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The Idea of West

A sequence of poetry, prose and music on the idea of west and the West, with readings by Olivia Williams and Sean Arnold.

Olivia Williams and Sean Arnold with poetry, prose and music on the idea of west, and the West - powerful concepts in many cultures.

In English and Irish thought the west is associated with happiness, the 'land of lost content', the Celtic land of eternal youth. The sun sets in the west, and our western edge is a seemingly endless ocean.

But what if we follow the sun? In America the west was certainly still the promised land for several centuries, though today the mythology is (to say the least) questioned.

From Russia and the Middle East, the West - and Western attitudes - look rather different.

And there's another recurring association of the west in Western thought... death. But a fascinatingly positive view of death.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 12 Feb 2012 18:30

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:00

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Let Beauty awake (from Songs of Travel) [excerpt]

    Performer: Roderick Williams (baritone), Iain Burnside (piano)

    • Naxos 8.557643.
  • William Wordsworth

    Stepping Westward, readers Olivia Williams and Sean Arnold

  • 00:01

    Claude Debussy

    Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest (What the West Wind Saw, Preludes, Book 1, no. 7)

    Performer: Krystian Zimerman (piano)

    • DG 435 773-2.
  • John Masefield

    The West Wind, reader Sean Arnold

  • 00:06

    Ivor Gurney

    Far in a Western Brookland (from Ludlow and Teme)

    Performer: Adrian Thompson (tenor), Delme Quartet, Iain Burnside (piano)

    • Helios CDH 55187.
  • Anon (14th c), translated by Bella Millett

    The Land of Cockaygne (excerpt), reader Olivia Williams

  • 00:12

    Manuel de Falla

    Atlantida (excerpt)

    Performer: Spanish National Chorus and Orchestra, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos (conductor)

    • EMI CMS 565997-2.
  • 00:14

    Arnold Bax

    The Garden of Fand (opening)

    Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Adrian Boult (conductor)

    • Lyrita SRCD 231.
  • 00:14

    Arnold Bax

    The Garden of Fand (central sections)

    Performer: Halle Orchestra, John Barbirolli (conductor)

    • PRT PVCD 8380.
  • W B Yeats

    The Shadowy Waters (excerpt), readers Olivia Williams and Sean Arnold

  • W B Yeats

    The Wanderings of Oisin (excerpt), reader Olivia Williams

  • Louis MacNeice

    Christopher Columbus (excerpt), reader Sean Arnold

  • 00:26

    William Walton, arr. Carl Davis and Patrick Garland

    Christopher Columbus – A Musical Journey (excerpt)

    Performer: Jamie Glover and Julian Glover (speakers) Performer: BBC National Chorus and Orchestra of Wales Performer: Richard Hickox (conductor)

    • Chandos CHSA 5034.
  • Bishop George Berkeley

    Verses on the Prospect of Planting Art and Learning in America, reader Olivia Williams

  • 00:32

    Leonard Bernstein

    America (excerpt, from West Side Story)

    Performer: Orchestra and Chorus, Leonard Bernstein (conductor)

    • DG 415 253-2.
  • Various

    American slogans and epithets, readers Sean Arnold, Olivia Williams and others

  • 00:33

    Village People

    Go West (excerpt)

    Performer: Village People

    • Arista 74321178312.
  • Arthur Chapman

    Out Where The West Begins, reader Sean Arnold

  • 00:35

    Aaron Copland

    The Tender Land – Suite (excerpt)

    Performer: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Aaron Copland (conductor)

    • RCA 09026615052.
  • 00:36

    Traditional American

    Home on the Range (excerpt)

    Performer: The Ranch Boys

    • Panachord 26038 [78 rpm].
  • 00:37

    Aaron Copland

    Rodeo (excerpt from complete ballet)

    Performer: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, David Zinman (conductor)

    • Argo 440 639-2.
  • Amy Clampitt

    The Prairie, reader Olivia Williams. (Excerpt from 'Westward', available in 'The Collected Poems of Amy Clampitt', permission granted by The Estate of Amy Clampitt)

  • 00:40

    Aaron Copland

    Gun Battle, from Billy the Kid (excerpt, from ballet suite)

    Performer: New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (conductor)

    • Sony Classical SMK 63082.
  • 00:40

    Traditional American

    Home on the Range (excerpt)

    Performer: Ken Maynard

    • Yazoo 2023.
  • Chief Joseph

    excerpt from an interview in Washington (DC), 1879, reader Sean Arnold

  • 00:43

    MDFMK

    MDFMK - American Dream

    Performer: Mdfmk

  • Jalal Al-e Ahmad, translated from Farsi by John Green and Ahmad Alizadeh

    Gharbzadegi (Westoxification, excerpt), reader Olivia Williams

  • 00:46

    Le Trio Joubran

    Asfâr (Journeys, excerpt)

    Performer: Trio Joubran

    • World Village WVF 479055.
  • Mozaffar al-Nawwab, translated from Arabic by Carol Bardenstein and Saadi A. Simawe

    Bridge of Old Wonders (excerpt), reader Sean Arnold

  • 00:50

    Dmitry Shostakovich

    Dance of the Golden Youths (excerpt, from complete ballet The Golden Age)

    Performer: Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Gennady Rozhdestvensky (conductor)

    • Chandos CHAN 9251/2.
  • Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    excerpt from a speech given at Harvard, 8 June 1978, reader Sean Arnold

  • 00:53

    Sergey Rachmaninov

    Symphonic Dances (excerpt from no. 3)

    Performer: Philharmonia, Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

    • Chandos CHAN 9081.
  • A E Housman

    New Year’s Eve, reader Olivia Williams

  • 00:58

    Manuel de Falla

    Atlantida (excerpt)

    Performer: Spanish National Chorus and Orchestra, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos (conductor)

    • EMI CMS 565997-2.
  • J R R Tolkien

    The Return of the King (excerpt), reader Olivia Williams

  • 01:01

    Arnold Bax

    The Garden of Fand (conclusion)

    Performer: Halle Orchestra, John Barbirolli (conductor)

    • PRT PVCD 8380.
  • W E Henley

    Margaritae Sorori (To [in memory of] his Sister Margaret), reader Sean Arnold

  • 01:06

    Richard Strauss

    Im Abendrot (from Four Last Songs)

    Performer: Felicity Lott (soprano), Scottish National Orchestra, Neeme Jarvi (conductor)

    • Chandos CHAN 8518.
  • Emily Dickinson

    ‘On this wondrous sea...’, reader Olivia Williams

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