Howard Aggregate’s Late Preview #7

It was all going so well. Last week representatives of BBC Radio and Resonance agreed to exchange schedules. It was a broadcasting coup described by the Guardian as ‘like the British Museum handing the keys of its collection to the local charity shop and getting a wonky CD rack in return’. (The future of the museum space in the 21st Century? Send your views to director@bm.ac.uk or donate your Assyrian breastplate to Oxfam, Bloomsbury Street.)

To the venerable Beeb, Resonance offered up programmes such as Laun-drama, a late-night soap-opera of tall stories and nylon knickers recorded from the drum of a Hotpoint set to wash’n’go. Desperate to keep the bohemians from the World Service, the Beeb handed Resonance the keys to the Radio Four audio jewel box. Do what you like with it, they said; funk it up if you think that’s cool, daddio. And those jewels were promptly flushed down the toilet.

Was this the effrontery you would expect from a radio station described by Radio Times as ‘a shipwrecked Radio Caroline, a rogue radio landing craft on the Normandy beachhead of audio extremity, cower in your bunker, listener, and be afraid’? No, it was because we couldn’t spell. The schedule had been put through the Resonance computer equivalent of spellcheck: slopchick, aka intern-from-hell Polly Schedule-Filler. So you can start the day with the To Do programme, listen to Melvyn Barg’s In Our Crime, and then puzzle over Disturbed Island Discs and round off the day with Book at Bogtime.

Somehow, the title of The Archers survived intact. But an everyday story of simple folk didn’t mean much at Resonance, so the programme was revamped as a radiophonic celebration of bow and arrows. In the beginning is the slow yearning draw of the bow, followed by the exquisitely agonising prevarication as the archer takes aim. Then, with a fusion of bow and bicep and two fingers sticking it to you, the arrow is at last hurled into the yielding currents of summer air, its whistling arc inevitably recalling Agincourt (to get you in a patriotic mood, Vaughan Williams is played in the background), ending in the deep bass thud of the cleave’d bulls-eye.

But it doesn’t quite sound like that. Had it been put together by the BBC, the recording equipment would have been miniaturised, feather-light pinhole technology borrowed from the Oxbridge chums of the programme makers who now work for MI6, and would barely affect the aerodynamic performance of the arra’. As this is Resonance, all that was available was a post-war reel-to-reel withdrawn in the early sixties because each unit contained more lead than all of Cornwall. You do get Vaughan Williams, but it’s played backwards. So what you hear is someone falling over while listening to what sounds like someone with chronic constipation trying to say the Lord’s Prayer backwards.

Back to normal next week. Phew!

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1 Comment

  1. Do you also work for the BBC? You do more than resonancecom, don’t you? Any live shows planned ?

    I live in Shanghai. There are at least three other people here who listen to your show!

    All the best,

    Tristana


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