The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Film

Metropolis (Opens Nationwide, Friday 10 September)

Fritz Lang's 1927 sci-fi masterpiece has been restored and is now available in UK cinemas. Metropolis is set in 2026, when poor workers toil beneath the ground while the rich enjoy a futuristic city of luxury. The restored version includes 25 minutes of extra footage, and maintains the film's reputation as one of the most visionary and influential in history.

TV

Question Time, BBC 2 (Thursday 16 September, 10:35 pm)

David Dimbleby returns for a Labour leadership special, with the five hopefuls - Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham - facing questions from the London audience. As voting draws to a close throughout September, this will be one of the last public debates between the candidates, with the process having been kicked off by the New Statesman's own debate back in June.

Music

End of the Road Festival, Larmer Tree Gardens, North Dorset (Friday 10 - Sunday 12 September)

The UK festival season draws to a relaxed close with the fifth instalment of the independently run festival. Living up to its reputation for showcasing the best in alternative, folk and americana music, this year's End of the Road sees peformances from Yo La Tengo, Wilco, Caribou and Iron & Wine alongside its staple comedic, cinematic and gastronomic offerings.

Exhibition

Eadweard Muybridge, Tate Britain (Until 16 January 2011)

The famed inventor of the motion camera is the subject of a compelling retrospective recently opened at the Tate Britain. Muybridge's zoopraxiscope, a method of projecting animated versions photographs as short moving sequences, anticipated future developments in photography and cinema. This exhibition, reviewed by Tim Adams in this week's New Statesman, draws together Muybridge's vast back catalogue and explores the fascinating story of the man behind the pictures.

Theatre

Birdsong, Comedy Theatre, London (Opens Saturday 18 September)

Sebastian Faulks's international best selling novel has been adapted to the stage by Rachel Wagstaff and opens next weekend in London. Directed by Trevor Nunn, the play attempts to dramatise Stephen Wraysford's journey from a love affair in pre-war France to the horror of the Battle of the Somme as a British soldier, and explores the novel's themes of generation, love and courage.

 

Harry Styles. Photo: Getty
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How podcasts are reviving the excitement of listening to the pop charts

Unbreak My Chart and Song Exploder are two music programmes that provide nostalgia and innovation in equal measure.

“The world as we know it is over. The apo­calypse is nigh, and he is risen.” Although these words came through my headphones over the Easter weekend, they had very little to do with Jesus Christ. Fraser McAlpine, who with Laura Snapes hosts the new pop music podcast Unbreak My Chart, was talking about a very different kind of messiah: Harry Styles, formerly of the boy band One Direction, who has arrived with his debut solo single just in time to save the British charts from becoming an eternal playlist of Ed Sheeran’s back-catalogue.

Unbreak My Chart is based on a somewhat nostalgic premise. It claims to be “the podcast that tapes the Top Ten and then talks about it at school the next day”. For those of us who used to do just that, this show takes us straight back to Sunday afternoons, squatting on the floor with a cassette player, finger hovering over the Record button as that tell-tale jingle teased the announcement of a new number one.

As pop critics, Snapes and McAlpine have plenty of background information and anecdotes to augment their rundown of the week’s chart. If only all playground debates about music had been so well informed. They also move the show beyond a mere list, debating the merits of including figures for music streamed online as well as physical and digital sales in the chart (this innovation is partly responsible for what they call “the Sheeran singularity” of recent weeks). The hosts also discuss charts from other countries such as Australia and Brazil.

Podcasts are injecting much-needed innovation into music broadcasting. Away from the scheduled airwaves of old-style radio, new formats are emerging. In the US, for instance, Song Exploder, which has just passed its hundredth episode, invites artists to “explode” a single piece of their own music, taking apart the layers of vocal soundtrack, instrumentation and beats to show the creative process behind it all. The calm tones of the show’s host, Hrishikesh Hirway, and its high production values help to make it a very intimate listening experience. For a few minutes, it is possible to believe that the guests – Solange, Norah Jones, U2, Iggy Pop, Carly Rae Jepsen et al – are talking and singing only for you. 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.

This article first appeared in the 20 April 2017 issue of the New Statesman, May's gamble

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