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The Descent of Language

The Clerks led by Edward Wickham discover the links between music and language in a newly commissioned musical sequence, and Sarah Walker talks to Ian Cross and Edward Wickham.

According to Darwin, the origins of verbal communication lay in a musical 'protolanguage', in which speech and song were one. The Descent of Language is a playful exploration of this ancestry, and the unexpected ways it is revealed in everyday experience. Performed live in Wellcome Collection's Reading Room by vocal ensemble The Clerks, and including audience participation, the programme features new works by Christopher Fox and Edward Wickham alongside music and sounds both exotic and commonplace; a sequence embracing madrigals and 'motherese', football chants and fa-la-las, in a unique celebration of that intrinsically human instinct - to sing. Presented by Sarah Walker, with contributions from evolutionary expert Ian Cross and Edward Wickham.

1 hour, 30 minutes

Last on

Sun 27 Sep 2015 17:00

Music Played

  • William Mundy

    Alleluia

    Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
  • Christopher Fox

    Source Material (1): Origins (d'apres Rousseau)

    Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
  • Mother-ese and mourning: Lullabies and Laments pt. 1

    • Trad.

      Lullay - I saw a swete semly syght for voices

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • Stevie Wishart

      Lullaby for Freya (Gaelic lullaby)

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: St Catherine's Girls' Choir.
    • Traditional Albanian

      Kenge vaji (Albanian lament)

      Performer: Unknown women's group from southern Albania.
      • SAYDISC.
      • CD-SDL-421.
  • Mother-ese and mourning: Lullabies and Laments pt. 2

    • Trad.

      Coventry carol (Lullay, lulla, thou little tiny child)

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • Chorus of Ululation (montage of various sources)

    • GREGORIAN CHANT

      Plange quasi virgo

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • Chorus of Ululation (montage of various sources)

    • Giaches de Wert

      Vox in Rama

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • Traditional Solomon Islands

      Lament

      Performer: The 'Are'are People Of Malaita.
    • Eustache du Caurroy

      Pie Jesu

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
  • Christopher Fox

    Source Material (2): The Descent of Language

    Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
  • Alleluia - An Anthology of Communal Song

    • Chant Alleluia

      Jubilate omnis terra

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • Jeremiah Ingalls

      How long, dear Saviour?

      Performer: Unknown.
      • ROUNDER RECORDS.
      • CD170-9.
    • Unknown

      How'd ya earn your livin'

      Performer: Unknown.
      • DOCUMENTARY RECORDINGS.
      • No 485CD.
    • Trad.

      Oh When the Saints

      Performer: Southampton Football Club Fans.
      • FANCHANTS.com Ltd.
      • 2006.
    • Anon.

      Alleluia: A newe werke

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • UNKNOWN

      Bayaka vocalisation

      Performer: Unknown (Bayakan field recording).
    • Trad.

      Sumer is icumen in

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
  • Hubert Parry

    Jerusalem, orch. Elgar for chorus and orchestra

    Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: THE AUDIENCE.
  • Fa-La-La - An Anthology of Songs about Singing

    • Thomas Tomkins

      Too much I once lamented for 5 voices [1622]

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • The Beatles

      Hey Jude

      • PARLOPHONE.
      • CDP-790044-2.
    • Luciano Berio

      Sequenza 3 for female voice

      Performer: Tony Arnold.
      • NAXOS.
      • 8.557661-63.
    • Henry Purcell

      Now that the sun hath veiled his light Z.193 (An Evening hymn on a ground) for voice and continuo

      Performer: Anthony Rooley. Performer: Christopher Hogwood. Performer: Emma Kirkby.
      • DECCA.
      • 476-7467.
    • Luciano Berio

      Sequenza 3 for female voice

      Performer: Tony Arnold.
      • NAXOS.
      • 8.557661-63.
    • Johannes Ockeghem

      ad te clamamus/O clemens

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • Trad.

      She'll Be Coming 'Round The Mountain

      Performer: Cambridge Singing School.
    • Luciano Berio

      Sequenza 3 for female voice

      Performer: Tony Arnold.
      • NAXOS.
      • 8.557661-63.
    • Traditional Bulgarian

      Mor'f Elenku

      Performer: The London Bulgarian Choir.
      • London Bulgarian Choir.
      • N/A.
    • Traditional Hungarian

      Ideki e csenderbe (Hungarian Dancing Song)

      Performer: N├ępzenei Kamaram?hely.
    • Luciano Berio

      Sequenza 3 for female voice

      Performer: Tony Arnold.
      • NAXOS.
      • 8.557661-63.
    • Thomas Morley

      Sing wee and chaunt it (A lieta vita) for 5 voices [1595a]

      Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • The Beatles

      Hey Jude

      • PARLOPHONE.
      • CDP-790044-2.
  • Christopher Fox

    20 Ways to Improve Your Life

    Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.
    • SIGNUM.
    • SIGCD174.
  • Christopher Fox

    Source Material (3): The Ascent of Song

    Performer: Edward Wickham. Performer: The Clerks.

Broadcast