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Gerald Finzi

Sunday 9 October 2005 17:45-18:30 (Radio 3)

On the publication of the latest biography of composer Gerald Finzi, Tom Service visits Church Farm, the house that Finzi built in Hampshire where he wrote some of his best known music. We also look at the soundworld of experimental composer Alvin Lucier, and talk to Evan Eisenberg about the update to his seminal work, The Recording Angel , looking at how recording has changed the way we listen to music.


45 minutes

In this programme

The Recording Angel
Mixing Desk
Recording transformed music in the twentieth century. Music was no longer something temporal, but a tangible, repeatable object. LPs, CDs and now iPods, have all changed the listener's perception of music and how it can be consumed. The process of change is ongoing. In the light of this, Evan Eisenberg has now revised and re-published his seminal work on the subject: The Recording Angel. To get a sense of the massive change brought about through recording, the pianists Glenn Gould and Dame Myra Hess, along with the conductors Leopold Stokowski and Herbert von Karajan explain their own views on the phenomenon, and Eisenberg talks with Tom about his philosophy on recording.

Evan Eisenberg: The Recording Angel. Pub. Yale University Press, £12.50 (paperback).

Doctor Atomic
Doctor Atomic
Earlier this month, a long-awaited new opera premiered at San Francisco Opera. John Adams's Dr Atomic , with a libretto by Peter Sellars, tells the story of the detonation of the first nuclear bomb in the deserts of New Mexico in 1945. A contemporary morality play, the opera dramatises the scientific seduction and terror of technology gone wrong. The subject matter makes a fascinating story, but the question remains: does it work as an opera? San Francisco Chronicle critic, Joshua Kosman attended the premiere and shares his reaction with Tom.

Gerald Finzi
Gerald Finzi with his children
The English composer Gerald Finzi found his personal idyll in 1939 when he built his own house in Ashmansworth, just south of Newbury. He and his wife Joy Finzi , brought up their two sons at Church Farm in a charming rural paradise. The home was also a perfect setting for Finzi to indulge his passion for apple-growing, and to compose many of his best-known works. Tom went to the farm to meet up with Diana McVeagh, the author of a new Finzi biography, and Finzi's son, Kiffer, who still lives in the house. Finzi's story turns out to be one of a music which fuses creativity with landscape.

Diana McVeagh: Gerald Finzi. Pub. Boydell Press, £25 (hardback).

Alvin Lucier
Alvin Lucier
There are many ways to find inspiration for, and methods of, composition, but the American composer Alvin Lucier may use some of the more unusual. In his piece Music for Solo Performer, he created the work by strapping electrodes, sensors, and amplifiers to his head and recording the effects of his cerebral electricity. He has also made music from the sounds of the earth's ionosphere and from long pieces of wire. His experimentalism has continued into his 70s. Tom talks to Lucier about his curious realm of otherworldly sounds.

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