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In Hirsuite of the Truth

A sequence of poetry, prose and music on the theme of that object of commerce and symbol of virility - hair.

In hirsute of the truth: hair can be a weapon with which to strangle your lover or a net in which to catch your crumbs. During the Victorian period, hair was a highly charged symbol of virility and an object of commerce. Changing hairstyles depict the changing power relationship between women and patriarchy. It has been fetishised, idolised and can be very useful if you're a cellist.

From the stories of Samson and Delilah and Rapunzel we see how hair - for centuries even - was considered a metaphor for virtue or righteousness: an idea especially evinced in the novels of Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot. Deryn Rees-Jones's haunting poem 'My Father's Hair' describes how her father's identity developed during his life and how, at his life's end, the 'long white wings' come to rest on the pillow of his sick bed.

Evil and violence pursue the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. First told in a Penny Dreadful of the 1840s, the story of Sweeney Todd inspired Stephen Sondheim's Opera of the same name. It follows a long history of compositions which conjure images of death and destruction: from Robert Browning's sinister 'Porphyria's Lover' to Carol Ann Duffy's 'Medusa'.

Producer: Gavin Heard.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Thu 29 Dec 2016 16:30

Music Played

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

  • WB Yeats

    For Ann Gregory, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 00:00

    Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman

    (It's) Hairspray

    Performer: James Marsden

    • DECCA 4759348.
  • 00:02

    Leroy Anderson

    Overture to Goldilocks

    Performer: BBC Concert Orchestra, Leonard Slatkin

    • NAXOS 8559382.
  • Brother Grimm translated by Philip Pullman

    Rapunzel, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • Alexander Pope

    The Rape of the Locke, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 00:09

    Camille Saint‐Saëns

    Samson et Dalila

    Performer: Rita Gorr, Jon Vickers, René Duclos, Orchestre du Théâtre National de l’Opéra de Paris

    • EMI Classics CDM 7639352.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    I never gave a lock of hair away, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:14

    Claude Debussy

    The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

    Performer: Nigel Kennedy, English Chamber Orchestra

    • EMI Classics 5574112.
  • James Tolan

    The Forest of my Hair, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 00:18

    David Crosby

    Almost Cut My Hair

    Performer: Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

    • Atlantic 7567826492.
  • Deryn Rees-Jones

    My Father’s Hair, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:24

    Hilary Hahn & Volker Bertelmann


    Performer: Hilary Hahn, Volker Bertelmann

    • DG 4790303.
  • Anonymous

    The String of Pearls, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 00:29

    Stephen Sondheim

    The Ballad of Sweeney Todd

    Performer: Patti LuPone, Michael Cerveris

    • Nonesuch, 7559799462.
  • Robert Browning

    Porphyria’s Lover, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:32

    Frédéric Chopin

    Waltz No.3 in A minor Op.34 No.2

    Performer: Stephen Kovacevich

    • EMI 5099963166620.
  • 00:35

    Frédéric Chopin

    Waltz No.3 in A minor Op.34 No.2

    Performer: Stephen Kovacevich

    • EMI 5099963166620.
  • 00:37



    Performer: Blondie

    • Chrysalis CDP 3212252.
  • William Shakespeare

    Sonnet 103, Oliver Dimsdale

  • Carol Ann Duffy

    Medusa, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:41

    Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Die Seejungfrau

    Performer: Danish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard

    • Chandos CHAN9601.
  • Algernon Charles Swinburne

    Rondel, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:46

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Sonate F-Durop.5, Nr.1

    Performer: András Schiff, Miklós Perényi

    • ECM New Series 1819/20 472 4012.
  • Richard Lovelace

    Song to Amarantha, that she would Dishevel her Hair, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 00:51

    William Jackson

    Time has not thinn'd my flowing hair

    Performer: Emma Kirkby, Rufus Müller, Timothy Roberts, Frances Kelly

    • Hyperion CDA66497.
  • Carl Sandburg

    Women Washing their Hair, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:53

    Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg Concerto No.6

    Performer: Academy of Ancient Music, Richard Egarr

    • Harmonia Mundi 807461.62.
  • Roald Dahl

    The Twits, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 01:00

    The Tiger Lillies

    Shockheaded Peter

    Performer: The Tiger Lilies

    • NVC Arts/Warner Music.
  • George Eliot

    Middlemarch, Oliver Dimsdale

  • 01:04

    Claude Debussy

    Le Chevelure

    Performer: Véronique Gens, Roger Vignoles

    • Virgin Classics 72.
  • Elizabeth Gaskell

    Ruth, Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 01:08

    Franz Schubert

    Piano Quintet in A major

    Performer: Andras Schiff, Members of the Hagen Quartet

    • DECCA 411 975-2.


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