Richard Widdess that hopped around the subcontinent from item to item as if Sri Lanka were just down the road. It was the attitude that sounded fresh.

The down-to-earth comments stopped you dreaming up anything too exotic, though they stayed silent on the amount of booze that usually sustains men's groups on their journeys to weddings. Widdess had to switch straight to a procession of 60 elephants with fairy lights in Kandy, then to a Rajasthani song for the dressing of Krishna at the start of his day. But he had found the art of immediately placing you at the centre of the scene.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk