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Tucked up by Mum and Dad

1 hour, 15 minutes
First broadcast:
Sunday 20 January 2013

Parents of all sorts feature in this edition of Words and Music, from their own and their children's perspective. So we hear about dysfunctional families from ancient Greece and Philip Larkin; the joys of parenthood from Anna Laetitia Barbauld and a dewy-eyed Coleridge - and its dark side from Abraham and Rachel Cusk. Michael Rosen grieves for his son, while Alan Bennett and Elizabeth Jennings describe relationships with elderly parents. Plus (in case you're confused) parenting advice from Erasmus and Dr Benjamin Spock. Readings by Harriet Walter and James Garnon and music from Ligeti, Bach and Tom Lehrer, among others.
David Papp (producer).

Music Played

38 items
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
  • Image for Domenico Scarlatti

    Domenico Scarlatti Sonata in E major, K. 531

    Performer: Wendy Carlos Moog Synthesiser

    ESD 81612

  • Dr Benjamin Spock

    Baby & Child Care, reader James Garnon

  • Anna Laetitia Barbauld

    To a Little Invisible Being who is Expected Soon to Become Visible, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for Johann Sebastian Bach

    Johann Sebastian Bach Andante (from Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G minor, BWV 1058)

    Performer: Murray Perahia (piano)

    Sony SK 89690

  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge

    Sonnet to a Friend Who Asked How I Felt When the Nurse First Presented My Infant to Me, reader James Garnon

  • Sylvia Plath

    Child, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for György Ligeti

    György Ligeti Continuum

    Performer: Pierre Charial (barrel organ)

    Sony SK 62310

  • Rachel Cusk

    A Life’s Work, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for Engelbert Humperdinck

    Engelbert Humperdinck Evening Prayer & Dream Pantomime (from Hänsel und Gretel)

    Performer: Ann-Sofie von Otter Performer: Barbara Bonney Performer: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Jeffrey Tate

    EMI CDS7540222 CD 1

  • Adrian Mitchell

    This be the Worst, reader Harriet Walter

  • William Blake

    The Land of Dreams, reader James Garnon

  • Image for Adrien Leroy

    Adrien Leroy Bransle de Champaigne

    Performer: Eric de Bellocq (lute)

    Harmonia Mundi HMC 901729

  • Erasmus (trans. Robert Whittington)

    On the Manners of Children, reader James Garnon

  • Image for Nicolas Gombert

    Nicolas Gombert La chasse au lievre

    Performer: Ensemble Clément Janequin/Dominique Visse

    Harmonia Mundi HMC 901729

  • Image for Adrien le Roy

    Adrien le Roy Allemande du pied du cheval

    Performer: Eric de Bellocq (lute)

    Harmonia Mundi HMC 901729

  • Image for [anonymous]

    [anonymous] O Maria, stella maris

    Performer: Trio Mediaeval

    ECM 476 3021

  • Kahil Gibran

    On Children (from The Prophet), reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for Arvo Pärt

    Arvo Pärt Silentium (from Tabula rasa)

    Performer: Adele Anthony & Gil Shaham (violins) Performer: Erik Risberg (prepared piano) Performer: Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra/Neeme Järvi

    Deutsche Grammophon 457 647 2

  • Michael Rosen

    Carrying the Elephant, reader James Garnon

  • Robert Louis Stevenson

    To Any Reader, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for Samuel Scheidt

    Samuel Scheidt Canzona super cantionem gallicam 'Est-ce Mars?'

    Performer: His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts

    Helios CDH55344

  • Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (trans. John Florio)

    Essays: Of the institution and education of children, reader James Garnon

  • Image for Sir Arthur Sullivan

    Sir Arthur Sullivan Onward Christian Soldiers

    Performer: Musical box

    Saydisc CD-SDL 331

  • Edmund Gosse

    Father and Son, reader James Garnon

  • Image for Sir Arthur Sullivan

    Sir Arthur Sullivan Onward Christian Soldiers

    Performer: Musical box

    Saydisc CD-SDL 331

  • Roald Dahl

    Matilda, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for Tim Minchin

    Tim Minchin Telly (from Matilda)

    Performer: Original Cast recording Paul Kaye (Mr Wormwood)

    RSC RSCE 002

  • Stevie Smith

    N’est-ce pas assez de ne me point hair, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for John Cage

    John Cage First Interlude (from Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano)

    Performer: Boris Berman (prepared piano)

    Naxos 8.554345

  • Philip Larkin

    This be the Verse, reader James Garnon

  • X. J. Kennedy

    Blues for Oedipus, reader James Garnon

  • Image for Tom Lehrer

    Tom Lehrer Oedipus Rex

    Performer: Tom Lehrer (voice and piano)

    Reprise 61992

  • Image for Jonathan Harvey

    Jonathan Harvey mortuos plango, vivos voco

    Sargasso SCD28023

  • The Bible, Genesis 1 -18

    Abraham & Isaac, reader Harriet Walter

  • Elizabeth Jennings

    To My Mother at 73, reader Harriet Walter

  • Image for Frédéric Chopin

    Frédéric Chopin Prelude in C sharp minor, op. 45

    Performer: Alexei Lubimov (piano)

    ECM 461 812 2

  • Alan Bennett

    Untold Stories, reader James Garnon

  • Image for George Frideric Handel

    George Frideric Handel As with rosy steps the morn (from Theodora)

    Performer: Lorraine Hunt Lieberson (mezzo) Performer: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Harry Bicket

    Avie AV 0030

  • Producer's Note

    In this edition of Words and Music, parents and children mete out joy and misery to each other.

    In ‘This be the Verse’ Philip Larkin squarely lays the blame for being messed-up at the feet of mum and dad. But as a writer, Alan Bennett pointed out that being messed-up by your parents is ‘fine because then you’ve got something to write about’.

    Edmund Gosse certainly proved the point in his autobiographical ‘Father and Son’. At once worrying and entertaining, it describes his Victorian upbringing at the hands of his religious fundamentalist father. Oedipus could reasonably claim to have been more messed up than most by his parents but he certainly paid it back to them in spades. It’s all very neatly summed-up here by XJ Kennedy and Tom Lehrer. Another case of bad parenting is the Old Testament’s Abraham who is willing to sacrifice his son, if God tells him to. Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Stevie Smith both need to escape their oppressive parents.

    The impact of children on their parents is seen in several of the texts. A pregnant Anna Laetitia Barbauld can’t wait for the joy and love she thinks her child will bring; Coleridge’s newborn son provokes a similar ecstatic response. But the realities of coping with young children take Sylvia Plath and Rachel Cusk beyond the brink of sanity. The Land of Dreams is ‘better far’ than the real world for the little boy in Blake’s poem – a pitiful exchange between a recently widowed father and his motherless son.

    Kahil Gibran’s ‘On Children’ exhorts parents to let go of their offspring and to acknowledge their separateness and individuality; Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘To Any Reader’ is also about parental letting go. Forced to let go is Michael Rosen, broken by grief after the death from meningitis of his teenage son.

    Elderly parents and their adult offspring feature in two texts: Elizabeth Jennings’ mother leaves her with pent up tears of frustration, and Alan Bennett is witness to a poignant exchange.

    There are happy parents and children here, too! In a brilliant parody of Larkin, the parents in Adrian Mitchell’s ‘This be the Worst’ ‘tuck you up’ and give endless love and security. And in his ‘Essays’ Montaigne has nothing but praise for his father’s educational methods and his way of waking him up in the morning, both equally painless.

    Anyone who has had children will be aware of the countless books there are on how to bring them up. One of the first, from 1430, was Erasmus’s bestselling ‘On the Education of Children’. This section deals with that perennial parental headache: table manners. Dr Benjamin Spock’s 1946 ‘Baby & Childcare’ begins the programme. With its exhortation to parents to trust their instincts and common sense it, too, became a bestseller (at over forty-five million copies, and still counting). Many of you, I suspect, will have experienced it in one way or the other!

    I have chosen music which seems to fit the feeling of the texts, rather than for any more overt significance to the programme’s theme. (Although as father to twenty children, Bach surely merits inclusion on that score alone and Jonathan Harvey’s great electroacoustic ‘mortuos plango, vivos voco’ features the recorded voice of his son, Dominic.)

    David Papp (producer)


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