Radio round-up; A Land without Music R3
Friday 08 September 1995
Nor does it end there. The series is largely centred on the 20th century when, it is generally agreed, this has turned into a land with quite a lot of music after all. Much of it has been closely bound up with poetry, and it is a pity that Motion has not gone into their interaction in more detail - in terms of word-setting and whatnot. His style has been rather to select a clutch of general themes and then to alternate choices of verse - some of them interestingly off the beaten track - with mostly more familiar pieces of music. Sound-bites from a select company of living composers, players and poets supply the punctuation.
The first programme, three weeks back, investigated "romanticism, patriotism and the effect of the First World War"; the second was about "pastoralism and the influence of the folk tradition, Tudor models and Purcell". Last Saturday it was the turn of "Celtic twilight, the transcendental and occult, the lure of the East and Christian Mysticism". Among the predictable Vaughan Williams and Bax, Yeats and De la Mare, there were some rarer items: a piano study using gamelan scales by John Foulds, and an incredibly purple invocation to Pan by Aleister "The Beast" Crowley that cried out for setting by one of our connoisseurs of kitsch such as Dr Robin Holloway. As usual, the question of the Englishness of English music - or whether it is a real question at all - was delicately skirted by the contributors. Motion started to say something about meaning "playing variations on certain themes... not sticking to them rigidly", but the point was then lost in a potted history of Delius.
Maybe the final instalment, exploring "the influence of jazz, Russian ballet, World War II, politics, refugees, popular culture, modernism and post-modernism", will succeed, if not in revealing all, at least in tying up loose ends. But the impression left so far, after six hours of broadcasting, presented by a distinguished writer and an equally distinguished range of commentators, with a century of marvellous music and literature at their disposal, has been little more demanding than a pleasant ramble. Did somebody deem a more penetrating inquiry inappropriate to a Saturday afternoon? And if so, who?
A Land without Music comes from Classic Arts, one of the most active of several independent production companies now filling quite a stretch of Radio 3 time. There is also Ladbroke Radio, currently offering a dismaying series of Musical Tales, in which Tony Robinson tells the stories of various ballets and tone-poems in silly voices over the music, so that one can hardly hear a note. There is Track Record, which sometimes supplies The Music Machine, and so on. What exactly, one wonders, is the relationship of these companies to Radio 3? Do they submit on spec, or fulfil precise editorial briefs? Or are Radio 3 and the production companies alike subject to something more insidious?
There is another current Classic Arts series on modern masterpieces at the Proms in which Steve Martland of all people is actually reduced to sounding like a schoolmaster giving a music appreciation lesson to a not very lively Fifth Form. Maybe that is the way Martland or Classic Arts wanted it. But anyone who has recently been involved in the making of a BBC music feature and watched the producer blanch at the merest mention of a technical term will know the score. It is, of course, an irony that as BBC management chants the mantra "accessibility" ever more frantically, its own jargon grows ever more incomprehensible. But the real question is just where the drive for the accessible edges over into an ever-so- well-intentioned intellectual censorship.
tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods
tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas
comedy Erm...he seems to be back
tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special
Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites
TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
- 2 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 3 Andy Murray takes to Twitter to show off his Christmas jumper
- 4 Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'
- 5 Top 10 travel destinations for 2015: From Haiti and Alaska to Namibia and Iceland
Downton Abbey Christmas special 2014, review: Love is everywhere, actually
The Boy in the Dress, TV review: David Walliams' Boxing Day treat is a celebration of being different
The Interview finally gets US release after Sony hack and terror threats – but reviews of North Korea satire are mixed
Vagina canoe artist defends herself over ‘obscenity’ charges
Doctor Who Christmas special, review: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Katie Hopkins speaks out on childhood obesity: 'Parents of fat children should be prosecuted for child cruelty'