Music, late night radio

Music, late night radio

18 August

I woke not long after midnight with painful indigestion, have only experienced something like it once or twice before. I get up quietly, put on the radio upstairs for the last few minutes of the Rite of Spring – the piece really needs to be hammering out of the floor speakers. Next up is a wonderful piece by an Australian composer. Stravinsky is a hard act to follow, but Kate Moore’s Cicadidae played by the Australian String Quartet is marvellous. I really enjoy hearing it again. The program notes suggest something amazing: ‘Sitting in the bush listening to the cicadas it is possible to hear the landscape by listening to their subtle orchestration, a sonic map of a vast land. You can hear near and far, the shape of ridges, valleys, cliffs and plains.’

I switch quickly from Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major, the ‘Wanderer’. I have the Trout and Winterreise, but have not appreciated much else, so far. I find Jimmy Page talking about ‘Stairway to Heaven’, on local community station BBB – which I rarely hear, only having reception at night. Strange that having loved Led Zeppelin’s first three albums, I missed the fourth. I didn’t hear this song (lauded as one of the greatest rock songs of all time) for a while, and not the later anthem ‘Kashmir’ from ‘Physical Graffiti’ (1975) until many years later.

From the interview I passed by a phone-in about Afghanistan – which I have just been writing about – and catch JJJ playing a heavy metal track. Some great muscular sounds are dogged by growling voice, which then screams ‘Death embrace me’. It puts me off. Just hours earlier I was writing about the casualties from over forty years of carnage in Afghanistan. And Wilhelm Muller’s poetry, used by Schubert in his song cycles, has enough death, ‘And my strength begins to fail / Raven, surely you will be true / Until death overtakes me.’ I had just turned 14 when Led Zeppelin released their first album, I couldn’t imagine anything heavier, until I heard Led Zeppelin II which came out later that year. Some time ago I read about the genres of heavy metal, doom, sludge and many more. I forget the denominations and wouldn’t know where this band find their niche. Is there growl metal?

I turn the dial to the last station on my portable. The BBC World Service is holding a discussion on skin whiteners (now banned in Ghana). A whole universe of voices, sounds, gears, and I can hear a goods train in the distance.

The pain hasn’t gone away so go I get some Rennies and turn on the router to check the symptoms of appendicitis. I diagnose indigestion, so go out on deck and look at the stars. Orion was wandering over the forest last night – but not a single sun is waiting for me. Back in the warmth I start feeling a little better – I start writing . . .

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