Playing The Skyline

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
Comments
01Millennium Bridge, London - Anna Meredith And Courtney Pine20140714

Courtney Pine and composer Anna Meredith play the skyline at the Millennium Bridge.

On old nautical charts as well as the bird's eye view there is often a coastal profile - the outline of the land seen from the point of view of a sailor approaching it. Radio producer Julian May was struck by the musicality of these, the undulations of hills are melodic, the spacing of landmarks - trees, spires - rhythmic. Musicians could, he thought, take the line dividing the earth from the air, place it on a stave, and play the skyline.

Prominent musicians were intrigued - the Scottish composer James MacMillan; Julie Fowlis, leading light of Gaelic song; Kizzy Crawford, an eighteen year old singer-songwriter of Welsh and Bajan heritage, at home in the English and Welsh; and Gwilym Simcock the Welsh pianist who writes classical pieces, and improvises, too.

For Radio 4 Tim Marlow presents three programmes, in England, Wales and Scotland, in which two musicians look at the skyline, give their responses, then begin playing it. Tim hears how they are getting on and, finally, the musicians, Tim and Radio 4's listeners hear for the first time the finished pieces.

The first programme begins in the National Maritime Museum where Robert Blyth, Senior Curator of Maritime History, shows Tim some coastal profiles and ponders what seamen whose lives depended on them might make of the idea that they could be an inspiration for music.

Then jazz musician Courtney Pine and the composer Anna Meredith join Tim on the Millennium Bridge in London. They consider the view from St Paul's, past the Walkie Talkie and Blackfriars Bridge to the Shard.

They speak about their responses, what intrigues them, and discuss how they they will render such a dramatic skyline, with its history and physical variety, in sound.

Producers: Julian May and Benedict Warren.

02Port Talbot: Kizzy Crawford and Gwilym Simcock20140721

Singer-songwriter Kizzy Crawford and pianist Gwilym Simcock play the Port Talbot skyline.

On old nautical charts as well as the bird's eye view there is often a coastal profile - the outline of the land seen from the point of view of a sailor approaching it. Radio producer Julian May was struck by the musicality of these, the undulations of hills are melodic, the spacing of landmarks - trees, church spires - rhythmic. Musicians could, he thought, take the line dividing sky from land, place it on manuscript paper, and play the skyline.

Half a dozen prominent musicians are intrigued by this, including jazz musician Courtney Pine; the Scottish composer James MacMillan; Julie Fowlis, leading light of Gaelic song; and Anna Meredith, who was commissioned to create a piece for the Last Night of the Proms.

For Radio 4 Tim Marlow presents three programmes, in England, Wales and Scotland, in which two musicians look at the skyline, talk about their initial responses, then create a piece of music each - playing their skyline. He hears how they are getting along then the musicians, Tim (and Radio 4's listeners) hear for the finished pieces, and consider what they have made.

In the second programme the singer and song writer Kizzy Crawford and pianist Gwilym Simcock create new pieces inspired by the outline against the sky of Port Talbot, seen from the sea. The town, the hills beyond and the steelworks encapsulate the geography and history of Wales.

Kizzy Crawford is eighteen, of Welsh and Bajan heritage, a singer and songwriter at home in English and Welsh. Gwilym Simcock is a Welsh pianist who composes classical pieces, and improvises, too,

They meet Tim Marlow aboard the Seren y Mor (Star of the Sea) looking from out at sea at Port Talbot, whose skyline they will make into music and song.

Producers: Julian May and Benedict Warren.

03 LASTCumnock and Ben Wyvis20140728

03 LASTCumnock and Ben Wyvis20140728

James MacMillan plays a lowland skyline, Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis one in the highlands.

03 LASTCumnock and Ben Wyvis20140728

03 LASTCumnock and Ben Wyvis20140728

On old nautical charts as well as the bird's eye view there is often a coastal profile - the outline of the land seen from the point of view of a sailor approaching it. Radio producer Julian May was struck by the musicality of these, the undulations of hills are melodic, the spacing of landmarks - trees, church spires - rhythmic. Musicians could, he thought, take the line dividing sky from land, place it on manuscript paper, and play the skyline.

