Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Let's Write a List

Texts and music on the theme of list-making, including Shakespeare, Melville and Martin Amis read by Jon Strickland and Emma Powell, plus Mozart, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Let's write a list. From the week's shopping to the Ten Commandments, from the pop charts to people of the year, life is full of lists. This exploration of our obsession with list-making includes Mozart's Don Giovanni's conquests, Maria's Favourite Things from the Sound of Music, Polonius's advice to Laertes, Bridget Jones's New Year Resolutions and Herman Melville's catalogue of whales. Readings by Jon Strickland and Emma Powell.

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

New Year's Day 2019 16:30

Music Played

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

  • Mozart

    Don Giovanni: Act 1, no.4; “Madamina, il catalogo e questo” (Catalogue Aria)

    Performer: Bryn Terfel. Orchestra: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
    • Deutsche Grammophon 4779195.
    • CD53 TR.3.
  • William Shakespeare

    Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes (from Hamlet) read by Jon Strickland

  • 00:00

    Richard Rodgers

    My Favorite Things (from Sound of Music)

    Performer: Julie Andrews (vocalist).
    • RCA BND90368.
    • tr.7.
  • Helen Fielding

    Bridget’s New Year Resolutions (from Bridget Jones’ Diary) read by Emma Powell

  • 00:00

    Paul Simon

    Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover

    Performer: Paul Simon.
    • Columbia 3-10270.
    • tr.1.
  • 00:00

    James P. Johnson

    The Charleston

    Performer: Pasadena Roof Orchestra.
    • Metronome 8256492.
    • tr.12.
  • 00:00

    James P. Johnson

    The Charleston

    Performer: Paul Whiteman & His Orchestra.
    • ASV CDAJA5342.
    • tr.1.
  • F Scott Fitzgerald

    Gatsby’s guests (from The GreatGatsby) read by Jon Strickland

  • 00:00


    Everything is hotsy-totsy now

    Performer: Coon-Sanders' Nighthawks.
    • ASV CDAJA5199.
    • tr.6.
  • Mrs. Beeton

    Choosing a house (from Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management) read by Emma Powell

  • 00:00

    William Boyce

    Symphony no.1 in B flat major, 3rd movement

    Performer: The English Concert.
    • Archiv 4196312.
    • tr.3.
  • Laurence Sterne

    Choosing Tristram’s Breeches (from Tristram Shandy) read by Jon Strickland

  • 00:00

    William Boyce

    Symphony no.1 in B flat major, 1st movement

    Performer: The English Concert.
    • Archiv 4196312.
    • tr.1.
  • Christopher Smart

    “For I will consider my cat Jeoffry” read by Emma Powell

  • Domenico Scarlatti

    Sonata in G minor, ‘Cat’s Fugue’

    Performer: Scott Ross.
    • Erato.
    • ECD75401.
    • TR 11.
  • 00:00

    George Crumb

    Vox Balaenae

    Performer: International Contemporary Ensemble.
    • Bridge 9261.
    • tr.13-20.
  • Hermann Melville

    Species of Whales (from Moby-Dick) read by Jon Strickland

  • 00:00

    William Walton

    Popular Song (from Façade)

    Performer: English Northern Sinfonia conducted by David Lloyd-Jones.
    • Helios CDH55099.
    • tr.14.
  • Lewis Carroll

    the mock-turtle and the gryphon (from Alice in Wonderland) read by Emma Powell

  • 00:00

    Arthur Sullivan

    I’ve got a little list (from The Mikado)

    Performer: Eric Idle (vocal) with the English National Opera Orchestra.
    • That’s Entertainmment CDTER1121.
    • tr.6.
  • Charles Dickens

    Fog in London (from Bleak House) read by Jon Strickland

  • 00:00

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    Symphony No.2 (London): Scherzo/Nocturne

    Performer: Halle Orchestra conducted by Mark Elder.
    • Halle CD HLL7529.
    • tr.3.
  • William Shakespeare

    Witches recipe (from Macbeth) read by Emma Powell

  • 00:01

    Charles Ives

    Central Park in the dark

    Performer: Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa.
    • Deutsche Grammophon 4232432.
    • tr.8.
  • Tim O’Brien

    list of things the infantry carried (from The Things They Carried) read by Jon Strickland

  • 00:01

    Michael Nyman

    Bird List Song

    Performer: Lucie Skeaping (vocal) with Michael Nyman Band.
    • Piano.
  • Charles Dickens

    Miss Flite’s Birds (from Bleak House) read by Emma Powell

  • 00:01

    Philip Glass

    Knee Play no.5 (from Einstein on the Beach)

    Performer: Philip Glass Ensemble.
    • Nonesuch 7559-79435-9.
    • tr.20.
  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning

    How do I love thee? (poem) read by Emma Powell

  • 00:01

    Ian Dury and Chas Jankel

    Reasons to be cheerful part 3

    Performer: Ian Dury & The Blockheads.
    • Stiff Records STIFD 107.
    • tr.1.

Producer's Note: Let's Write A List

Producer’s Note:  Let’s Make A List<?xml:namespace prefix = "o" ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Lists are a functional part of our lives, from the shopping list to the holiday packing, but they also appear in more exalted form in songs, poetry and prose in many contexts.

This programme weaves a whimsical path through lists from the mundane to the sinister, the sublime to the ridiculous. Christopher Smart’s poem about his cat, Jeoffry is a list of his pet’s many delightful characteristics; the ingredients of the witches’ brew in Macbeth on the other hand is a macabre mix of body parts. Love has a way of inspiring us to list-making – Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s exquisite poem “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” is contrasted with Ian Dury’s knockabout hymn to enjoying modern life - Reasons To Be Cheerful.

Gilbert and Sullivan created a comic villain in Koko, the Lord High Executioner in the Mikado, whose song I’ve got a Little List comes up with reasons for doing away with pretty well anybody who has ever slightly annoyed him.

From two great Victorian novels, come more lists; the opening of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House builds an oppressive sense of foreboding by listing the many ways that fog insinuates itself into every corner of London; and from the same book, eccentric Miss Flite lists her extraordinary collection of names for her caged birds.  From across the Atlantic, Herman Melville catalogues and compares the various species of great whales, in Moby-Dick. Two 20th century American authors are featured: F Scott Fitzgerald’s description of the motley assortment of guests who attended Gatsby’s parties in The Great Gatsby has a melancholy absurdity in its deadpan adumbration of dodgy characters and sticky ends; while Tim O’Brien’s description of the many things that US infantrymen carried on their persons in the Vietnam war starkly conveys the sheer physical hardship of going to war.     

On a lighter note, Bridget Jones confides to her diary all her many New Year’s Resolutions; Paul Simon sings about just some of the Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover; and from Alice in Wonderland, the Mock-Turtle describes all the classes he took at his under-sea school (from Reeling and Writhing to Fainting in Coils).

Producer:  Philip Tagney


Featured in...

Books website

Books website

Get closer to books with in-depth articles, quizzes and our picks from radio & TV.