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Head to Toe

Readers Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny make a journey over and through the human body in the company of writers from Sappho to Larkin, with music from Beethoven to Chas and Dave.

Join readers Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny in a journey over and through the length of the human body in the company of writers spanning 25 centuries, with music from Beethoven to Chas and Dave.

To begin, neurosurgeon Henry Marsh marvels at the grey jelly that is the source of human consciousness. Walter de la Mare strains his ears in a spooky old house and Milton's blindness helps him imagine Samson's blinded eyes. Cyrano de Bergerac's comically huge nose is followed by two 400-year-old self-help books about the tongue, and Fryderyk Chopin's advice on piano fingering includes the hand's relationship with the wrist, forearm and arm.

At the centre of the journey is the heart. It thumps with John Clare's first love and glows with consummated love in Tennyson's 'Now sleeps the crimson petal'. 'Never give all the heart', warns WB Yeats – too late for broken-hearted Sappho, Emily Dickinson and John Donne.

The ‘huge stuffed cloak-bag of guts' is the belly of Shakespeare's Falstaff, a cue for Guilia Enders to remind us that the gut is an integral part of human feeling and being.

At the gut's end, a 14th-century fart in Chaucer's ‘The Miller’s Tale’ still has the power of a thunder clap and, round the other side, Montaigne bemoans the 'indocile libertie' of the male member which rises to the occasion only at its choosing.

Nearly at journey's end, here are legs and feet. In Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' the aristocratic Natasha delights everyone with her innate ability to dance like a true Russian peasant, something Edward Lear's Pobble would have found difficult.

With Philip Larkin's 'An Arundel Tomb' and the end of life, the human body is represented in stone effigy. Now, 'Only an attitude remains' - and a final, hedged Larkinesque flourish 'to prove/Our almost-instinct almost true:/What will survive of us is love.'

David Papp (producer)

1 hour, 14 minutes

Last on

Sun 24 Mar 2019 17:30

Music Played

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

  • Georgia Mann


  • 00:01

    Steve Reich

    Music for 18 Musicians

    Ensemble: Ensemble Signal.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • HMU907608.
    • 14.
  • Walt Whitman

    I Sing the Body Electric, read by Harriet Walter

  • Henry Marsh

    Do No Harm, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:03

    Richard Strauss

    Also sprach Zarathustra

    Conductor: Andris Nelsons. Orchestra: City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
    • Orfeo.
    • C878141A.
    • 2.
  • 00:06

    Maurice Ravel

    L'heure espagnol

    Conductor: Lorin Maazel. Orchestra: Orchestra National de la RTF.
    • DG.
    • 423 719 2.
    • 1.
  • Walter de la Mare

    Seaton's Aunt, read by Harriet Walter

  • 00:07

    Salvatore Sciarrino

    Introduzione all'oscuro

    Conductor: Kwamé Ryan. Ensemble: Ensemble Recherche.
    • Kairos.
    • 0012132KAI.
    • 5.
  • 00:08

    Howard Skempton

    Rise up, my Love

    Conductor: Paul Hillier. Ensemble: Ars Nova Copenhagen.
    • Cantaloupe.
    • CA21127.
  • 00:11

    William Lawes

    Consort Suite 'for the violls' a 6, No. 3 in F major "Sunrise"

    Ensemble: Fretwork.
    • Virgin Classics.
    • 791187-2.
    • 1.
  • John Milton

    Samson Agonistes, read by Harriet Walter

  • Edmond Rostand (trans. Charles Renauld)

    Cyrano de Bergerac, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:18

    Jean‐Philippe Rameau

    Contredanse (Les Indes galantes)

    Conductor: Frans Brüggen. Orchestra: Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century.
    • Philips.
    • 4389462.
    • 9.
  • Hannah Woolley

    The Gentlewomans Companion, read by Harriet Walter

  • Laurent Bordelon

    The Management of the Tongue, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:22

    Chas & Dave


    Performer: Chas & Dave.
    • EMI.
    • 094634066327.
    • 2.
  • Fryderyk Chopin (trans. Roy Howat)

    Projet de méthode, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:25

    Frédéric Chopin

    12 Studies (Op.10), No. 8 in F major

    Performer: Nelson Goerner.
    • Wigmore Hall Live.
    • WHLIVE0039.
    • 13.
  • Aristotle (trans. GRT Ross)

    On Youth and Old Age, On Life and Death, On Breathing, read by Harriet Walter

  • John Clare

    First Love, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:30

    Ludwig van Beethoven

    Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major, Op. 73 'Emperor' (Adagio un poco mosso)

    Conductor: Bernard Haitink. Performer: Murray Perahia. Orchestra: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra.
    • Sony Classical.
    • 88697102902.
    • 2.
  • WB Yeats

    Never give all the heart, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:37

    Franz Schubert

    String Quintet in C major, D. 956 (Adagio)

    Performer: Takács Quartet, Ralph Kirshbaum (cello).
    • Hyperion.
    • CDA67864.
    • 2.
  • Sappho (trans. Michael R. Burch)

    Fragment 42, read by Harriet Walter

  • John Donne

    The Broken Heart, read by Harriet Walter

  • Emily Dickinson

    Heart, we will forget him, read by Harriet Walter

  • Ernest Dowson

    Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae, read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:47

    Charles Ives

    String Quartet No. 2 (Arguments)

    Ensemble: Schumann Quartett.
    • ARS Produktion.
    • ARS38156.
    • 6.
  • William Shakespeare

    Henry IV, Part 1, Act 1, read by Tim McInnerny

  • Giulia Enders

    Gut, read by Harriet Walter

  • 00:52

    John Dowland

    A Dream

    Performer: Jakob Lindberg.
    • BIS.
    • BIS2082.
    • 13.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (Edited for Popular Perusal by D Laing Purves)

    The Miller’s Tale, read by Harriet Walter

  • 00:56

    James Rich

    Yakety Sax

    Composer: Boots Randolph. Performer: Boots Randolph.
    • Castle Pulse.
    • PLS CD 515.
    • 4.
  • Michel de Montaigne (trans. John Florio)

    Of the force of Imagination (from Essays), read by Tim McInnerny

  • 00:58

    Pierre Cléreau

    Elle est d’andouille friande (She is partial to sausage)

    Performer: La Maurache.
    • Arion.
    • ARN68344.
    • 2.
  • Leo Tolstoy

    War and Peace, read by Harriet Walter

  • 01:00

    Traditional (arr. Vera Gorodovskaya)

    At Sunrise

    Orchestra: Osipov State Russian Folk Orchestra.
    • Mercury.
    • 432 0002.
    • 2.
  • 01:02

    Mons Leidvin Takle


    Performer: Christopher Herrick.
    • Hyperion.
    • CDA67577.
    • 10.
  • Edward Lear

    The Pobble Who Has No Toes, read by Harriet Walter and Tim McInnerny

  • 01:06

    Traditional (arr. The Delta Rhythm Boys)

    Dem Dry Bones

    Performer: The Delta Rhythm Boys.
    • Dundeal Entertainment.
    • CAT25662.
    • 1.
  • Philip Larkin

    An Arundel Tomb, read by Harriet Walter

  • 01:11

    Thomas Tallis

    If ye love me

    Conductor: Owain Park. Ensemble: The Gesualdo Six.
    • Hyperion.
    • CDA68256.
    • 5.


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