Boredom, Restlessness, Killing Time
An exploration of boredom, as a spur to action of an opportunity for contemplation, in Madame Bovary, Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim, Jane Austen's Emma and the songs of Cole Porter.
An exploration of the experience of boredom. Whether it's an idle moment or a life sentence, a spur to action or opportunity for contemplation, it's provided writers and musicians with a rich area to explore: Flaubert's Madame Bovary is driven to a disastrous affair, Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim resorts to pulling grotesque faces, Jane Austen's Emma scorns a boring acquaintance, and Beckett's The Unnameable contrives a complex inner life of invention from doing absolutely nothing. In music, the Prince in Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges is dying of boredom, which provokes the courtiers to elaborate entertainments to revive him; for Cole Porter, "practically everything leaves me totally cold"; and the Buzzcocks are "waiting for the phone to ring"....
With readings by Pip Carter and Skye Hallam.
Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes
thoughts on boredom from Humboldts Gift, read by Pip Carter
a zen view of boredom, read by Skye Hallam
Macbeth is bored with life, read by Pip Carter
Mr Strugnell a poem satirising Philip Larkins verse and life, read by Skye Hallam
Mr Polly is feeling obscurely irritated with his life or perhaps he is bored (from The History of Mr Polly), read by Pip Carter
William Makepeace Thackeray
Becky Sharp is initially delighted to be moving in fashionable 18th C circles, but then after a while she finds that its all rather tedious shed rather be performing at a fair (from Vanity Fair), read by Skye Hallam
Lord and Lady Dedlock visit Paris, but despite the many attractions and distractions of the city, Lady Dedlock is bored to death (from Bleak House), read by Pip Carter
in this poem called Bored, a girl remembers how bored she was, living with her father, read by Skye Hallam
a description of the stupefying effects of factory work (from the Condition of Working Class in England), read by Pip Carter
the power of totalitarianism explained as boredom combined with terror (from the novel, Humboldts Gift), read by Pip Carter
Epistrophe for Yoda, read by Pip Carter (a Beat Poet stares out of his window in New York, wishing for something to happen)
a picnic at Box Hill and Emma makes fun of Miss Bates for being a bore. From the novel Emma, read by Skye Hallam
Emma Bovary is desperately bored with her life as the wife of a country doctor (from the novel Madame Bovary), read by Skye Hallam
a Portuguese man compares his boss with life monotonous and banal, but necessary (from The Book Of Disquiet), read by Pip Carter
Words And Music: Boredom. Producer’s Note
An exploration of the varied experiences of boredom. Whether it's an idle moment or a life sentence, a spur to action or opportunity for contemplation, it's provided writers and musicians with a rich area to explore.
In four contrasting 19th Century novels, we hear how differently boredom strikes certain women. Flaubert’s Madame Bovary is desperately bored by her life as the wife of a country doctor, and feels as though nothing ever happens; Jane Austen's Emma is much happier with her life, but on a picnic at Box Hill she finds her companions so dull that she is tempted into making a cruel remark.
Becky Sharp, the irrepressible heroine of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, is also inclined to enjoy life, especially when she finds herself moving among the fashionable and wealthy social strata of London - so she is surprised to find that this whirl of activity is actually rather a bore. As for Lady Dedlock (in Dickens’ Bleak House), she visits Paris with her husband, but what should be an exciting excursion to a glamorous foreign capital, leaves her “bored to death”.
In contrast to these social boredoms, we find existential weariness and lassitude afflicting Mr Polly (in HG Wells’ The History of Mr Polly). He is so bored that his digestion is ruined, and he can’t see a way out of his “hole”. (His grumpiness is matched with Fucik’s orchestral depiction of a grumbling Brown Bear). Fernando Pessoa and Leroi Jones on the other hand, seem to rather enjoy their experiences of idleness. Pessoa (in the Book Of Disquiet) waxing philosophical about his boring boss; while Leroi Jones rather hopes that “some weird-looking animal” might come along to distract him. Wendy Cope satirises that great poet of the mundane, Philip Larkin, in her poem Mr Strugnell, who has to move to Hull because he finds his quiet life in a bedsit in Tulse Hill “too stimulating”.
On a more serious note, the philosopher Friedrich Engels writes indignantly about the stupefying effect of 19th Century industrial work (in The Condition of the Working Class in England) - this is followed by Mosolov’s orchestral depiction of an Iron Foundry; and Saul Bellow, in his novel Humboldt’s Gift, looks at how dictators use boredom “seasoned with terror” as an instrument of social control. We then hear music by Shostakovich, who was very familiar with the boredom and fear of living under Stalin in Russia - his 8th string quartet evokes the nervous agitation of this climate of fear.
Other music in this sequence includes a Debussy setting of Baudelaire, the great poet of ennui; Ella Fitzgerald sings Cole Porter’s I Get A Kick Out of You, (“practically everything leaves me totally cold”); and two British pop bands who have written witty songs on the subject: the Buzzcocks (“life just seems very humdrum”) and Procol Harum, who bring the sequence to a close singing
“all in all, it’s all the same - but call me if there’s any change”.
Philip Tagney (producer)""Added, go to My Music