Half a dozen prominent musicians are intrigued by this, including jazz musician Courtney Pine, Anna Meredith, who was commissioned to create a piece for the Last Night of the Proms, Welsh pianist Gwilym Simcock and Kizzy Crawford eighteen, of Bajan heritage, a singer and songwriter at home in English and Welsh.

For Radio 4 Tim Marlow presents three programmes, in England, Wales and Scotland, in which two musicians look at the skyline, talk about their initial responses, then create a piece of music each - playing their skyline. He hears how they are getting along then the musicians, Tim (and Radio 4's listeners) hear for the finished pieces, and consider what they have made.

This final programme bucks the format somewhat to reflect the cultural realities of Scotland - lowland/highland, rural/industrial and Gaelic/English (or Scots). So James MacMillan plays, with help from local schoolchildren and musicians from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the skyline Cumnock, the pit village in Ayrshire where he spent his childhood. Julie Fowlis, drawing on Gaelic poetry, traces in music the skyline of Ben Wyvis in Easter Ross.

Producers: Benedict Warren and Julian May.

0201Newcastle And Gateshead20160808

Piper Kathryn Tickell and jazz trombonist Hannabiell Sanders play the skyline of Newcastle

In 'Playing the Skyline' Tim Marlow joins two musicians as they look at how the land meets the air, and imagine it as music. They give their responses, then begin playing the skyline, before creating new pieces. Later, Tim hears how they are getting on and, finally, the musicians, Tim and Radio 4's listeners hear their finished works.

On old nautical charts as well as the bird's eye view there is often a coastal profile - the outline of the land seen from the point of view of a sailor approaching it. Radio producer Julian May was struck by the musicality of these, the undulations of hills are melodic, the spacing of landmarks - trees, spires - rhythmic. Musicians could, he thought, take the line dividing the earth from the air, place it on a stave - literally or imaginatively - and play the skyline.

In the first of this new series Kathryn Tickell and Hannabiell Sanders turn the skyline of Newcastle into music. At the old Baltic flour mill by the Tyne they look upstream, where the great curves of the Sage Concert Hall and the bridges meet, to be end-stopped by the square solidity of the castle, from which the city gets its name.

Kathryn Tickell is steeped in the traditional music of Northumberland. She plays the region's indigenous instrument, the Northumbrian Smallpipes. So her music, she says, "always speaks in the accent of the Northeast."

Hannabiell Sanders' accent is very different. Her father is Jamaican and she was born in the American South. How would she describe her music? "Psychedelic Afro-funk jazz fusion!"

Hannabiell's bass trombone (called Tyler) can glide smoothly over the curves of Newscastle's skyline, something tricky for Kathryn, on the pipes it is impossible to slide from one note to another.

Producer: Julian May.

0202A Hillside in Oxfordshire20160815

0202A Hillside in Oxfordshire20160815

Paul Sartin plays the skyline of Oxfordshire on the oboe, Robert Worby on his synthesizer.

0202A Hillside in Oxfordshire20160815

Paul Sartin plays the skyline of Oxfordshire on the oboe, Robert Worby on his synthesizer.

0202A Hillside in Oxfordshire20160815

0202A Hillside in Oxfordshire20160815

In 'Playing the Skyline' Tim Marlow joins two musicians as they look at how the land meets the air, and imagine it as music. They give their responses, then begin playing the skyline, before creating new pieces. Later, Tim hears how they are getting on and, finally, he and Radio 4's listeners hear the finished works and the musicians respond to each other's pieces.

There is in the south of England a dramatic skyline viewed by thousands daily. Sadly they can't stand and stare. This is where the M40 cuts through the Chilterns, opening to the expanse of rural Oxfordshire. For the second Playing the Skyline Tim, Robert Worby and Paul Sartin gather in a meadow of wild orchids, with red kites wheeling, beside the cutting.

Robert played keyboards in The Mekons, famous '70s punk band. These days he presents Radio 3's new music programme,' Hear and Now' , and composes music that draws on all available sounds - instrumental, mechanical, environmental and electronic.

