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A sequence on the theme of dystopia, with readings from Burgess, Auden and Yeats and music from Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams. The readers are Samantha Bond and Tobias Menzies.

1 hour, 15 minutes

Last on

Sun 21 Jan 2018 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Wendy Carlos

    Title Music from a Clockwork Orange

    Performer: Wendy Carlos.
    • Warner Bros. 2573-2.
    • Tr1.
  • Anthony Burgess

    A Clockwork Orange (extract) read by Tobias Menzies

  • 00:00

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No. 9, 4th mvt (extract)

    Performer: Berlin Philharmonic, Herbert von Karajan (conductor).
    • DG 415 066-2.
    • Tr6.
  • William Blake

    London read by Tobias Menzies

  • 00:00

    Carlo Gesualdo

    Moro, Lasso

    Performer: Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini (conductor).
    • Opus111.
    • Tr4.
  • WH Auden

    The Shield of Achilles (extract) read by Samantha Bond

  • 00:00

    Charles Ives

    The Unanswered Question

    Performer: BBC Philharmonic.
    • Collins Classics 14462.
    • Tr1.
  • Richard Brautigan

    All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace read by Samantha Bond

  • Amina Neena

    Dystopia read by Tobias Menzies

  • 00:00

    Bernard Herrmann

    The Day the Earth Stood Still (original soundtrack) - Panic

    Performer: Studio Orchestra.
    • Twentieth Century 078221 10102.
    • Tr12.
  • WB Yeats

    The Second Coming read by Tobias Menzies

  • 00:00

    Dmitry Shostakovich

    Piano Trio – 3rd mvt

    Performer: Borodin Trio.
    • Chandos CHAN 8342.
    • Tr8.
  • Atwood

    The Handmaid’s Tale (extract) read by Samantha Bond

  • 00:00

    George Gershwin


    Performer: Kathleen Battle (soprano), Orchestra of St Luke's, Andre Previn (conductor).
    • DG 437 787-2.
    • Tr9.
  • William Shakespeare

    The Tempest (extract) read by Tobias Menzies and Samantha Bond

  • 00:00

    Ralph Vaughan Williams

    The Cloud-capp'd towers

    Performer: Finzi Singers, Paul Spicer (conductor).
    • Chandos CHAN9425.
    • Tr16.
  • Ray Bradbury

    The Pedestrian (abridged) read by Tobias Menzies and Samantha Bond

  • 00:00

    Krzysztof Penderecki

    Symphony No. 3 – 3rd mvt.

    Performer: National Polish Radio Orchestra, Antonio Wit (conductor).
    • Rhino 8122-79831-9.
    • Tr 2.
  • Don Paterson

    Seven Questions About the Journey read by Samantha Bond and Tobias Menzies

  • George Orwell

    1984 (extract) read by Samantha Bond

  • 00:00

    David Bowie

    1984 (extract)

    Performer: David Bowie.
    • EMI CDP 79 5211 2.
    • Tr9.
  • George Orwell

    1984 (extract) read by Samantha Bond

  • 00:00

    Edgard Varèse

    Poeme Electronique

    Performer: Edgard Varèse.
    • Decca 460 208-2.
    • Tr3.
  • Matt Ford

    To the Machines, Should They Decide to Take Over read by Tobias Menzies

  • JG Ballard

    High-Rise (extract) read by Samantha Bond

  • 00:01

    Clint Mansell

    High-Rise (original soundtrack) – Blood Garden

    Performer: Studio Orchestra.
    • Silva Screen SILCD1501.
    • Tr12.
  • HG Wells

    The Time Machine (extract) read by Tobias Menzies

  • 00:01

    Radiohead arr. Brad Mehldau

    Paranoid Android

    Performer: Brad Mehldau.
    • Nonesuch 9362481142.
    • Tr5.
  • Michael Symmons Roberts

    Fire Regs read by Samantha Bond and Tobias Menzies

Words and Music: Dystopia

The concept of dystopia is a peculiarly twentieth century one – most of the readings featured in the programme were written during that turbulent century

We begin with a classic from Anthony Burgess – A Clockwork Orange, with the anti-hero Alex speaking in Nadsat – the language Burgess invented. Alex loves Beethoven (‘our old friend, Ludwig Van’) so it seems appropriate to hear part of the Ninth Symphony.

William Blake’s London from his Songs of Experience is a nightmare vision of the city which could easily describe a dystopian vision. It’s followed by Gesualdo’s 17th century madrigal Moro, Lasso which with its tortured harmonies appeals to the modern sensibility.

WH Auden’s Shield of Achilles describes a dystopian world utterly without compassion.

One of the themes of the programme is our relationship with technology and machines. Lifts breaking down (in A Clockwork Orange, 1984 and High-Rise) seem to symbolise the breakdown of modern civilisation.  And current hopes and fears about the rise of technology are addressed in All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace by Richard Brautigan, and To the Machines, Should They Decide to Take Over by Matt Ford. Brautigan’s poem seems to express hope, but the music of Charles Ives seems to suggest some doubt – perhaps our relationship with machines will remain an Unanswered Question? Matt Ford’s poem is about machines assuming that poetry is an abuse of language; Poème électronique by Edgard Varèse seems to be an appropriate soundtrack to the poem.

A more direct treatment of Dystopia is characterised by Amina’s poem of the same name.

Yeats’ The Second Coming with its nightmarish image of the ‘rough beast, its hour come round at last’ slouching towards Bethlehem to be born leads us, via Shostakovich, to an excerpt from Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale. We pause briefly to remember with nostalgia, the time when there used to be an ice cream store, which leads to a brief moment of calm with Gershwin’s Summertime.

A brief excerpt from Shakespeare’s The Tempest refers to the brave new world that became the title of Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel. Vaughan Williams’ Cloud-Capp’d Towers sets words from the play ‘The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve.’

The centrepiece of the programme is Ray Bradbury’s short story, The Pedestrian, where the act of walking alone at night is seen to be transgressive. The police car that arrests Leonard Mead is, a machine – again addressing our fears about automation.

This leads to the third Movement of Penderecki’s Third Symphony, used in the soundtrack to Scorsese’s Shutter Island, during which we hear Don Paterson’s unsettling Seven Questions about the Journey.

George Orwell’s 1984 suggests that we won’t be watched over by machines of loving grace but by Big Brother. David Bowie’s song of the same name adds to the sense of unease.

JG Ballard’s High-Rise was recently made into a film, and we hear an extract from Clint Mansell’s evocative soundtrack.  The architect of the high-rise building lives at the top in a beautiful garden, while society beneath him increasingly breaks down. Society is similarly stratified in the excerpt from the Time Machine by HG Wells.

We end with a scene in Reception in the Advent House Hotel; a jazz piano tinkles in the background while the two Receptionists provide a warm welcome and some helpful safety instructions in Michael Symmons Roberts’ Fire Regs. The pianist and his band provide a gentle end to the programme; but am I just being paranoid, or does that sound like Radiohead?

I hope you have enjoyed your stay.

Producer – Nick Holmes



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