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The Plastic Tide

A journey in poetry and music inspired by the environment with music by John Luther Adams, Joni Mitchell and Messiaen and words by John Clare, Lord Byron and Lavinia Greenlaw.

A journey in poetry, prose and music inspired by the environment. 2018 is the year that “plastic” was dubbed Children’s Word of the Year by the OUP, an indication of the young’s awareness and passion for their world. David Attenborough's Blue Planet II focused on the fears of whole ecosystems being on the verge of destruction. It’s unknown how much unrecycled plastic waste ends up in the ocean but research at the University of Georgia estimates between 5.3 and 14 million tons just on coastal regions.

Fiona Shaw and Robert Glenister perform readings where anxiety meets beauty and humour. We appreciate nature through the poems of John Clare and Edward Thomas and the music of Oliver Messiaen and John Luther Adams. Our fear at the dangers facing the environment come in Lavinia Greenlaw's The Recital of Lost Cities Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi and Alan Hovhaness's And God Created Great Whales. Our love of plastics is captured in an extract from Richard Yates' novel, Revolutionary Road, in which his characters drive candy and ice cream coloured automobiles, ("a long bright valley of colored plastic and plate glass and stainless steel"). And a possible outcome of our abuse of our environment comes in Byron's prophetic Darkness, written in 1816 after a volcano eruption cast enough sulphur into the atmosphere to reduce global temperatures and cause abnormal weather across much of north-east America and northern Europe.

The producer is Fiona McLean.

If you feel inspired and would like to find out more about the actions YOU can take to help make a difference – go to

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

Sun 23 Sep 2018 17:30

Music Played

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

  • 00:00

    Alan Hovhaness

    And God Created Great Whales

    Performer: Seattle Symphony.
    • DELOS DE3157.
    • Tr6.
  • James Honeyborne and Mark Brownlow

    The Blue Planet read by Robert Glenister

  • Ira Levin

    The Stepford Wives read by Fiona Shaw

  • 00:04

    David Byrne

    Nothing but Flowers

    Performer: Talking Heads.
    • EMI CDEM53.
    • Tr1.
  • Denise Levertov

    It Should be Visible read by Fiona Shaw

  • 00:08

    Einojuhani Rautavaara

    Cantus Arcticus

    Performer: Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Laura Mikkola Piano.
    • NAXOS 8554147.
    • Tr2.
  • Iain Hamilton Finlay

    Estuary read by Robert Glenister

  • Luke Kennard

    The Persistence of Rubbish read by Robert Glenister

  • 00:13

    George Benjamin

    At First Light

    Performer: London Sinfonietta.
    • NIMBUS NI5643.
    • Tr4.
  • Jane Commane

    Circa read by Fiona Shaw

  • Richard Yates

    from Revolutionary Road read by Robert Glenister

  • 00:19

    Joni Mitchell

    Big Yellow Taxi

    Performer: Joni Mitchell.
    • REPRISE 7599274502.
    • Tr10.
  • Lord Byron

    from Darkness read by Robert Glenister

  • 00:22

    Harrison Birtwistle

    Earth Dances

    Performer: Ensemble Modern Orchestra.
    • Tr2.
  • Anna Kavan

    from Ice read by Fiona Shaw

  • 00:28

    Henry Purcell

    Cold Song

    Performer: Klaus Nomi.
    • RCA ND85004.
    • Tr1.
  • Simon Armitage

    The Last Snowman read by Robert Glenister

  • 00:32

    John Luther Adams

    Dream in White on White

    Performer: The Apollo Quartet and Strings.
    • Tr1.
  • Lavinia Greenlaw

    The Recital of Lost Cities read by Fiona Shaw

  • 00:40

    Jean Sibelius

    The Tempest Suite no 2 – Chorus of the Winds

    Performer: Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
    • NAXOS 8554387.
    • Tr5.
  • Sonali Deraniyagala

    from Wave read by Fiona Shaw

  • 00:45

    Toru Takemitsu

    Rain Tree Sketch II

    Performer: Hélène Grimaud.
    • Tr3.
  • Edward Thomas

    First Known when Lost read by Robert Glenister

  • 00:51

    Tobias Picker

    Old and Lost Rivers

    Performer: Houston Symphony.
    • VIRGIN CLASSICS VC7911622.
    • Tr1.
  • John Clare

    All Nature has a Feeling read by Fiona Shaw

  • 00:58

    George Butterworth

    Six Songs from A Shropshire Lad – Loveliest of Trees

    Performer: Roderick Williams (baritone) and Iain Burnside (piano).
    • NAXOS 8572426.
    • Tr1.
  • Alice Oswald

    A Short History of Falling read by Fiona Shaw

  • 01:01

    Elizabeth Maconchy

    Reflections – con allegrezza

    Performer: Chroma.
    • Tr5.
  • Henry David Thoreau

    from Walden read by Robert Glenister

  • 01:05

    Olivier Messiaen

    Des canyons aux etoiles – Les Orioles

    Performer: Orchestre philharmonique de Radio France.
    • Tr2.
  • Rachel Carson

    from Silent Spring read by Fiona Shaw

  • 01:11

    Samuel Barber

    Sure on this shining night

    Performer: Cambridge University Chamber Choir.
    • Tr12.


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