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Words and Music: BBC Radio Three

ByJemma Hoolahan

Feb 2, 2016

Produced by Ellie Mant, BBC3’s Words and Music series continues with their episode, ‘Perchance to Dream’. With text and music craftily interwoven, this is the perfect addition to mellow Sunday evenings.
Focusing on the theme of dreams, this week’s episode begins with extracts from texts such as Alice in Wonderland at the moment that Alice is brought round to consciousness. Throughout literature there is a recurrent idea of both dreams and nightmares, enabling readers to gain greater insight into the characters’ innermost thoughts.
This week’s episode brings out the different ways in which they are used. These extracts – read in the soothing voices of Sophie Thompson and Chiwetel Ejiofor – provide an indulgent interlude from the music of those such as Elgar and Mendelsson. Extracts from Jude the Obscure provide a perspective of dreams as a form of escapism: Jude’s fantasies of using education as a way to further his position in life.
In contrast, we are also plunged into the vivid imagination of Rebecca Sharp in Vanity Fair, whose ‘delightful day-dreams’ are described in rich, fanciful language. The programme also explores nightmares, with an extract from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights that describes Mr Lockwood’s dreams of Catherine – a small child, who is attempting to get through his window. Similarly an extract from Moby Dick focuses on Captain Ahab’s nightmares; the music that accompanies this, by Peter Mennin, is in fact titled ‘Moby Dick’ and was inspired by the novel.
The music throughout is in keeping with both the dream-like quality of the episode and the spoken word it surrounds. For instance George Crumb’s Dream Sequence provides a soothing yet dynamic following from the reading from Rebecca whilst Debussy’s Reverie creates a mellower mood.
The programme comes to a close with Yeats’ poem ‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’, which, with its indulgent language, concludes the episode on the peaceful aspects of dreams. Ultimately the listener is left with a feeling of great contentment.

Image: Giselo Giardino

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