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The Moon

The Moon in all her silvery glory, with writers such as Wordsworth, composers such as Schubert and Schoenberg and the actors Patrick O'Kane and Fenellla Woolgar.

What would Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata sound like if it was played by the Moon? Tune in to this evening's edition of Words and Music and you can hear for yourself, thanks to a piece conceived by the sound artist Katie Paterson. Katie's piece, Earth-Moon-Earth, is part of a programme which celebrates the Moon - whether metaphorical green cheese or cruel, silvery goddess.
The Moon has always dazzled and puzzled us. Composers such as Beethoven, Chopin and Schoenberg and writers such as Larkin, Auden and Emily Dickinson have all fallen under her spell, and tonight's programme, featuring the actors Fenella Woolgar and Patrick O'Kane, is an invitation to succumb once more to her enchantment.

Producer: Zahid Warley

Nocturne - James Attlee
This Lunar Beauty - W.H. Auden
With how sad steps - Sir Philip Sidney
Sad Steps - Philip Larkin
I watched the Moon around the house - Emily Dickinson
Drinking Alone - Li Po (trans Arthur Waley)
The Moon and the Yew Tree - Sylvia Plath
Preface to Frankenstein -Mary Shelley
Strange fits of Passion - William Wordsworth
Autumn - T.E. Hulme
Moon Landing - W.H. Auden
Icaromenippus - Lucian (trans Thomas Francklin)

28 days left to listen

1 hour, 14 minutes

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Franz Schubert

    Ständchen D 957 No. 4

    Performer: Mischa Maisky (Violoncello), Daria Hovora (Piano).
    • Deutsche Grammophon 449 817-2.
    • Tr12.
  • James Attlee

    From 'Nocturne', read by Patrick O’Kane

  • James Attlee

    From 'Nocturne', read by Fenella Woolgar and Patrick O’Kane

  • 00:04

    Frédéric Chopin

    Piano Concerto No.1 In E Minor, Op.11- II: Romanze. Larghetto

    Performer: Martha Argerich (Piano).
    • EMI CDC 5567982.
    • Tr2.
  • W. H. Auden

    This Lunar Beauty, read by Patrick O’Kane

  • 00:15

    Vincenzo Bellini

    Vaga Luna

    Performer: Luciano Pavarotti.
    • Decca 4144542.
    • Tr3.
  • Sir Philip Sidney

    With how sad steps, read by Fenella Woolgar

  • 00:19

    Harry M. Woods

    What a little moonlight can do

    Performer: Billie Holiday.
    • Verve 5198252.
    • Tr1.
  • Philip Larkin

    Sad Steps, read by Patrick O’Kane

  • 00:24

    Antonín Dvořák

    Jednani – Act One - Mesicku na nebi hlubokém (Song of the Moon)

    Performer: Renee Fleming (Soprano), Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Charles Mackerras (Conductor).
    • Decca 4605682.
    • CD1 Tr6.
  • Emily Dickinson

    I watched the Moon around the house, read by Fenella Woolgar

  • 00:32

    Lorenz Hart

    Blue Moon

    Performer: Elvis Presley.
    • RCA 07863677352.
    • Tr13.
  • Li Po, translated by Arthur Waley

    Drinking Alone, read by Patrick O’Kane

  • 00:35

    Arnold Schoenberg

    Pierrot Lunaire Part 1 - Mondestrunken

    Performer: Jane Manning (Soprano), Vesuvius Ensemble.
    • Forum FRC9106.
    • Tr1.
  • Sylvia Plath

    The Moon and the Yew Tree, read by Fenella Woolgar

  • 00:39

    Arnold Schoenberg

    Verklärte Nacht Op. 4 - Pesante

    Performer: Berliner Philharmoniker, Herbert von Karajan (Conductor).
    • Deutsche Grammophon 4153262.
    • Tr3.
  • Mary Shelley

    Preface to Frankenstein, read by Fenella Woolgar

  • 00:44

    Claude Debussy

    Suite Bergamasque – III Clair de Lune

    Performer: Pascal Rogé (Piano).
    • Decca 4177922.
    • Tr3.
  • William Wordsworth

    Strange fits of Passion, read by Fenella Woolgar

  • 00:50

    Felix Mendelssohn

    A Midsummer Night's Dream - Incidental Music Op. 61- No. 7 Nocturne

    Performer: Boston Symphony Orchestra, Seiji Ozawa (Conductor).
    • Deutsche Grammophon 4398972.
    • Tr8.
  • T. E. Hulme

    Autumn, read by Patrick O’Kane

  • 00:56

    Daniel Lanois

    Silver Morning

    Performer: Brian Eno.
    • Virgin ENO CDX 10.
    • Tr8.
  • W. H. Auden

    Moon Landing, read by Patrick O’Kane

  • 01:01

    Karl Suessdorf, John Blackburn

    Moonlight in Vermont

    Performer: Ella Fitzgerald (vocal), Louis Armstrong.
    • Verve 5433042.
    • Tr3.
  • Lucian, translated by Thomas Francklin

    from Icaromenippus, read by Fenella Woolgar

  • 01:07

    The Moon and Katie Paterson

    Earth-Moon-Earth – Beethoven’s Sonata, op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight” reflected from the surface of the moon

    Performer: Automated Piano.
    • not applicable.

Producer's Notes:

Today she’s in a waxing gibbous phase; by Tuesday she’ll be full and refulgent; and about ten days after that she’ll be a waning crescent and hardly visible at all... I’m talking about the Moon, of course. 

The attention we pay to her comes and goes in the same sort of way.  When she’s really close to Earth – as she was at the start of this month - we’re astonished – hypnotised by her orange glamour. Most of the time though she’s no more than an icy chip chinking along in a flood of darkness, taken for granted if not wholly ignored. 

The moon’s mutability is part of her allure and writers and composers, it seems, have always found it all too easy to give in to lunar enchantment.  Take your pick – for Chopin her light was the perfect prompt to contemplation; for Beethoven she was as stealthy as a cat’s paw and as lithe; for Emily Dickinson she moves like a benevolent spectre; for Sylvia Plath she’s ominous and neurasthenic; and for the satirist, Lucian – she’s a goddess weary of men’s scrutiny and conjecture.  

In this evening’s Words and Music the actors, Fenella Woolgar and Patrick O’Kane invite you to risk her further displeasure!  And if you listen hard you may actually hear what she has to say as the sound artist, Katie Paterson, has found a way of capturing the moon’s voice.   


Producer: Zahid Warley 

You can find out more about Katie Paterson’s work and her sound installation Earth- Moon- Earth by visiting her website


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