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Texts and music on the theme of architecture, with readings by Indira Varma and Robert Glenister. Includes Ballard, Hardy and Larkin, plus Dufay, Gabrieli and Varese.

Indira Varma and Robert Glenister read poetry and prose on the subject of architecture and the built environment, from the earliest known treatise by Vitruvius to J.G. Ballard's dystopian vision of the modern high-rise. Other texts include poems by Thomas Hardy, Philip Larkin and Stephen Spender, critical writing by John Ruskin and Robert Venturi, and a passage from Milton's Paradise Lost. With music from Dufay, Stravinsky, Gabrieli, Varese, Debussy, Widor and Mussorgsky.

1 hour

Last on

Sun 4 Sep 2016 18:00

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Guillaume Dufay

    Nuper rosarum flores

    Performer: Pomerium Performer: Alexander Blachly

    • Archiv 447 773-2.
  • Italo Calvino trans. William Weaver

    Invisible Cities, reader Indira Varma

  • 00:02

    Pierre Henry

    Messe de Liverpool, movement 6: Communion

    Performer: Jacques Spacagna Performer: Pierre Henry (electronics)

    • Philips 464 402-2.
  • Jim Crace

    Arcadia, reader Robert Glenister

  • 00:04

    Leos Janáček

    Sinfonietta, movement 1

    Performer: Vienna Philharmonia Performer: Charles Mackerras (conductor)

    • DECCA 448 266-2.
  • Vitruvius trans. Morris Hicky Morgan

    The Ten Books of Architecture, reader Indira Varma

  • 00:08

    Igor Stravinsky

    Dumbarton Oaks

    Performer: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

    • DG 419 628-2.
    • 1.
  • Henry David Thoreau

    House-Warming (from Walden)

  • 00:15

    Claude Debussy

    Prelude, Book 1 No.10: La cathedrale engloutie

    Performer: Nelson Freire (piano)

    • DECCA 478 1111.
  • Sir Walter Scott

    Melrose Abbey (from The Lay of the Last Minstrel), reader Indira Varma

  • Philip Larkin

    Church Going, reader Robert Glenister

  • 00:22

    Arvo Pärt


    Performer: The 12 Cellists of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra

    • ECM 817 764-2.
  • 00:25

    Paul Lansky

    Night Traffic

    Performer: Paul Lansky (electronics)

    • Bridge BCD 9035.
  • Robert Venturi

    Learning from Las Vegas, reader Indira Varma

  • 00:27

    Bobby Troup

    Route 66

    Performer: Nat King Cole (piano and bandleader) Performer: Harry Sweets Edison (trumpet soloist)

    • Capital CDP 748 328-2.
  • 00:30

    György Ligeti

    Etude for organ No.1

    Performer: Zsigmond Szathmary (organ)

    • Wergo WER 60161-50.
  • J.G.Ballard

    High-Rise, reader Indira Varma

  • John Milton

    Paradise Lost, reader Robert Glenister

  • 00:37

    Charles‐Marie Widor

    Symphonie Gothique, movement 3

    Performer: Marie-Claire Alain (organ)

    • ERATO ECD88111.
  • John Ruskin

    The Lamp of Sacrifice (from The Seven Lamps of Architecture), reader Indira Varma

  • 00:42

    Giovanni Gabrieli

    Canzon Duodecimi Toni

    Performer: The Wallace Collection Performer: Simon Wright (conductor)

    • Nimbus NI5236.
  • Thomas Hardy

    Rome: Building a New Street in the Ancient Quarter, reader Indira Varma

  • 00:46

    Morton Feldman

    Rothko Chapel, movement 2

    Performer: The California Ear Unit Performer: Philip Brett (conductor)

    • New Albion NA039CD.
  • William Carlos Williams

    Classic Scene, reader Robert Glenister

  • 00:47

    Modest Mussorgsky

    Il vecchio castello from Pictures at an Exhibition

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Performer: Herbert von Karajan (conductor)

    • DG 423 901-2.
  • Charles Dickens

    Oliver Twist, reader Indira Varma

  • Stephen Spender

    The Pylons, reader Robert Glenister

  • 00:53

    Edgard Varèse


    Performer: ASKO Ensemble Performer: Riccardo Chailly (conductor)

    • DECCA 475 487-2.
  • 00:57

    Pierre Henry

    Messe de Liverpool, movement 6: Communion

    Performer: Jacques Spacagna Performer: Pierre Henry (electronics)

    • Philips 464 402-2.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley


Producer's Note

Much of the work included in this programme has links to the gothic cathedrals of Europe: that of Rouen, whose decorative features John Ruskin writes about in The Seven Lamps of Architecture; Brunelleschi's dome in Florence for which Dufay composed his motet Nuper rosarum flores; and St Mark's in Venice, whose opposing choir lofts enabled Gabrieli to explore spatial effects and antiphony in his music. 

There's also Sir Walter Scott's romantic vision of Melrose Abbey, and Debussy's depiction of the mythical submerged cathedral of Ys in La cathédrale engloutie.  But it's not just ecclesiastical architecture that has provided the inspiration here; we have texts about municipal facilities, chimneys, and car parks.  Vitruvius expounds the virtues of public building and calls for durability, convenience, and beauty.

We have the utopian fusion of city and countryside in Jim Crace's Arcadia, the grim apartment block dystopia of J.G. Ballard's High-Rise, as well as a vision of Hell itself in the building of Pandemonium from Milton's Paradise Lost. We're given three views of industrial architecture: William Carlos Williams’s Classic Scene, based on painting by Charles Sheeler; the "smoked-stained storehouses" of the Thames in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist; and Stephen Spender's poem The Pylons, a response to the changing British landscape of the 1930s and whose mood is reflected in the coruscating percussion of Varese's Hyperprism.

What do we desire of architecture?  This is a question posed by Italo Calvino as an explorer describes to an ageing emperor a mysterious metal building in the fantastical city of Fedora in his novel Invisible Cities; accompanying this passage, and the tale of fallen empire in Shelley's Ozymandias, is Pierre Henry's Messe de Liverpool, musique concrète created for the 1967 consecration of that city's futuristic Metropolitan Cathedral.



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