Night Waves Oddities: When The Voice On The Radio Is Mine

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Photo: detail of glass vase taken at an odd angle

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This post isn’t actually about the vase, though the photo is as close a visual cue as I can muster for the very odd thing that happened last week . It went like this.

When I wake in the night, I often plug in an ear bud and listen to Radio 4 Extra, the blessedly news-free zone that continuously recycles BBC broadcasts: drama, book readings, poetry, quizzes, whodunnit Miss Marples and Sherlock Holmes. Imagine the shock, then, when in the dark hours of Wednesday morning, I switch on and the voice that emerges on the digital air waves is mine. What on earth…?

The voice (familiar yet unfamiliar) speaks of seizing the day, of the fallacy of perfect landscapes whose ‘loss’ we continue to mourn. And accompanying the words, my unrehearsed, off-the-cuff words, are the heart-haunting strains of George Butterworth’s Rhapsody, the orchestral epilogue to his song cycles that had set some of A E Housman’s A Shropshire Lad  poems to music.

It is all about loss – Housman’s song-like stanzas of Shropshire’s young men going off to war, written in reaction to the Boer War; Butterworth’s later musical echo, premiered in 1913, followed by his own death on the Somme in 1916.

Listening in the small hours of 26 January 2022, I struggle to believe what I’m hearing. Soul Music is a popular Radio 4 series, featuring several people’s stories and responses to a particular piece of music. In June 2014 I’d taken part in the programme’s recording. It was a special production for Remembrance Sunday November 2014. Yet here I was, randomly switching on, in the middle of the night, eight years later, just at the moment when the repeat broadcast was being aired. Had I become my own oracle? Was some entity trying to tell me something?

As I said, I was only one of several contributors whose thoughts on Butterworth and Housman were used to create the programme. Shropshire broadcaster, Sybil Ruscoe, provided the narrative thread, telling of the loss of her young great uncle who, like Butterworth, had died on the Somme.  So it was stranger still to next discover that it was my sound bites that had been edited to create a trailer for that week’s Soul Music reprise. Over the next couple of nights, there I was again, several times over – talking to me. As odd experiences go, and days later, it’s still hard to process.

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P.S. The story of how I came to be involved with the programme in the first place, my words being recorded by producer Maggie Ayre out in a Shropshire wheat field on Wenlock Edge  can be found here. It was all down to her reading a post I’d done on Butterworth and landscape.

Some of you may be able download the programme here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04nrw25

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Square Odds  This month Becky, Doyenne of Squares, wants our header photos to feature all manner of oddities and oddnesses – however they come so long as they’re square.

41 thoughts on “Night Waves Oddities: When The Voice On The Radio Is Mine

  1. oh my, not sure I would have been able to get back to sleep. very odd, but also rather wonderful to think of you on our airwaves again and again.

    1. Yes, it happening in the middle of the night made it particularly surprising. For one thing I had to squash impulse to wake up other half: hey, I’m on the radio! It would not have gone down well.

  2. Tish, perhaps – I am not sure –

    what came to you to say in the November 2014 broadcast of Soul Music, rebroadcast last month and much of what you have posted about where you live, and some of what you have connected to in your experience in Kenya is an expression in words and photographs of what is being called epigenetic inheritance.

    A transmission of experience, feeling, understanding and behavioural disposition in the expression of certain genes, unchanged, however, in their structure. Every time I read about this, the literature refers to difficult experience: hard, mournful, grief-stricken, causing pain.

    I imagine this is part of Rupert Sheldrake’s area of study also: we communicate and are communicated with in ways which rationality does not explain. As you ‘knew’ to listen again to this particular program.

    And this because our brains do not end where our heads end and our senses have memories greater than the span of our own lives. As you said, in other words, in one of your connected posts, when you heard the song of a bird, possibly a robin.

    ……”It was a moment of true remembrance: the notion of peace when the bombardment ceases.”

    ?Perhaps. But I am not sure, of course.

    Sarah

    1. That’s very fascinating, Sarah. And all the associations you mention are always fairly close to the top of my consciousness. I’ve recently been digging again into my ancestral past and finding strange little resonances there too. There’s much to explore when it comes to memory and our doubtless very limited understanding of its scope through time and space. Thank you for giving me so much to think about.

  3. Goodness… That would be a strange feeling….but…I wonder if I would even know my own voice. I do remember the first time I did hear a recording of my talking at a meeting. It sounded like a very old woman and this was way before I was old. No telling now.

  4. How amazing Tish. I have clicked on the link and it connected. So now I have saved it and will go back later to listen. I find it very strange when you hear your own voice on a recording. It never seems to sound how it sounds coming direct from your mouth to your ears, if you know what I mean… Love the coulours and patterns of the vase too.

    1. That’s great you made the link create a download. I do know if you try to listen ‘live’ you have to have a log-in. And as to one’s own voice sounding strange on air – definitely.

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