Tuesday, 4 May 2010

RADIOPHONIC MONTH: The thunder seeks, the lightning takes

Readers of a certain age may very well remember movement and dance classes from their early education. Some may still be traumatised by them.

Basically involving getting kids to do stuff they wouldn't normally do to music they wouldn’t normally listen to, a typical lesson might involve crouching on the floor and pretending to be an acorn that grows into a sapling then a great, tall oak tree blowing in the breeze or some shit like that.

I can distinctly remember undergoing this ordeal on a visit to the Mercury Theatre in Colchester in about 1975. We were asked variously to be a bird, a fish and a wild animal in the jungle as a hairy man with no shoes and socks on clapped his hands to signify when to change. All went well until the wild animal instruction at which point a scrap broke out between a lion and an angry rhino. Time has dissolved the memory of what music was playing as we went through this exercise but I know for sure it wasn’t anywhere near as interesting as ‘The Seasons’.

‘The Seasons’ was released in 1969, collecting music from the BBC Radio For Schools programme ‘Drama Workshop’ which had been broadcast the year before. The music is by David Cain (a mathematics graduate and Early Music enthusiast who had been with the Radiophonic Workshop since 1967) and poetry by Ronald Duncan and Derek Bowskill, who also narrates.

Listening to it now, it’s difficult to imagine that this was particularly fun listening for the primary school kids that the record was targeted at. The music is dark and inaccessible in tone and style, sounding more like an electronic score for ‘The Seventh Seal’ than music for children to express themselves to. The poetic recitation is also problematic: obscure, wordy, pretentious and portentous, it’s intoned in an austere, authoritative voice by Bowskill who relentlessly nags at the corners of your mind until you give in and become his mime bitch.

Highly sought after these days and a major influence on new-fangled Hauntological groups, ‘The Seasons’ isn’t an LP that you would listen to all the way through on a regular basis (it would drive you crackers very quickly) but, in small, rationed doses it bursts out of the speakers and takes you into a very odd world where art and music and scaring kids all merge into one and you feel like falling to the floor and being slowly awakened by the first dawn rays of the Winter sun.

Now, please head over to our comrades at 'A Sound Awareness' for a link to somewhere special where you can download the whole LP.


Anonymous said...

Hello, I found your blog from skipping the lily pads from the Toys and Techniques side of the pond and was trying to download the Magic Noises mixs. The track listing for two and three seem to be the same, but thats all really by the by as I cant seem to download them anywaay, the download link simply loops back to another download link. Are these still available or will I have to mist up the shop window knowing that the door is locked? cheers, for the great blog though..really enjoyed looking through it. Cheers, flinty

Unmann-Wittering said...

Hi Flinty, all links should be fixed, correct track listings are in place. Let me know if you have any more problems - thanks for your interest and welcome aboard!