Music on Radio

Where the classics are concerned, it sometimes seems that nothing is sacred to the Music Machine's Puckish presenter, Tommy Pearson. Yet worksongs are evidently a more serious matter, to judge from the earnest sequence of interviews he has been conducting this week with folklorists and social historians on the topic of "Music and Work". In fact, it has been quite an intensive few Radio 3 days for vernacular musics, what with five instalments of Bosco Does the Samba as part of a "Brazilian Words" mini-season and a related series entitled Taking Three to Tango (to say nothing of Wednesday's weekly selection from the well-heeled vernacular of the pre-war London dance bands in Cocktails).

Even more than usual, one has felt the lack in the current Radio 3 schedules of a slot in which musical issues can be discussed at length - for this particular collection of programmes has thrown up plenty. For instance: when is, or was, a worksong really a worksong? Obviously enough, when it functioned as a co-ordinating spur to collective effort - as in the rhythmic give-and-take between caller and chorus that sustained the digging of 19th-century Midwest slave gangs, or in the shanties that kept Victorian seamen toiling round the capstan on such ironclads as HMS Warrior, which Pearson visited on Wednesday. Yet, as Roy Palmer pointed out in Monday's programme, the ballads of the navvies who built the canals and railways in the last century served not so much to accompany work as to raise spirits and solidarity in periods of rest. And, in our own time, the mediation of a folksinger such as Ewan McColl, interviewing labourers on motorways and tunnellers in the London Underground and then attempting to write them songs in the same tradition, has added a further ambiguity. As for such culturally contingent developments as ceremonial naval bands or the industrial brass band movement - the subject of this afternoon's final instalment - these, in their cultivated skills, have been known to lean suspiciously in the direction of art for art's sake. Some colliery bands have even tackled Birtwistle.

Of the two Latin American series, Bosco de Oliveira's breathless survey of the samba in five-minute bites could do little more than touch on its African rhythmic provenance and street carnival function; on the attempts of the 1940s dictatorship to project a cleaned-up image of Brazil by exporting the samba exaltacao style along with Carmen Miranda; on how the samba evolved into the Bossa Nova, and so on. Nor was there any chance to tackle the question of why the samba, for all its vitality and socio-political clout, has failed to inspire much in the "higher" artistic way, whereas the tango, with its ancient Spanish habanera background and fatalistic aura, contrived, in its time, to transcend boundaries of nationality, class and culture in the same way as the 19th-century waltz - from the slinky tango bands of early 20th-century Buenos Aires, by way of the "art" tangos of Astor Piazzolla, to Stravinsky's deadpan money-spinner (he hoped) of 1940, not forgetting an intricate little number by America's eminence grise of total serialism, Milton Babbitt, inevitably entitled It Takes 12 to Tango.

No doubt such classical "stylisations" of popular or ethnic forms are all too easy to impugn as condescending, or colonialistic, or whatever. Yet one wonders whether such appropriations comprise anything like the threat to the traditional vernaculars, or indeed to the ancient classical musics, of the five continents as the homogenising blandness of commercial World Music, let alone the ferocious multi-national marketing of lowest- common-denominator Western pop. Amongst other things, ought not Radio 3 to be discussing the urgent need for a musical ecology?

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
TV
News
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
art
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
books
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

music
Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

music
Arts and Entertainment
Look out: Broad shoulders take Idris Elba’s DCI John Luther a long way
tvIdris Elba will appear in two special episodes for the BBC next year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
    There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

    In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

    The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

    UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

    It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

    It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
    The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

    Staying connected: The King's School

    The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
    Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

    Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

    Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

    Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

    The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
    Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

    When two worlds collide

    Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

    Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
    Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

    Putin’s far-right ambition

    Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
    Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

    Escape to Moominland

    What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?