Prom 21: Gaming Prom – from 8-bit to infinity (Radio 3) | BBC sounds
The silent mind (Radio 4) | BBC sounds
The electricity of every living thing | Audible
Who killed Daphne? (Wonderful) | Apple Podcasts
Euro 2022 Women (Radio 5 Live) | BBC sounds
Daylight saving time is Proms time. While the annual classical music festival may not be a big priority for you (it’s not for me), there’s something inspiring about the fact that it’s still thriving, especially in these times of nothing but corporate profit. Casual listeners may only know the weird, oompah, flag-bashing Land of Hope and Glory element of Last Night of the Proms, but that’s not representative of the whole bastard, thank goodness. For eight weeks, everything is possible, from soaring ballet music to experimental new assignments, a BBC Young Composer event and the performance of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra. Ticket prices vary, but each concert is available live on Radio 3 and on BBC Sounds, with some also shown on TV. This year, several Proms are taking place outside the Royal Albert Hall in London, in venues such as St George’s Hall in Liverpool, the Waterfront Hall in Belfast and the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. All made and funded by the BBC, so by you and me. I am delighted to give money to such a brilliant event.
In order to reach new audiences, a habit has developed in recent years to edit popular, modern, non-classical tunes for a full orchestra. This can be festive or cringey, depending on your mindset. I can’t handle the Haçienda Classical shows because my physical and auditory memories of that nightclub don’t click with beautiful strings and bright trumpets. But I’m happy enough to hear movie themes live, for example, since many of them were primarily played by an orchestra. I’m also into listening to music I know little about. So I tuned in to the very first Gaming Prom.
Readers, I am not a gamer. I’ve played Pac-Man and Space Invaders (at a table, in ye olde pub fashion). I don’t mind a little Wii. I’ve tried it Mario kart but it made me seasick. All this means I have no memories to break or improve upon. I don’t know the melodies. Lucky for me, Radio 3 has a regular Sound of gaming program, so we were in safe hands. And this turned out to be a pleasant hour and a half, a mixed musical bag. Presenters Steffan Powell and Louise Blain were great: warm and inclusive, explained the context of pieces to newbies like me while still appealing to game fans by naming their favorite pokemon novice characters. Charmander and Bulbasaur, if you’re wondering; they made people cheer for the one they liked the most. This wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.
The first piece, based on chronos (a “side scrolling 1980” Fantasy”, according to Powell), was too merry Doris Day western for me (galloping strings a-go-go), but as we progressed chronologically, I enjoyed things more. A medley of game tunes from the 90s was fun and I loved the beautiful cello-led tripthe first video game music to be nominated for a Grammy in 2013. The very recent Battlefield 2042, by Sam Slater and Oscar-winning film composer Hildur Guðnadóttir, was excellent: eerie, ominous, emotional. Just like Jessica Curry’s spacey score for Dear Esther/So let’s melt. All in all a mind blowing evening.
Speaking of thoughts, how does yours work if no one disturbs it? On Wednesday, Radio 4’s The silent mind examined. Some people – I can hardly believe it – have no brain noise at all: no inner monologue, nothing. Justin spoke of his calm state of mind: “Almost 100% of the time I am in a peaceful, relaxing place…all around you is this unknowable deep ocean.” Charlotte described a beautiful room that she mentally visits. Lauren, amazingly, has gone through several states: After a brain injury, during her recovery, she had no inner chatter at all. Psychologist Charles Fernyhough, who works in this field, was a calming and informed presenter; he explained that toddlers’ talk-to-yourself speech aloud turns into inner speech. Olivia Humphreys and Mike Woolley provided an intimate, interesting production.
More insight into how ghosts work in The electricity of every living thing. From Katherine May’s bestselling memoir, adapter Julie Parsons and director Caitriona Shoobridge have created an unusual audio experience: enveloping sound mixed with diary-like drama. Not quite a play, not quite a book to read, but a compelling story. It is the story of May who realizes in middle age that she is autistic, and the sounds clatter and move, a reflection of her experiences. I loved the occasional fzzzzttt, like the sound of power going through overhead wires. Perhaps it would have been helpful to think a little more about why we should be on the narrator’s side, but this is an immersive, enjoyable listening experience.
Wondery has released another true crime podcast, Who killed Daphne? This one is less of a serial killer and more of a political investigation, namely the story of the murder of Maltese anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017. Paul, one of her three sons, all of whom can be seen in this show, made his in 2020 own four-part for Tortoise, The murder of my mother, so at first I wondered why we needed this show. But of course the family wants this murder to stay in the headlines, and Wondery appeals to a more mainstream audience. In addition, the political fallout has been quite dramatic and continues to this day.
Hosted with dedication and honesty by Stephen Gray, with much help from Daphne’s son Matthew, this tells a truly gripping, heart-in-mouth story, especially in the final episode, using the work of the Daphne Project, an international team of journalists who have followed every lead and motive to get as close to the truth as possible. Immersive and vital.
On a more cheerful note, I hope the joy of the Women’s European Championship 2022 final will linger. I listened to 5 Live’s coverage last Sunday on a very packed, very slow train, tracking every pass and tackle, along with commentators Vicki Sparks, Izzy Christiansen and Stephen Warnock. (Sample quote from Christiansen: “She bought that offense with money!”) When England won, I screamed and high-fived a fellow passenger. And when the result was announced over the train Tannoy, the whole carriage clapped. Sweet.