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The Worst Form of Government

Poetry and music on the theme of democracy with readings by Lisa Dillon and Ray Fearon.

This week's Words and Music explores the theme of democracy. Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. Winston Churchill's now famous quote underpins today's edition. Democracy is hailed as a force for good - promoting freedom, equality and self-governance - but has been used and misused for personal gain and political oppression. Nelson Mandela describes his astonishment in his memoir Long Walk to Freedom, on meeting Inuits from Northern Europe, that people from 'the top of the world' should have any knowledge of his political struggle at the southern tip of Africa. Television, he writes, had become a force for promoting democracy.

Throughout the programme, we hear the voices of colonised and marginalised peoples as they struggle for their right to be heard, their right to vote, and their right to live a free life.

With music from Copland & Shostakovich to Somalian poet and rapper K'naan, and readings performed by Lisa Dillon and Ray Fearon.

Producer: Gavin Heard

Aeschines: Democracy
Langston Hughes: Democracy
Emma Lazarus: The New Colossus
Walt Whitman: Election Day November 1884
Dorianne Laux: Democracy
John Adams: Letter
Arthur Rimbaud: Democracy
Nelson Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Mahmoud Darwish: The Girl/The Scream
William Shakespeare: Caesar
George Szirtes: Unter den Linden
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: Songs for the People

1 hour, 15 minutes

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Francis Poulenc

    Dialogues Des Carmélites - Salve Regina

    Orchestra: Orchestre de l’Opéra de Lyon. Choir: Choeur de l'Opéra de Lyon. Conductor: Kent Nagano.
    • Virgin Classics VCD 7592272.
    • CD2 Tr29.
  • Aeschines

    Democracy from 'Against Timarchus', read by Lisa Dillon

  • Langston Hughes

    Democracy, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:08

    Tan Dun

    Symphony 1997: Heaven, Earth, Mankind - 1 Song Of Peace (Prelude)

    Performer: Yo‐Yo Ma. Choir: Yip’s Children’s Choir. Ensemble: Imperial Bells Ensemble of China. Orchestra: Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Tan Dun.
    • Sony Classical SK 63368.
    • Tr1.
  • Emma Lazarus

    The New Colossus, read by Lisa Dillon

  • 00:13

    Manu Chao

    Politik Kills

    Performer: Manu Chao.
    • Because Music BEC5772125.
    • Tr3.
  • Walt Whitman

    Election Day November 1884, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:17

    Edward Elgar

    Pomp and Circumstance Op.39 - March No.3 in C Minor

    Orchestra: Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Conductor: Alexander Gibson.
    • Chandos CHAN8429.
    • Tr3.
  • 00:23

    John Denver

    Bread And Roses

    Performer: Judy Collins.
    • Elektra Entertainment Group - 62104-2.
    • CD1 Tr8.
  • Dorianne Laux

    Democracy, read by Lisa Dillon

  • 00:29

    Frederic Rzewski

    The People United Will Never be Defeated

    Performer: Ralph van Raat (piano).
    • Naxos 8.559360.
    • Tr1.
  • John Adams

    Letter to John Taylor, 17 December 1814, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:34

    François-Joseph Gossec

    Marche lugubre

    Orchestra: Orchestre d'Harmonie des Gardiens de la Paix de la Préfecture de Police de Paris. Conductor: Claude Pichaureau.
    • Musifrance 2292-45006-2.
    • Tr2.
  • Arthur Rimbaud

    Democracy, read by Lisa Dillon

  • Nelson Mandela

    Long Walk to Freedom, read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:41

    Aynur Do?an ?


    Performer: Aynur Do?an ?.
    • Arista 88697685902.
    • Tr3.
  • Mahmoud Darwish - Translation: C Forche & M Akash

    The Girl/The Scream, read by Lisa Dillon

  • 00:47

    Dmitry Shostakovich

    Quartet No.8 - Largo

    Performer: Kronos Quartet.
    • Nonesuch 7559-79242-2.
    • Tr7.
  • William Shakespeare

    Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II [Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears], read by Ray Fearon

  • 00:55

    Youssou Ndour

    Xale/Our Young People

    Performer: Youssou Ndour.
    • Real World Records CD RW 97.
    • Tr5.
  • 00:59

    Benjamin Britten

    Five Flower Songs, Op. 47 - Advance Democracy

    Choir: Lichfield Cathedral Choir. Choir: The Finzi Singers. Conductor: Paul Spicer.
    • CHANDOS 9701.
    • Tr6.
  • 01:02

    Aaron Copland

    Lincoln Portrait

    Performer: London Symphony Orchestra, Wyn Morris (Conductor).
    • EMI Classics 7 54539 2.
    • Tr7.
  • George Szirtes, New & Collected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2008)

    Unter den Linden, read by Ray Fearon

  • 01:04

    Edward Elgar

    Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36 "Enigma": Variation 9, Nimrod

    Orchestra: London Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Adrian Boult.
    • EMI Classics CDC 7 54539 2.
    • Tr3.
  • Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

    Songs for the People, read by Lisa Dillon

  • 01:09


    Wavin' Flag

    Performer: K’naan.
    • Octone Records B0012479-02.
    • Tr7.


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