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The Sticking Place

Texts and music about risk and failure, with readings by Sylvestra Le Touzel and Peter Marinker. Including Beckett, Tennyson and Larkin, plus Janacek, Delius, Gurney and Stravinsky.

The Sticking Place: words and music exploring risk and failure; with poems by Emily Dickinson, Anne Sexton and TS Eliot.

When Macbeth says to Lady Macbeth, "If we should fail", she responds "We fail! But screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail."

This edition is about daring to take the plunge, doing and building the impossible, Icarus's flight, Byron's swim, the Tower of Babel, the fear of failure and the loss of it all. Poems by Samuel Beckett, Tennyson and Philip Larkin are read by Sylvestra Le Touzel and Peter Marinker. Music includes work by Leos Janacek, Frederick Delius, Ivor Gurney and Igor Stravinsky.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 7 Aug 2016 18:15

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Benjamin Britten

    6 Metamorphoses after Ovid for oboe solo, no 2 Phaeton

    Performer: Roy Carter.
    • EMI Classics 21752629.
    • Tr12.
  • William Shakespeare

    from Macbeth, read by Sylvestra Le Touzel and Peter Marinker

  • Christopher Logue

    Come to Edge, reader Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:01

    Eric Whitacre

    Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine for Chorus

    Performer: Whitacre Singer, Laudibus, cond. Eric Whitacre.
    • DECCA 3209.
    • Tr9.
  • Anne Sexton

    To A Friend Who Has Come To Triumph, read by Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:11

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen, from Die Zauberlflöte

    Performer: Rita Streich.
    • Deutsche Grammophon 4357412.
    • Tr6.
  • 00:14

    Igor Stravinsky

    The Firebird Suite, The Firebird and her Dance

    Performer: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, cond Paavo Järvi.
    • TELARC CD80587.
    • Tr7.
  • 00:15

    Igor Stravinsky

    The Firebird Suite, Round of the Princesses Khorovod

    Performer: Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, cond Paavo Järvi.
    • TELARC CD80587.
    • Tr8.
  • William Carlos Williams

    Danse Russe, read by Peter Marinker

  • 00:16

    John Adams

    John's Book of Alleged Dances, Judah to Ocean

    Performer: Kronos Quartet.
    • NONESUCH 755794652.
    • Tr1.
  • George Herbert

    Love Bade Me Welcome, read by Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:19

    Orlando Gough


    Performer: The Shout.
    • B00E8W5MEA.
    • Tr9.
  • 00:23

    Laura Marling

    Crawled Out Of The Sea (Interlude)

    Performer: Laura Marling.
    • Virgin/EMI.
    • Tr7.
  • 00:24

    Franz Liszt

    Ballade No 2

    Performer: Leslie Howard.
    • HYPERION CDA67034.
    • Tr12.
  • Lord Byron

    Written After Swimming from Sestos to Abydos, read by Peter Marinker

  • Emily Dickinson

    The Spider Holds a Silver Ball read by Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:28

    Richard Strauss

    Don Quixote, Variation V

    Performer: cello, Mstislav Rostropovich; viola, Ulrixh Koch; Berliner Philharmoniker; cond Herbert von Karajan.
    • EMI CDC7493082.
    • Tr7.
  • George Orwell

    From Homage to Catalonia, Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, read by Peter Marinker

  • 00:33

    Florain Fricke

    Wehe Khorazin, from Soundtrack to Fitzcarraldo

    Performer: Popul Vuh.
    • High Tide ?– TIDE 9112-2.
    • Tr1.
  • Book of Genesis

    Tower of Babel; from Genesis 11 (King James Version), read by Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:37

    Terje Isungset


    Performer: Terje Isungset.
    • All Ice 0601.
    • Tr4.
  • 00:39

    Knudåge Riisager

    Kærlinghedsdans from Månerenen (Moon Reindeer)

    Performer: Aarhus Symohiny Orchestra, cond Bo Holten.
    • DACAPO 8226022.
    • Tr14.
  • SA Andree (trans John Lowe)

