IoS radio review: Scoring Father Brown, Radio 4, Tuesday
Student Stories, Radio 4, Friday

Clues and cues: to hit a happy note, you find it first

I often think there's too much soundtrack music around. As some motif or other swells over the action, my thoughts turn to the French film director Robert Bresson, who didn't bother with it. "Music takes up all the room and gives no increased value to the image," he wrote in his bracing Notes on the Cinematographer. Mind you, he only used one lens and didn't bother with professional actors, either.

The right music in the right place can, of course, be the making of a film or television programme, and in Scoring Father Brown the composer Debbie Wiseman guided us through the process of writing a soundtrack for the forthcoming adaptation of GK Chesterton's detective stories, which starts on BBC1 tomorrow.

She was unstinting with the technical detail, from the first big question – is the musical world she's creating major or minor? – through such issues as making sure the music is upfront enough to do its job but not enough to intrude, to the final recording, when changes are still being made. And along the way, a musicologist pitched in with some intriguing little nuggets of information, such as that playing accordion music in the drinks aisle of a supermarket increases sales of French wine.

What made it particularly enjoyable was the sheer pleasure Wiseman clearly takes in the entire process. If everyone were as happy in their work as she is, I suspect the world would be a better place.

The second of three Student Stories – which, as the title suggests, features stories about student life written by students – was very good indeed. "American Refugee" was about Kolbe, heir to a pepper-sauce fortune and a perpetual student, in Belfast on his third attempt at a Masters degree, whose travels in upcountry Brazil result in an unwanted pregnancy.

It was well structured and sprinkled with some nice lines. "My flatmate Catherine soon pronounced him unemployable in this economy, or in any economy to come," says the narrator when Kolbe moves in, adding: "I stopped sleeping and contracted a nervous twitch." The author of the piece, Tyece Hocking, should definitely stick with the writing.

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