Radio: Electronica BBC Concert Orchestra

There’ll be a lot written about the musical foundations of the BBC Concert Orchestra‘s recent electronica gig – and about electronica in general – broadcast on Radio 3 tonight. Basically, the rule is if there’s a ‘niche’ musical genre to be written you can bet your bottom dollar someone will write about it in such a way as to make themselves look – or at least – all important about themselves.

I know. I’m being a bitch. You can see where this is going. I shouldn’t be really. Because the chances are, I may possibly bump into Arts Desk reviewer Igor Toronyi-Lalic at another electronica concert I am almost certainly going to go to as a result of listening to the gig tonight on Radio 3.

Electronica isn’t difficult. It is in fact, the shortcut to other people’s imaginations. The kind of musical soundtrack those of us who dream of making our own special long-running cult dramas – the kind that we know deep down wouldn’t get commissioned because noone would understand it.

Everything in this concert was a revelation. I was taken off somewhere mysterious – possibly the fantastical parts of the school I attended as a kid which from time to time form part of the wilder of my dreams (and sometimes my daydreams). Who can resist the eery qualities in the sound of a theramin? I’m a sap. I can’t.

True, it probably made for better radio than it did a concert – maybe that’s why Igor didn’t enjoy himself quite as much as he reckoned he should have done. Still, because it’s so very different from what I normally listen to I’m urging you to give it a try, not least to see what you think of it.

:: Listen to it with a beer or a large glass of wine via BBC Radio 3 on the BBC Programmes site. Leave a comment to let me know what you thought of it.

:: The picture at the top of this blog post was published on Flickr by Maggie Osterberg and is used here under license.

Radio Analysis: West Midlands CTU Phil Mackie

A cracking radio package from Senior Broadcast Journalist Phil Mackie based up in Birmingham. Amid the sometimes indistinguishable studio-based stuff, two ways and interviews recorded in soundproof booths that seems to make up a lot of Today on Radio 4, Phil’s piece rang out while I waited for the kettle to boil this morning.

I wouldn’t normally get excited about counter-terrorism. But there were a number of key things which grabbed my attention and then held it. Not least the idea that we’re going on a journey to a location that none of us are allowed to know about. It’s a bit 007.

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But there’s a bit more to it than that. I like it because there are a variety of different environments reflected in the piece. First the car door slamming. Next the walking up and down corridors. The sound of the ‘tour-guide’ advising Phil he’d need special training on ‘how to handle information’ was both amusing and scary all at the same time. Then there’s the snatched documentary evidence from the council chambers. The variety of sounds keeps my interest. The script is straightforward.

In short, it’s stuff like this which makes me weep and leaves me thinking one crucial thing about making radio. Like writing, you need to consume the output to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t. And this does.


:: Phil Mackie’s tests on LuciLive for iPhone form part of a College of Journalism blog by Sam Upton.

Music: Berlioz Mehul OAE d’Oustrac

A cracking concert from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment this evening on BBC Radio 3. Definitely worth a listen.

Don’t do want I did initially and have your amp set to “cathedral effect”. The acoustics will only sound ridiculously ramped-up. Mind you, when I realised my mistake and changed the profile I was still a little surprised at the acoustic effect on the radio mix. There was definitely a reverb on the radio I don’t remember hearing in the auditorium when I attended the performance last week.

It was a brilliant performance then too. It’s well written about and a truism as such, but the Orchestra of the Enlightenment do have an arresting energy about them which makes their playing gripping listening. If you’ve not heard them play that last sentence will sound like pretentious twaddle. It’s not intended to be. It’s the only real way to describe their effect. That and the fact that the period instrumentation – the warm twang and ever so slight hint of a rough, almost rustic edge – makes for such a gutteral experience. Maybe it’s that which makes the OAE’s playing so exciting. Maybe it was that sound which drove the radio mix.

That aside, the programme was entertaining, interesting and arresting. The Cherubini overture was exhilarating. The Mehul Symphony pleasant, engaging, occasionally dull but otherwise passable. Berlioz’s Death of Cleopatra sung by mezzo-soprano soloist Stephanie d’Oustrac was the electrifying element in the programme however both in the hall and in the radio broadcast (even if the sound of my iPhone falling to the floor did make it to the broadcast – hugely embarrassing – and it was switched off too). Definitely worth a listen to the Berlioz however – just to see whether it moves you too.

Listen to an audioboo recorded after the first half of the concert

The Mozart symphony in the second half ? Well, seeing as you’ve listen to the majority of the programme, you might as well stick around for that. You won’t be disappointed.

Listen to this audioboo recorded whilst I collected my bag from the cloakroom post-concert, including the iPhone on the floor “incident”.

TV: Miranda Episode 2.1 BBC

Thank God. Miranda’s back on the BBC. One of the few truly deserving BBC re-commissions over the past five years. Shamelessly retro. Gorgeous. Warm. Fluffy. Traditional. Rip-roaring funny. Thank God for Miranda Hart.

Things didn’t get off to a brilliant start initially. I wasn’t crying with laughter as I hoped I might be. There was a moment when I feared this might turn out to be the weaker second series. This feeling may have coincided with me thinking that Miranda’s new love-interest Danny was … A little bit ‘odd’ and not that much to look at.

Thank God that turned out to be short-lived. Thank God for that age old misunderstanding over the word ‘goat’. The old ones are the old ones and – consequently – the most reliable ones too.

Yes. Life is good. Miranda’s back on the BBC.