Wednesday 2 December 2009

Winter Night, Summer Meadow

Lying awake in the small hours this morning (having been abruptly woken by a violent calf cramp, the afterpain of which is still with me), I realised again how poorly we semi-insomniacs are served by the radio since the demise of the much missed Birdsong radio. The World Service, at an appropriately low volume, is fine, though it's all too likely to grab the attention and haul you back from incipient slumber - or, worse, wake you from a doze with a blast of vibrant ethnic music. Radio 4 has an appalling habit of switching from the World Service to loud, jaunty and utterly infuriating song-and-dance programmes that appear to be aimed at deaf imbeciles, but are, I believe, intended for teachers to record and inflict on classrooms of helpless children - one can but pity them. Similarly, Radio 7, once the studio laughter shows have died down, is likely to jolt you with a blast of jollity aimed at the little ones, god bless 'em. Radio 3 would be fine, but you just can't rely on music to stay at the same volume for long, so there's no sleeping through it. What to do then? I know what I'd have, to see me through the long winter nights in a calm, going on blissful state - an endless loop, a la Birdsong, of the sound of a summer meadow. The buzzing of bees from flower to flower, the intermittent chirring of grasshoppers, birds singing merrily in the middle distance, every now and then the faint susurration of a passing butterfly... I'm nodding off already. Here's a project for some right-minded philanthropist - maybe that Anglophile Getty, whatever his name is - Radio Summer Meadow. What could be more perfectly relaxing in the long small hours of a winter night?


  1. On a quiet April evening in 1912 the 'unsinkable' Titanic went to the bottom of the North Atlantic about three hours after hitting an iceberg. Among many noble and heroic deeds that night was the playing of the string band that was only silenced when the freezing waters consumed the players and their instruments. This dreadful event was the starting point for a wonderful impressionistic orchestral piece by the great British composer Gavin Bryars, and it first saw the light of day almost 40 years ago. Not ambient certainly, nor somnolent, the piece nevertheless has an hypnotic quality of great power, with the repeated strains of the Episcopalian hymn forming the backbone of the half-hour Ode, interrupted by the fleeting recorded voices of survivors, a distant choir of children's voices (many children died) and, perhaps most disturbing of all, the remote groaning and grinding of the steel plates of the great vessel, as it slipped under the water.
    The music never rises above a whisper; this could get you away Nige. Your dreams I cannot vouch for.

  2. I know the feeling Nige! Nothing more annoying than being jolted awake at 3am by the sound of 300 kenyan tribesmen performing a drum solo.

    I used to listen to two ambient Cd's to drift off - both considered classics of the genre - Woob and Biosphere. The Biosphere one in particular was quite unusual, it was a soundscape of the artic circle, and included all sorts of weird and spooky noises like the bells on warning buoys, distant fog horns and the sound of crackling wood on a fire. Led to some pretty lucid dreams!!!

  3. I sympathise with the calf-cramp awakening, there's none ruder. Am regularly plagued. You get a split second's warning, don't you,... "oh no here it comes"... before the full agony strikes, then it's oh oh ee ee rub rub stretch stretch wiggle but quietly so as not to wake the missus ,oh for the love of God... ooh there it goes, pant, pant, dear me.

    And then it lingers in weakened but malevolent form, like Voldemort in the early Potter books.

  4. Loosen up people, just be thankfull that you can awaken, for whatever the reason.
    Think of the disadvantages if you didn't, the paperwork!
    Our current slumber disturbers are deer barking outside of the kitchen widow and tawny owls outside of the bedroom. The barn owls are weekend hooters.

    There is a German preparation called Lion Oil, meant to cure snoring, which it doesn't. However, a few drops at bedtime and nothing will disturb your slumber,

  5. Radio Summer Meadow is a great idea. I rather wish the same idea was extended to those meditation rooms you find on some high streets. This town has at least one but a quick look suggested it was far too austere. And if none of this works, oh well, back to the Beach Boys. I suppose I'm lucky as I've never had a problem getting my head down anywhere. These calf cramps are a pest. I wonder if Dr James Le Fanu whom God preserve has any remedies, as he is often a good source of information on this kind of thing.

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