View all newsletters
Sign up to our newsletters

Support 110 years of independent journalism.

Antonia Quirke discovers the surprising joys of new classical station Scala Radio

The surprising joys of new classical station Scala Radio.

By Antonia Quirke

Somewhere between the ads for Tim Burton’s Dumbo and a brand of cheddar vowing a “flinty texture” is a wickedly fun new show presented by electronic musician William Orbit (Monday-Thursday, 9pm). It’s on the weeks-old classical station Scala, where Simon Mayo leapt after quitting BBC Radio 2 last year. (His six-days-a-week show sounds much as you’d expect: conversational and busy, but in a way that never quite leaves you suffering from neural wear.)

The music across the station is positioned to be less sonorous than Radio 3 but not as ripe as Classic FM. So, the soundtrack to The Bridge on the River Kwai followed by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Memory”, and perhaps a hit of Julian Bream’s school syllabus-fave recording of Concierto de Aranjuez. Sometimes they’ll stick on Borodin’s In the Steppes of Central Asia, which has oboes honking and swaying like a caravan of camels under a dawn the colour of raw meat. Other times it all sounds a little repetitive, as though programmed by an amnesiac planning a non-denominational wedding (string quartets doing versions of Blackbird).

But Orbit’s show is never remotely dull. Sixty-two, rich and cheerful, he’s predictably porous about what he considers classical (David Crosby, the Cardiacs) and has zero compunction about giving things an arrogant remix. His carve-up of Leonard Bernstein’s 1958 New York Philharmonic recording of The Rite of Spring (“I’ve chopped together four and a half minutes”) brought out a whole, West Side Story meets Jaws-theme sonic mashness designed to leave you like a gnat on a wing mirror (“Stravinsky purists, forgive me”). Pre-Beethoven’s 5th he marvelled at the “time signatures, they’re all over the place… like future multipliers with a tune”. He played something recorded by Damon Albarn on a toy designed by Mattel and wrote a whole, intense essay about Barber’s Adagio for Strings on the station website. The rest of the station sounds like it’s been there forever, especially the news bulletins, as random as on most commercial outfits – those head-lolling juxtapositions, knife-crime updates followed by the latest on Barbra Streisand’s July tour. But Orbit! He’s working on his own topologically intoxicating plane. 

William Orbit In The Space
Scala Radio

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. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • 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 Progressive Media Investments 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
What is the UK’s vision for its tech sector?
Inside the UK's enduring love for chocolate

This article appears in the 13 Mar 2019 issue of the New Statesman, She’s lost control

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. The best way to sign up for The Green Transition is via spotlightonpolicy.substack.com
  • 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 Progressive Media Investments 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