View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. Radio & Podcasts
21 November 2013

Discovering Music is sometimes the best thing on Radio 3 – but is it about to be axed?

The ten-year-old programme is a profoundly effective show and tell: extracts from a decent recording of a piece of classical music are stopped occasionally for analysis, using phrases such as, “We can sense a deepening here."

By Antonia Quirke

Discovering Music
BBC Radio 3

“Atonal isn’t a word you’d expect to hear in association with Vaughan Williams but here we are . . .” Just a few minutes into another brilliant episode of Discovering Music (7 November, 8.20pm) about Vaughan William’s seventh symphony, Sinfonia Antartica, and the presenter Stephen Johnson is in his stride, speaking in a way that is hard to render on the page but that sounds incredibly natural and yet also like every other word is italicised.

The ten-year-old programme is a profoundly effective show and tell: extracts from a decent recording of a piece of classical music are stopped occasionally for analysis, using phrases such as, “We can sense a deepening here,” and, “Remember we already heard some evocative sounds like that in a previous movement.” Sinfonia Antartica made a wonderful subject, sounding so absorbed in the freakish, almost alien textures of layered, ancient snow, with lots of grieving harp and piano (“It suggests ice so cold it’s almost dry”).

On a good week, Discovering Music can be the best thing on Radio 3. I mentally tuck into a waitress trolley weighed down with oodles of ham and cheese whenever the show starts. But is it about to be axed? I’m afraid that’s the rumour. Already collapsed in length and inched into a 20-minute concert interval in the last round of cuts, its future never looked good but . . . Oh, such a simple, inexpensive programme! One record, one script. Why lose it?

And why, more to the point, these terrible numbers? Radio 3 fell to the bottom of the network radio league in terms of budget this year, receiving an increase of just £300,000, where Radio 1 managed to grab £3.3m. Even more worrying is that the BBC Trust recently described Radio 3 listeners as a “a subset of the Radio 4 audience”. Never was a phrase more designed to make people feel like the losing crew at the end of the boat race. The disdain contained in that phrase feels absolute. It suggests a license to dismantle not just certain music specialism programmes or even speech-based programmes on Radio 3 but possibly, somewhere down the line, once it’s been squashed to a kind of Classic FM, an entire station, without so much as a single desperate dash across town or a breathless conference in a lift. It really is ice so cold it’s almost dry.

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU

Content from our partners
Labour's health reforms can put patients first
Data science can help developers design future-proof infrastructure
How to tackle the UK's plastic pollution problem – with Coca-Cola

Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
THANK YOU