The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.


Tate Modern, London SE1 - Tino Sehgal, 24 July – 28 October

Tino Sehgal undertakes the annual commission for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall as part of The Unilever Series. Sehgal’s radical, audience-orientated work explores the experience of live encounters between people, eschewing physical production. By creating social situations, Sehgal looks to address the visitor directly. For the 36 year old British-born German artist, the immaterial and intangible is everything.


Barbican Hall, London EC2 - Wynton Marsalis, 25 - 26 July

American trumpeter and arch-conservative jazz purist Wynton Marsalis takes his historically informed music to London with the UK premiere of Swing Symphony – a symphonic exploration of the evolution of swing. Marsalis is joined by his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Simon Rattle.


Old Royal Naval College, London SE10 – Dylan Moran, 20 July

Greenwich Comedy Festival, set in the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College, closes with Irish comic Dylan Moran’s brand of sharp observational comedy. Moran navigates religion, relationships and life’s absurdities and delivers it with signature shambolic charm. Support comes from comedian and performance poet Tim Key.


Tate Modern, London SE1 - Ei Arakawa, 22-29 July

The Tate Modern’s new space devoted to live art, The Tanks, hosts a week-long residency from the Japanese artist Ei Arakawa. Arakawa uses elements of dance, sculpture and sound in his work. The residency includes a workshop examining this cross-disciplinary work as well as the history of ballet in 1920s Japan, while a “single’s night” invites singles to dance with paintings by Jutta Koether.


National Theatre, London SE1 - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time,  24 July – 27 October

Simon Stephens adapts Mark Haddon’s award-winning novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, for the stage. 15-year-old autistic Christopher tracks down the killer of his neighbour’s dog, setting out on a journey that changes his world. Stephens’s production features Matthew Barker, Niamh Cusack and Luke Treadaway.

Tino Sehgal comes to the Tate Modern (Photo:Getty)
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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