The Radio 3 Documentary

The Radio 3 Documentary

United Kingdom

Exploring different aspects of history, science, philosophy and the arts.


Sunday Feature: Grid (Brook Lapping Productions)  

Nothing more than the repeated intersection of horizontal and vertical lines, this feature explores the grid as the great hidden idea behind modernism, art, music and urban design.

Sunday Feature: Frost-Heron  

Art historian Michael Bird is in St Ives to explore the bond between two ground-breaking abstract artists. Terry Frost was a light bulb salesman whose family ridiculed his ambitions to become an artist. Patrick Heron was a well-connected aesthete whose parents nurtured his talent from childhood. Despite their differences, the two men formed an unlikely and lifelong friendship, pioneering brilliant use of colour and space to become two of the most important abstract artists of their generation. Through archive interviews, including some broadcast for the first time, Michael Bird revises their ground-breaking contribution to modern art. Booker Prize winner A S Byatt describes why she choose Heron to paint her portrait. She also reveals that both men enjoyed watching Marilyn Monroe films together! Bird also meets Sir Alan Bowness, former director of the Tate, who owns paintings by both artists. For Terry Frost, painting was about feeling, sensuality and movement. For Heron, the canvas was a space to explore radical technical and intellectual challenges. But success was short-lived as their pioneering work was soon eclipsed by the American Abstract Expressionists. The parochial St Ives tag became a "dirty word" among Londoncentric art critics. Sales of Frost's work dried up while Heron rattled against the "cultural chauvinism" of the American "propaganda machine". But both men continued to work, discover and innovate right up their deaths, within three years of each other. As Tate St Ives prepares to open a new wing dedicated to the St Ives school, and plans for a major Heron exhibition are under way, Michael Bird asks why we should still be looking at Heron and Frost. Producer: Karen Pirie Reader: Jonathan Keeble. With thanks to: Tate Archive, British Library Artists' Lives, Susanna Heron, Katharine Heron, Terry Frost Archive. A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio.

Sunday Feature: The Bloomsbury Lighthouse  

Tracing the activities of four unlikely wartime propagandists, Graham Greene, George Orwell, A L Lloyd and Laurie Lee, through the corridors of Bloomsbury skyscraper Senate House.

Sunday Feature: The Dvorak Statement  

Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani travels to the USA to discover the past and present of African American classical music.

Sunday Feature: Monteverdi's Women  

Catherine Fletcher explores Monterverdi's pioneering use of female roles and performers

Breaking Free - Martin Luther's Revolution. Reformation 500  

Germany's celebrating 500 years since the Reformation - but what does it mean today? Chris Bowlby visits Wittenberg - where Martin Luther started it all in 1517. He discovers how the Reformation transformed life in many different ways, and helped make Germany a nation of singers and book-lovers. But amidst all the culture and kitsch Germany's also grappling with a darker legacy - Luther's anti-Semitism and exploitation by dictators and populists. Producer, Chris Bowlby Editor, Penny Murphy Part of Radio 3's Breaking Free series of programmes exploring Martin Luther's Revolution.

A Square Dance in Heaven  

The Rev Lucy Winkett goes on the trail of Martin Luther's musical reformation.

v. is for Tony  

To mark Tony Harrison's 80th birthday, Paul Farley presents a profile.

Sunday Feature: I Know an Island  

Jon Gower visits the island of Skokholm off the coast of south west Wales, and uncovers the work of the pioneering naturalist RM Lockley, whose work inspired 'Watership Down'

The Radio 3 Documentary: Hitting the High Notes  

Why did hundreds of jazz musicians turn to heroin in the post-war period?

Sunday Feature: Whatcha Doin' Marshall McLuhan  

Writer Ken Hollings reassesses the life and work of 1960s public intellectual and mass media guru Marshall McLuhan and examines his relevance in today's digital world.

Opera Across the Waves  

How did opera become an art form consumed today by millions of people globally on computer screens, in cinemas and on the radio? And how, in particular, did New York's Metropolitan Opera become one of the most iconic and powerful producers of this Old World export? Flora Willson traces the roots of today's phenomenon of opera in cinemas to the years 1890-1930, when New York emerged as a global operatic centre. The programme shows how the Met took the initiative in those decades, exploiting new developments in transatlantic travel, the recording industry and radio broadcasting. And Flora considers how today opera is bursting out of the plush velvet curtains and tapping into mass audiences everywhere by embracing the potential of new technologies. Today you can have the thrill of this extraordinary and overwhelming experience in the home, on the move and at the local cinema. This is a hefty counterpunch to the clichéd view that opera is a dead art form only consumed by the cultural elite. With contributions from Peter Gelb (General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera), Kasper Holten (outgoing Director of Opera at the Royal Opera House), Mark Schubin (Engineer-in-Charge at the Metropolitan Opera), Barrie Kosky (opera director), Stuart Skelton (tenor), Gundula Kreuzer (musicologist, Yale) and Ben Walton (musicologist, Cambridge).

Alice Coltrane: Her Sound and Spirit  

Kevin Le Gendre presents a portrait of musician and spiritual leader, Alice Coltrane

Sunday Feature: John Ruskin's Eurythmic Girls  

Perhaps you did music and movement at school. There was a time girls across the country learnt to dance as if they were flowers. At the start of the 20th century, Jacques-Dalcroze developed Eurythmics to teach the rhythm and structure of music through physical activity. But the idea had earlier roots, including an unlikely champion of women's liberation. John Ruskin - now derided by feminist critics as a woman-fearing medievalist - was at the centre of a 19th-century education movement that challenged the conventional female role in society. Amid concerns about the health of the British empire he looked back to the muscular figures in medieval painting and the sculpture of the ancient Greeks, in their loose-fitting clothes. Perhaps the Victorians needed to shed their corsets and free their minds for learning. In Of Queens' Gardens he set out a radical, influential model for girls' education. Samira Ahmed argues that Ruskin was an accidental feminist. To understand where his ideas came from, how they were enacted and what survives in the way girls are taught today, she ventures into one of the schools set up on Ruskinian principles, tries on the corsetry that restricted Victorian women's lives, and gets the insight of Victorian scholars. Contributors: Matthew Sweet (author of Inventing the Victorians); Dr Debbie Challis (Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL); Louise Scholz-Conway (Angels Costumes); Dr Fern Riddell (author of A Victorian Guide to Sex); Dr Amara Thornton (Institute of Archaeology, UCL) and Isobel Beynon, Dr Wendy Bird, Annette Haynes, Dr Jean Horton, Diane Maclean, Aoife Morgan Jones and Natasha Rajan at Queenswood School. Readings by Toby Hadoke. Presenter Samira Ahmed Producers Simon and Thomas Guerrier A Whistledown Production for BBC Radio 3.

Sunday Feature: King Kong – the Township Jazz Musical  

Saxophonist Soweto Kinch uncovers the extraordinary story of ‘King Kong', the township jazz musical, which began with tragedy in 1956 and ended in triumph in 1959.

Sunday feature: The Experimenters  

Kwame Kwei-Armah explores the artistic and educational experiments at Black Mountain College where American artists like John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg collaborated and taught.

Sunday Feature: Boulez and His Rumble in the Jungle  

The controversial French composer Boulez made three life-changing trips to South America.

Sunday Feature: Savage Pilgrims  

Sara Mohr Pietsch heads to New Mexico to discover why so many prominent artists, writers and composers have moved to the state over the last 100 years.

Music on the Brink of Destruction  

In the Nazi camps and ghettos a vast range of music was created

Apocalypse How  

Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough on how different cultures have viewed the end of the world

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