Start the Week podkast

Music and poetry

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Humankind’s relationship with music can be traced back millions of years and across continents. In Sound Tracks the archaeologist Graeme Lawson unearths some of the oldest instruments, from water-filled pots in Peru from AD700 that chirp like a bird, to bells from a tomb in 5th century China. He argues that music is part of what makes us human.

An ancient horn, played from a watchtower on Hadrian's Wall, is a far cry from the modern version the award-winning trumpeter Alison Balsom plays. She is giving the UK premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Trumpet Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra (Barbican on the 11th April; Bristol Beacon on the 12th). This is a contemporary piece that showcases the huge versatility of the trumpet, from the opening pre-historic-sounding wild elephant call to ceremonial fanfare and New Orleans jazz.

The celebrated poet John Burnside’s new collection, Ruin, Blossom explores what it is to be human as we contemplate our mortality. But even amidst the ruin and death and decay, his words reveal the beauty and hope in the everyday natural world: ‘first sun streaming through the trees … a skylark in the near field, flush with song’.

(Extract from Wynton Marsalis’ Trumpet Concerto, played by Alison Balsom with the Swedish Radio Orchestra in a concert from 17th February 2024, with permission from the Swedish Radio Orchestra )

Producer: Katy Hickman

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