Martin Simpson

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25 Jul 2011

BBC Radio 3 Presents New Music By Martin Simpson

Between the Ears: The Man with the Blue Guitar BBC Radio 3 27th August at 10.00pm

The Man With the Blue Guitar - Kerry Shale performs the Wallace Stevens poem, inspired by Pablo Picasso's painting 'The Old Guitarist', with new music for blue guitar by Martin Simpson

In 1903, during his blue period, Picasso painted 'The Old Guitarist', an image of a musician who despite his destitution - he's in rags and looks starved - continues to play. This picture inspired the American poet Wallace Stevens and in 1937 he published 'The Man with the Blue Guitar', his long, musical poem reflecting on the role of art and the imagination. "You do not play things as they are", he writes, to which his musician replies "Things as they are/ Are changed upon the blue guitar."

In the 1970s David Hockney, who already knew the painting, came across the poem and was inspired to create a series of etchings 'inspired by Wallace Stevens, who was inspired by Picasso.'

This edition of Between the Ears takes the process of a inspiration step further; it's a performance of the poem by Kerry Shale, with new music for 'blue guitar' composed and played by the great guitarist Martin Simpson ('England's Ry Cooder'). There are thoughts on the poem and the painting from the American poet and critic Dana Gioia*, who was until recently the Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts; Sue Hubbard, the British poet and writer on visual arts, and David Hockney himself. These elements are melded to create a new piece for radio - 'Between the Ears: The Man With the Blue Guitar'

Out now

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