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
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

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.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas