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.
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
Italo Calvino trans. William Weaver
Invisible Cities, reader Indira Varma
Arcadia, reader Robert Glenister
Vitruvius trans. Morris Hicky Morgan
The Ten Books of Architecture, reader Indira Varma
Henry David Thoreau
House-Warming (from Walden)
Sir Walter Scott
Melrose Abbey (from The Lay of the Last Minstrel), reader Indira Varma
Church Going, reader Robert Glenister
Learning from Las Vegas, reader Indira Varma
High-Rise, reader Indira Varma
Paradise Lost, reader Robert Glenister
The Lamp of Sacrifice (from The Seven Lamps of Architecture), reader Indira Varma
Rome: Building a New Street in the Ancient Quarter, reader Indira Varma
William Carlos Williams
Classic Scene, reader Robert Glenister
Oliver Twist, reader Indira Varma
The Pylons, reader Robert Glenister
Percy Bysshe Shelley
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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