Radio review: Between The Ears, Radio 3, Saturday

5.00

 

Obsessively taping your conversations with a particular person is a suspiciously weird pastime – unless you're an artist. Sebastiane Hegarty is, and his decades' worth of recordings of his mother constitute a powerful exploration of the human condition.

In a very moving Between the Ears Hegarty played some of his maternal archive, from the first occasion, in a coin-operated recording booth in Liverpool when he was a nipper, to the last, not long before she died a couple of years ago, in which he reminded her where she was and washed her spectacles for her.

In one piece, called Duet for Radio, he took one of their later telephone conversations and removed his side of it. As he put it, her voice, "left isolated and widowed … emphasises the lonely fragility of body and memory". And you do indeed feel the years of living, the tribulations and vicissitudes of life, in her cracked and weary voice.

In Oblique Strategies (Radio 4, Thursday ****), the poet Simon Armitage explored the set of cards of that name devised by Brian Eno and Michael Schmidt in the 1970s, designed to help creative types unblock the flow (example: "Turn it upside down"). They were most famously used when Eno produced David Bowie's Berlin trilogy; guitarist Carlos Alomar drew "Think like a gardener". It did indeed shape his playing. "It throws you off," he said, "and that's the purpose – like when you have a pain in the foot and someone slaps your face." Was that Eno's intention? It probably was.

Finally, a sad farewell to Rory Morrison, who died last week aged 48 from a rare form of cancer. I must confess I didn't know the name – but I certainly knew the voice, when Wednesday's Today programme paid tribute to the Radio 4 announcer and played some of his best bits (such as keeping an aural straight face while reading an eminently sniggerworthy news item about the Boris Becker sex-in-a-cupboard story).

The voice of this unsung hero, I discovered with a shock, is as familiar to me as one of my own children's. Without my knowing it Morrison, with that upbeat, summery lilt to his delivery, had been an integral part of my life for 20 years. He'll be missed.

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