Paul plays the oboe. He was, until they split up this year, one of Bellowhead, the folk big band that brought English traditional music to the main stage at Glastonbury, the London Palladium and even Radio 2. He now works with Faustus, Belshazzar's Feast and directs a community choir.

The scene is a Constable painting (plus motorway). Paul plays a folk tune collected in the 19th century just a couple of miles away, appropriately in such an English landscape, on the cor anglais. But both musicians are inspired by the dramatic intervention of modern man in this ancient landscape. Robert collects sounds of the motorway for his piece. Above this drone skylarks sing and Robert pulls a tiny synthesizer from his bag and, right there, creates a new electronic 'Lark Ascending'.

Producer: Julian May.

0202A Hillside in Oxfordshire20160815

In 'Playing the Skyline' Tim Marlow joins two musicians as they look at how the land meets the air, and imagine it as music. They give their responses, then begin playing the skyline, before creating new pieces. Later, Tim hears how they are getting on and, finally, he and Radio 4's listeners hear the finished works and the musicians respond to each other's pieces.

There is in the south of England a dramatic skyline viewed by thousands daily. Sadly they can't stand and stare. This is where the M40 cuts through the Chilterns, opening to the expanse of rural Oxfordshire. For the second Playing the Skyline Tim, Robert Worby and Paul Sartin gather in a meadow of wild orchids, with red kites wheeling, beside the cutting.

Robert played keyboards in The Mekons, famous '70s punk band. These days he presents Radio 3's new music programme,' Hear and Now' , and composes music that draws on all available sounds - instrumental, mechanical, environmental and electronic.

Paul plays the oboe. He was, until they split up this year, one of Bellowhead, the folk big band that brought English traditional music to the main stage at Glastonbury, the London Palladium and even Radio 2. He now works with Faustus, Belshazzar's Feast and directs a community choir.

The scene is a Constable painting (plus motorway). Paul plays a folk tune collected in the 19th century just a couple of miles away, appropriately in such an English landscape, on the cor anglais. But both musicians are inspired by the dramatic intervention of modern man in this ancient landscape. Robert collects sounds of the motorway for his piece. Above this drone skylarks sing and Robert pulls a tiny synthesizer from his bag and, right there, creates a new electronic 'Lark Ascending'.

Producer: Julian May.

0203Belfast Docks20160822

In 'Playing the Skyline' Tim Marlow joins two musicians as they look at how the land meets the air, and imagine it as music. They give their responses, then begin playing the skyline, before creating new pieces. Later, Tim hears how they are getting on and, finally, he and Radio 4's listeners hear the finished works and the musicians consider each other's pieces.

In the final programme in this series Tim Marlow returns to an urban skyline, next to the Harland and Woolf shipyard in Belfast. Here the city's composer laureate, Brian Irvine, shelters from the rain beneath the Titanic Centre. He is amazingly prolific, his work ranging from collaboration with Seamus Heaney on an orchestral piece to an oratorio for 500 children. He settles down, manuscript paper in hand, looks at the skyline and sketches like a painter. But the strokes Brian makes are notes of music, bar lines, and dynamic markings. Remarkably, they closely resemble the industrial shapes on the skyline - an oil-rig, huge gantries, ships and sheds.

The multi-instrumentalist, Rachael Boyd, who creates melodic soundscapes, plays her initial response to the skyline as she looks at it, on her violin. Then, next to Brian, she begins to write it, too. What is intriguing, and crucial, is that two artists can look at the same skyline and be struck by it in entirely different ways. The notes on Rachael's manuscript undulate, capturing the rhythmic flow of the hills that surround Belfast which, even as she writes, are shrouded in cloud and rain, and disappear.

How will the musicians resolve these sketches into complete compositions? How, if at all, will the musical traditions of this troubled city influence these two different pieces, that play the same Belfast skyline?

Producer: Julian May.

Composer laureate Brian Irvine and Rachael Boyd, on fiddle, play the skyline of Belfast.