Turn the world upside down, break all the rules and let the dead talk to the living and what have you got? Nothing less than the spirit of Carnival. This week Words and Music takes its cue from Rome's Saturnalia and the gris gris of New Orleans.
Carnival may be about laughter and licence but it also acknowledges darkness and unease. It's a kind of whistling in the dark and a kind of exorcism. It gives physical form to our fears and with its clowns, zombies and ritual helps us to reconcile ourselves to the obscene, the terrible and the outrageously wonderful in our lives. Most, if not all of us watch and all of us sometimes wear the mask and join the dance.
Musical intoxication is supplied by the likes of Saint Saens, Constant Lambert, Verdi and Berlioz and the verbal fireworks come courtesy of Edgar Allan Poe, Byron, Elizabeth Bishop, ee cummings, Malcolm Lowry and Goethe with the actors Saskia Reeves and Tom Hiddleston as the Lords of Misrule.