Alexei Sayle

Although I’ve pretty much given up on the stand-up industry (why outsource your humour to strangers, when many of your pals are funnier?) I made an exception for the renaissance of Alexei Sayle at The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh’s York Place. It was his first tour in 17 years and it was a great night!

In this episode of Front Row he discusses what’s changed during all those years. Despite ‘accusations’ of mellowing, there remains more than a hint of the old 80s bile.

Also, there is a short piece on The Traverse Theatre which celebrates its 50th birthday with fifty 500-word plays this weekend.

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Lutosławski

Of all the composers I remember coming across at music college for the first time, the one who sticks out is Witold Lutosławski. This year being the centenary of his birth he is enjoying a high profile.

This Music Matters special includes conversation with his step-son. I often find that there are contradictions housed within many interesting people and Lutosławski is no exception.

Toddlers and Telly

There’s much more to this Life Scientific interview than the title of my post suggests, but consideration of the topic is typical of Annette Karmiloff-Smith‘s common sense approach to developmental psychology. She explains lucidly why the problem is less to do with content than the fact that most activity is restricted to the centre of the screen. Bespoke infants’ programmes would encourage more tracking, along with more intelligent use of colour and sound, including music and changes of voice.

Katharina Wolpe

I’m no expert but I’d imagine that not many festivals have been based on a single book – about music. The Rest is Noise, running all this year at London’s South Bank Centre, was inspired by music critic Alex Ross’ book of the same name

The book spans the 20th century as does the festival. It was fitting that the interval of a concert broadcast live from the festival featured an interview with a musician whose life was dramatically affected by the century’s turbulent events – beginning with the arrival of German troops in Vienna.

Martin Handley interviews pianist Katharina Wolpe. Her story is remarkable and she tells of the many cultural figures she met along the way. For example, Humphrey Bogart put up the money for her to secure a gig at London’s Wigmore Hall.

Scroll to 14:18 of this link to listen.

40,000-year history of music

I’ve always admired Howard Goodall as a great communicator and evangelist for music. However, he comes across as slightly reactionary in this Start the Week discussion. He is discussing his new book/TV series Story of Music.

John Adams, in my humble opinion, gives a better account of himself and has some interesting opinions on mp3s and the problem of distractions when listening to music on computer.

The excellent dramatist, Stephen Poliakoff discusses his forthcoming Dancing on the Edge.

Singer Barb Jungr keeps it real from the point of view of making a living as a performer.

Howard Goodall’s series begins on BBC2 on Sat 26 Jan.

Scoring Father Brown

If you’re interested in the process of writing music for television or film then this programme might be for you. Composer Debbie Wiseman details the various steps in writing, conducting and recording the music for the television drama Father Brown. There are contributions from Professor Eric Clarke of Oxford University.

I don’t know the series, and don’t much like the sound of it, nor even some of the music ‘required’ for it, but explanation of what goes on is very clear. I was particularly taken with Debbie Wiseman’s caution to the orchestra that things were going to move quite quickly – implying, I imagine, that even although they might not consider themselves involved in any given ‘musical cue’ their moment would come along soon enough and would not be helped by people moving around.

The Examined Life

I can only imagine that this title comes from Socrates assertion that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” In the case of the psychoanalytic sessions described in Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life it’s the examination which might return the fractured life to something worth living.

Excellently read by Peter Marinker these tales of change and loss are by turns fascinating, moving, inspiring and shocking.

Episode 1 of 5 is here from where you’ll be able to navigate to the others.

Riot at the Rite

One cultural and historical event I’d love to have witnessed is the riot which took place at the première of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in 1913. That’s why I was very interested to hear Richard Witts present an alternative take on the motivations of some in the audience.

Present that evening, though possibly not throwing many punches, was Marcel Proust.

Another edition of Radio 3’s “The Essay” deals with the insertion of a musical character at the proof-reading stage of Swann’s Way.

Raymond Tallis

It’s interesting to hear a scientist caution against ‘scientism’ but Raymond Tallis puts the case well during this chat on Belief with Joan Bakewell. Of course, he’s much more than a scientist: philosopher, novelist, poet, playwright….

You’ll have to be quick, though. According to the BBC it’ll only be available for 85 years.

Prison Visitor

I’d long known of Johnny Cash’s performances in Folsom And San Quentin Prisons. But I was surprised to learn in this programme of the extent of his prison reform endeavours.