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Under The Microscope

Poetry, prose and music inspired by the world opened up by microscopy, from fleas to micro-organisms. With Rachael Stirling and Paul Bentall.

With Rachael Stirling and Paul Bentall. Poetry, prose and music on the world opened up by microscopy, from fleas to micro-organisms. A full list of the readings and music can be found on the Words and Music programme website.

Microscopes are devices for looking beyond immediate appearances to find the truth. So a programme about microscopes could include material exploring how truth is elusive, non-obvious, problematic. The most obvious examples of explorations of this theme here come from John Donne and Emily Dickinson, and also from Democritus, who opens the programme. His words are accompanied by a piece of 'music' devised by scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, who've written an algorithm that converts results obtained by the Collider into musical notes.

More immediately, there is some great writing from the 17th century that captures the thrill of discovery that surrounded the first systematic use of microscopes - represented here by Francis Bacon, Anton van Leeuwenhoek, and Henry Power. The sense that a new world was being opened up is so palpable in these writings that the use of music from Haydn's operetta The World on the Moon, and Gorecki's Copernicus Symphony, seemed quite appropriate. The microcosm and the macrocosm are internally related, after all, and this is an idea explored in some of the more recent poets sampled here: Ruth Padel and Miroslav Holub both see the wider universe when they look through a microscope.

Producer: Luke Mulhall.

1 hour, 28 minutes

Last on

Sun 5 Aug 2018 18:00

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Making Sound From The Data - Lily Asquith (physicist)

    Particle Pings: Sounds Of The Large Hadron Collider

  • Democritus

    Fragments, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:00

    E. Jones, after G. F. Haendel

    The Microcosm Concerto in B flat major (after G.F. Handel) - IV. A Fugue

    Performer: Mara Galassi (harp), Giovanni Togni (harpsichord).
    • Glossa GCD921303.
    • Tr15.
  • Emily Dickinson

    ‘Faith is a fine invention…’, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:02

    Johann Sebastian Bach

    Musical Offering, BWV 1079 - Ricercar 1

    Performer: Academy of St Martin in the Fields, Sir Neville Marriner (Conductor).
    • PHILIPS 4425562.
    • CD2 Tr5.
  • Sir Francis Bacon

    The New Organon, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:09

    Joseph Haydn

    Il Mondo Della Luna – Act One – No. 11 Finale I

    Performer: Domenico Trimarchi, Luigi Alva, Edith Mathis, Frederica von Stade, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Antal Dorati (Conductor).
    • PHILIPS 4324202.
    • CD1 Tr20.
  • John Donne

    Satire 3, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:13

    György Ligeti

    Musica Ricercata - ii. Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale

    Performer: Mei Yi Foo.
    • ODRADEK ODRCD 302.
    • Tr22.
  • Anton van Leeuwenhoek

    Letters to the Royal Academy, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:19

    Georgy Ligeti

    Musica Ricercata - vii. Cantabile, molto legato

    Performer: Mei Yi Foo.
    • ODRADEK ODRCD 302.
    • Tr27.
  • Henry Power

    On the Microscope, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:24

    Modest Mussorgsky (text by I. Goethe, translation by A. Strugovschikov)

    Mephistopheles’ Song of the Flea

    Performer: Evgeny Nesterenko (bass), Vladimir Krainev (piano).
    • MELODIYA MELCD1001401.
    • Tr4.
  • John Donne

    The Flea, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:29

    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    1st Movement Of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik

    • SELDD 569.
    • CD1 Tr1.
  • Emily Dickinson

    ‘Tell all the truth…’, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:34

    Alban Berg

    4 Stücke für Klarinette und Klavier, op.5 (1913) 1.

    Performer: Kremerata Musica, Sabine Meyer (Clarinet), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4471122.
    • Tr9.
  • Christian Bök

    The Xenotext, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:35

    Alban Berg

    4 Stücke für Klarinette und Klavier, op.5 (1913) 2.

    Performer: Kremerata Musica, Sabine Meyer (Clarinet), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4471122.
    • Tr10.
  • Christian Bök

    The Xenotext, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:37

    Alban Berg

    4 Stücke für Klarinette und Klavier, op.5 (1913) 3.

    Performer: Kremerata Musica, Sabine Meyer (Clarinet), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4471122.
    • Tr11.
  • Hilaire Belloc

    The Microbe, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:39

    Frank Loesser

    Inchworm

    Performer: Danny Kaye.
    • MCA Records MCL1843.
    • Tr12.
  • 00:42

    Johannes Brahms

    Variations On A Theme By Haydn, "St. Antoni Chorale", Op 56a - Andante

    Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Marin Alsop (Conductor).
    • NAXOS 8557430.
    • Tr5.
  • George Eliot

    Middlemarch, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:46

    Johannes Brahms

    Variations On A Theme By Haydn, "St. Antoni Chorale", Op 56a - Poco Piu Animato

    Performer: London Philharmonic Orchestra, Marin Alsop (Conductor).
    • NAXOS 8557430.
    • Tr6.
  • Michel Foucault

    The Birth of the Clinic, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:48

    Igor Stravinsky

    8 Instrumental-Miniaturen Für Fünfzehn Spieler (1962) - VIII. Tempo Di Tango

    Performer: Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez (Conductor).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4474052.
    • Tr7.
  • 00:50

    Aka Pygmies

    Nzomba Dances And Songs II

    Performer: Aka Pygmies.
    • Carbon 7 Records C7-002.
    • Tr13.
  • Ruth Padel

    First Cell, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 00:53

    Henryk Mikolaj Górecki

    Symphony No. 2 'Copernican', Op. 31 - First Movement

    Performer: Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Antoni Wit (Conductor).
    • NAXOS 8555375.
    • Tr2.
  • Miroslav Holub

    In The Microscope, read by Paul Bentall

  • 00:59

    Gyorgy Ligeti

    Lux Aeterna Für 16stimmigen Gemischten Chor A Cappella

    Performer: Choir Schola Cantorum Stuttgart, Clytus Gottwald (Conductor).
    • WERGO WER 69012.
    • Tr7.
  • Jo Shapcott

    On Mutability, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 01:02

    Erik Satie

    Gymnopedies - I Lent Et Douloureux

    Performer: Aldo Ciccolini.
    • HMV 7678052.
    • Tr1.
  • Philip Larkin

    Ape Experiment Room, read by Paul Bentall

  • 01:06

    Anton Webern

    3 Kleine Stücke Für Violoncello Und Klavier (1914) - I

    Performer: Kremerata Musica, Clemens Hagen (Cello), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4471122.
    • Tr13.
  • 01:07

    Anton Webern

    3 Kleine Stücke Für Violoncello Und Klavier (1914) - II

    Performer: Kremerata Musica, Clemens Hagen (Cello), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4471122.
    • Tr14.
  • 01:08

    Anton Webern

    3 Kleine Stücke Für Violoncello Und Klavier (1914) - -III

    Performer: Kremerata Musica, Clemens Hagen (Cello), Oleg Maisenberg (Piano).
    • DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4471122.
    • Tr15.
  • Richard Matheson

    The Shrinking Man, read by Rachael Stirling

  • 01:11

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Mephistos Flohlied op. 75,3 (1809)

    Performer: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gerald Moore (piano).
    • ORFEO C140501.
    • Tr16.

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