Podcasts, Spoken Word
A ruined dwelling on North Rona
I also wanted to share this - a Radio 3 feature with the Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie on the remote, and now abandoned, Scottish island of North Rona. The stars of the piece are the Leach's petrels that nest on the island and fill the air with their soft bubbling laughter, and Jamie's exact language and warm lilting tone.
A couple of Radio 4 programmes to look for this weekend - at 10.30 on Saturday morning Martin Noble from British Sea Power goes to Shetland with Marc Riley looking for the Quail (yes, that does sound a little Chris Morris doesn't it?); then on Sunday afternoon at 4, Robert Macfarlane is on the Book Club discussing his all round masterwork The Wild Places.
Yes, we have been a little quiet of late. A combination of summer lassitude, eye-ache from sleep deprivation and the density of all the cricket that's around at the moment: it gets in under the door... Normal business should return once we've adjusted ourselves. We have another 6 weeks of it so we'd better adjust fast.
Speechification have been a little quiet themselves recently, but over the last couple of weeks there has been a whole host of great stuff posted. Follow the links below.
The Percy Edwards Showdown is almost too twee to contemplate yet somehow listening to a man imitate a jay and have Bill Oddie and Mark Cocker trying to guess if it's real or artificial is a thing to behold. Plus David Attenborough chairing. (MP3)
A whole series of Night Walks - from John Walsh in London to Nicholas Shakespeare in Tasmania.
Ever since being mesmerised by Richard Preston's The Wild Trees, a book that manages to make Californian Redwood's alluring and terrifying, I've been wanting to climb trees. This brilliant programme follows the exploits of James Aldred as he climbs one of Britain's biggest Redwoods - Goliath. (MP3) Some photos here too.
A London Ear special on Will Oldham. (MP3) Yes, of course it's brilliant.
Two cracking programmes on Borges - one featuring his old reader and all round polymath Alberto Manguel (MP3), and another that follows Peter White on a trip to Argentina to view a project that is making Borges work available in Braille (MP3).
Lastly, not listened to these myself, but two programmes on Larkin: both featuring Paul Farley who traces Larkin's journey during The Whitsun Weddings (MP3) and then discovers a box of tapes of Larkin reading his own poetry (MP3).
You can also follow Speechification on Twitter, and yes me if you want to.
Coltrane, Adderley, Miles, Evans
An Mp3 from the splendid Speechification of a documentary on Radio 4's Soul Music covering the basic history of the recording of So What, the lead track on Miles Davis' Kind of Blue. Some of the commentary grates a little as it tends to slip into the mawkish at times but there are some great insights. I especially like the idea that this was Miles trying to recreate a childhood memory of the sound of a lone gospel singer he stumbled across in a battered church in the woods outside St Louis. Kind of Blue has an odd status - at times it seems so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible. No matter this is well worth a listen.
There's also a great show over at NPR about the making of Kind of Blue. The download of it is on the left hand side.
This video recording is dated to April 2nd 1959 and features Wynton Kelley on piano in place of Bill Evans and Jimmy Cobb on drums; Julian Adderley was sick and wasn't at the session. There's something in the way the others stand around so relaxed as Coltrane goes off on one of his runs, a sense somewhere between too cool and reverence. There's a weight already about Coltrane, perhaps the gravity of all that was to come. But his future size is there as well, in those immense shoulders and ghosted into the bulbs of his eyes.
Thomas de Quincey
In the Sinclair/Will Self talk at the V&A we linked to a couple of weeks back, Sinclair gives an explicit nod to Thomas De Quincey - essaysist, sometime muse/albatross of the Wordsworth's and legendary opium addict - as the father of the art of psychogeography:
I think the whole tradition goes back to De Quincey and one particular phrase that he uses: the ‘north-west passage’ [see chapter 3, Confessions of an English Opium Eater -ed]. He describes, in the English Opium Eater, finding himself within the labyrinth of the mind, within the labyrinth of London. There is a concept called the ‘north-west passage' -- which is like the thread in the maze, like Ariadne's thread -- which could lead you out of London if you contact it. And he makes reference to Frobisher's voyages, the idea of actually navigating a passage through the ice to find a way out, to find a way between the Atlantic and the Pacific. And of course people attempting this disappear, they fall prey to cannibalism or scurvy or whatever.
De Quincey is the one who sees that this is a metaphor that applies perfectly to London, and that notion he floats is then taken up by later romantics like Arthur Machen and Edgar Allan Poe. They they sift it and test it.
This Radio 4 show from back in May whilst never explicitly about De Quincey's link to the genesis of psychogeography, is very much about his love of walking and his phenomenal stamina. (The urge to walk became psychopathological later in his life and fired by his laudanum addiction he was driven to walk incredible distances - when he lived in Edinburgh he apparently measured out his back garden and walked over a 1000 miles in a 90-day period).
The programme is presented by James Crowden who inherited De Quincey's walking stick which had been in the Crowden family since De Quincey's last landlady had presented it to Samuel Crowden back in the 1870s. The programme traces Crowden's last walk with the stick as he returns and donates it to its spiritual home, Dove Cottage - home to William and Dorothy Wordsworth and where De Quincey lived after they had left.
Download (from the marvellous Speechification): Thomas De Quincey - Walking A Stick Back Home