    Extract from the Andree Diaries, read by Peter MArinker

  • Philip Larkin

    To Failure, read by Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 00:44

    John Dowland

    Lachrimae, "Seaven Teares": II. Lachrimae Antiquae Nouae

    Performer: Jakob Lindberg.
    • BIS-CD-315.
    • Tr2.
  • TS Eliot

    extract from The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock, read by Peter Marinker

  • 00:50

    Frederick Delius

    Pale amber sunlight falls, from Songs of Sunset

    Performer: Bournemouth Symphony Chorus, cond Richar Hickox.
    • CHANDOS CHAN2914.
    • Tr9.
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    from Ulysses, read by Peter Marinker

  • 00:55

    Ivor Gurney


    Performer: Tenor Paul Agnew, piano Julius Drake.
    • HYPERION CDA67243.
    • Tr18.
  • John Clare

    Written in Northampton County Asylum, read by Sylvestra Le Touzel

  • 01:00

    Leos Janáček

    from On an overgrown path, no 6 Nelze Domlubit (Words Fail)

    Performer: Charles Owen.
    • SOMMCD 028.
    • Tr8.
  • Samuel Beckett

    What is the Word, for Joe Chaikin, read by Peter Marinker

  • 01:03

    Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

    Symphony no. 3 (Op.36) "Symphony of sorrowful songs" for soprano and orchestra, 2nd movement

    Performer: Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, cond Donald Runnicles.
    • Telarc 80699.
    • Tr1.

Producer’s Note: The Sticking Place

This edition of Words and Music takes us to the edge and asks us to jump off:  it’s about daring to take risks and flying; the determination to reach impossible heights and defeat crushing odds; to pit human ingenuity, strength and insane determination against nature, God and good sense.


It is also about failure.


We begin with Britten’s piece for Phaeton’s daring and disastrous attempt to drive the chariot of the sun and the unrealised dreams of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines and Anne Sexton’s treatment of the Icarus myth where the boy’s foolish but splendid soaring into the sun is contrasted with his sensible father’s earthly trudge away from the scene.


The dizzying achievement of the almost impossible is celebrated in  Rita Streich’s famous ‘Queen of the Night’s’ aria from Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’ whilst the bold daring of a more domestic kind is conjured by William Carlos Williams naked and marvellous ‘Danse Russe’ placed with John Adams “alleged” dance piece for dances yet to be imagined.


Submitting to the pleasure of the fall, irrespective of the potential smash to earth, is echoed in Orlando Gough’s beautiful, insistent swoon: ‘Falling’ set, here, with George Herbert’s unsuccessful resistance of spiritual Love, alongside Byron’s boastful account of his swimming the Hellespont and Liszt’s account of Leander’s swim for love of Hero that Byron replayed for glory.


Emily Dickinson’s observation of the industry of the spider recalls the story of Robert Bruce’s inspiration to renewed determination after witnessing a spider’s efforts to spin a web across a cave and contrasts with the energetic but deluded efforts of Strauss’ ‘Don Quixote.’


Two grand schemes for buildings, Gaudi’s Barcelona Cathedral La Sagrada Família and the Tower of Babel, here receive less than favourable reviews from the critics George Orwell and God and there’s music from Werner Herzog’s film, ‘Fitzcarraldo’, about an extraordinary project to transport a steamship over a hill to reach a rubber plantation.


Another grand plan gone awry was S A Andree’s doomed attempt to be the first to cross the Arctic in a hydrogen balloon in 1897. Buoyed by the hot air of international publicity and subscriptions, he and his two companions attempted an arctic flight which ended after only 2 days. The balloonists survived for several weeks but their remains, diaries and photographs were discovered more than thirty years later.


And then, failure and the tender beauty of its description and recognition by Philip Larkin, TS Eliot’s Prufrock and John Clare, with a brief rally via Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’, whose purpose holds to sail beyond the sunset.


At the end there is the final unravelling as words themselves fail in Beckett’s ‘What is the Word’ and their power is reasserted in Gorecki’s ‘Symphony of Sorrowful Songs’, inspired by the words of a young woman written on the walls of a Gestapo prison cell in Poland, and a hymn to courage in the face of darkest despair.


Natalie Steed


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