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Desire Lines

Mark Tully follows the paths we prefer to take instead of the routes laid out for us. Do desire lines represent a desire to break the rules, or an instinct to follow the crowd?

Mark Tully follows the paths we choose to take instead of the official routes laid out for us by others.

Literally, desire lines are paths worn over time through a landscape by people taking the shortest or most desirable route, rather than the one provided for them by planners or designers. They can cut across fields or over busy roads, even between countries. But do they represent a desire to break the bounds of convention, or an instinct to follow the crowd?

Arnold Schoenberg and Franz Schubert take a musical detour from the prescribed channels, while Philip Larkin leads the literary trail off-piste, as Mark considers metaphorical desire lines - behaving, thinking or doing as we want, rather than as custom, etiquette or rules would have had us do.

In the end, desire lines could be seen as evidence of human behaviour triumphing over rigid attempts to control and confine - but might they also be physical reminders of our inherent laziness? Is there not something to be said for taking the long way round?

A Unique Broadcasting Company production for BBC Radio 4.

30 minutes

Last on

Sun 5 Jul 2015 23:30

Music Played

  • Sharon A. Hansen

    Sky-Born Music

    • Sky-Born Music.
    • Clarion.
  • Arnold Schoenberg


    • 5 Piano Pieces.
    • Deutsche Grammophon.
  • Bedrich Smetana


    Orchestra: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra.
    • Smetana: Ma Vlast.
    • Naxos.
  • Pete Seeger

    Little Boxes

    • Greatest Hits.
    • Sony.
  • Karine Polwart

    Better Things

    • This Earthly Spell.
    • Hegri Music.
  • Ian Bostridge & Mitsuko Uchida

    Die Schone Mullerin

    • Die Schone Mullerin.
    • Hyperion.



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Publisher: Hamish Hamilton



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Publisher: Faber & Faber



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