Archive for RTE lyric fm

The Radio, The Universities and The Culture in Ireland

Posted in Maynooth, Music with tags , on September 14, 2019 by telescoper

Yesterday at the end of a busy week I finally got round to booking a ticket for next Friday’s Culture Night performance at the National Concert Hall in Dublin. That will be my first concert of the new season and I’m looking forward to it. Among other things, it gives me the chance to persevere with Brahms…

However, later on in the evening yesterday I heard via one of the presenters of RTÉ lyric fm, the radio station on which next week’s concert will be broadcast, that there are plans afoot to close down the channel because of funding difficulties.

Since I first arrived in Ireland nearly two years ago, I searched through the available radio stations for one that I could listen to and it didn’t take me long to settle on RTÉ lyric fm, which has been a regular source of edification, relaxation and stress relief for me. I fear its loss tremendously. I’m not the only one. If you’re on Twitter, take a look at the hashtag #savelyricfm.

I listen to the jovial Marty Whelan in the morning before work, and when I get home in the evenings I enjoy John Kelly’s Mystery Train followed by Bernard Clarke’s The Blue of the Night on weekdays and Ellen Cranitch’s The Purple Vespertine at the weekends. All these programmes have intriguingly eclectic playlists, from classical to jazz and beyond, and presenters who clearly know and love the music. It’s not just a music channel, of course. RTÉ lyric fm covers culture and the arts generally, and is the only channel run by RTÉ – which is meant to be a public service broadcaster – that has this area as its province. It would be a crying shame as well as an abdication of its cultural responsibility if all this were lost to save the paltry amount of money required to keep the station going. I’ll do anything I can to save RTÉ lyric fm. For me it really is one of the very best things about Ireland.

I might add that I stopped watching television many years ago and don’t have a TV set. I’m even less inclined to get one now that I’m in Ireland as the schedules are dominated by the kind of crappy programmes I didn’t watch when I lived in Britain and have even less reason to watch now. The radio, on the other hand, in something I enjoy a lot.

Another item that was doing the rounds last week was the publication of the annual Times Higher Education World Rankings. I’ll save a proper rant about the stupidity and dishonesty of these league tables for another occasion, but one thing that has preoccupied the media here about the results is that Irish universities have done rather badly: Trinity College, for example, has fallen 44 places since last year. While I don’t trust these tables much, together with Ireland’s very poor showing in the recent ERC grant round, they do paint a consistent picture of a higher education system that is struggling with with the consequences of years of chronic underfunding.

(I’ll add that Maynooth University bucked the trend a bit, rising from the band covering 351st-400th place to that covering 301st to 350th place. That means that Maynooth went up by anything from 1 place to 99 places. There can be little doubt who is responsible for this…)

For me these stories are both consequences of the prevailing political culture in Ireland, which is a form of neoliberalism that deems neither culture nor public service nor education to be things of value in themselves and therefore just leaves them to dwindle through lack of care. The only think that matters is the cycle of production and consumption. Culture is irrelevant.

While the Irish economy is booming – at least in terms of GDP growth – the proceeds of this growth go to a relatively small number of rich individuals and multinational corporations while most people don’t see any benefit at all, either in their own salaries, or in investment in the public services. Austerity for everyone except the rich has been the policy for the last decade in Ireland as it has in the United Kingdom and the consequences are plain for all to see, in the arts, in the universities and in the lives of ordinary people.

Bealtaine and a Vicennial

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , , , on May 1, 2019 by telescoper

This morning I found that today is called Beltane (Lá Bealtaine in Irish) an old Celtic festival that marks the mid-point between the Spring Equinox and the Summer Solstice. According to my calculations that should be May 6th, but that’s close enough I suppose. Anyway, let me offer a hearty `Lá Bealtaine sona daoibh‘!

Today is also the twentieth anniversary of the first broadcast by RTE Lyric FM which first went on air on May 1st 1999. Since I moved to Ireland in 2017 I’ve been a regular listener to Lyric FM in the mornings and evenings. I particularly enjoy the eclectic mix of music played by John Kelly on Mystery Train followed by Bernard Clarke on The Blue of the Night during the week. Both are very knowledgeable presenters who are happy to play rare and unusual music and to respond to inquiries about the music played. Bernard Clarke has even played a couple of requests of mine, both of them jazz records. During the late evenings at the weekend I listen to Ellen Cranitch whose show Vespertine is `a night-time voyage, crossing time and space to share a selection of classical, jazz, roots and contemporary music’. You never quite know what’s coming up next on any of these programmes.

Anyway, there’s a big gala concert happening tonight at the National Concert Hall in Dublin by way of a vicennial celebration. I didn’t get my act together to buy a ticket, but I’ll be listening on my wireless at home. Possibly with a glass or several of wine.

When Lyric FM was launched on 1st May 1999 I had recently moved out of London to Nottingham where I had my first Professorship. Since then I moved to Cardiff, then to Sussex, back to Cardiff, and then to Maynooth. I bet quite a lot has happened to the radio station too!

The Blue of the Night: Giant Steps from Ondine

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags , , , , , , on October 17, 2018 by telescoper

Time for a quick lunchtime post before I settle down to an afternoon of marking coursework.

On Monday evening after finishing preparing my lectures and things for Tuesday, I decided to tune in for a while to The Blue of the Night on RTÉ Lyric FM which is presented by Bernard Clarke. This is a programme that I listen to quite often in the evenings as I enjoy its eclectic mix of music.

Anyway, the Blue of Monday Night included a recording of the movement Ondine from the piano suite Gaspard de la Nuit by Maurice Ravel. As I listened to it, I started to think of an entirely different piece, the jazz classic Giant Steps, by John Coltrane (which I’ve actually posted on this blog here). Not really expecting anything to come of it, I sent a message on Twitter to Bernard Clarke mentioning the fact that the Ravel piece reminded me of Giant Steps. A few minutes later I was astonished to hear Giant Steps playing. Bernard had not only replied to me on Twitter, but had slipped the Coltrane track into the programme. Which was nice.

That confirmed the similarity in my mind and I did some frantic Googling to see if anyone else had noticed the similarity. Of course they have. In a rather dense article about music theory (most of which I don’t understand, having never really studied this properly) I found this:

I didn’t know at first what the up and down arrows annotating the two pieces were, but they represent the harmonic progression in a very interesting way that I had never thought about it before. The assertion is that in some sense the (sub-dominant) IV and (dominant) V chords which very common in popular music are closely related. To see why, imagine you play C on a piano keyboard. If you go 7 semitones to the right you will arrive at G, which is the root note of the relevant V chord. That’s up a perfect fifth. But if instead you go 7 semitones to the left you get to F which is a fifth down but is also a perfect fourth if looked at from the point of view of C an octave below where you started. In this way `up’ arrow represents a perfect fifth up (or a perfect fourth down) while the `down’ arrow is a perfect fifth down or a perfect fourth up. This is deemed to be the basic (or `simple proper’) chord progression.

Single or double arrows to left or right represent substitutions of various kinds (e.g. a minor third), but I won’t go further into the details. The key point is that while the actual chords differ after the first few changes because of the different substitutions, the chord progression in these two piece is remarkably similar judged by the sequence of arrows. The main exception is a different substitution in bar 3 of the Coltrane excerpt. Both pieces end up achieving the same thing: they complete an entire chromatic cycle through a sequence of basic progressions and substitutions.

I don’t know whether Coltrane was directly inspired by listening to Ravel or whether they both hit on the same idea independently, but I find this totally fascinating. So much so that I’ll probably end up trying to annotate some of the chord changes I’ve worked out from other recordings and see what they look like in the notation outlined above.