Tracing the story of Ella Fitzgerald's life, this documentary film explores how her music became a soundtrack for a tumultuous century. From a 1934 talent contest at the Apollo theatre in Harlem, the film follows Ella's extraordinary journey across five decades as she reflects the passions and troubles of the times in her music and her life. Moving beyond conventional biopic, the film uses images and music to evoke the feel of those times, bringing to life the context of Ella's unique career, featuring interviews from Smokey Robinson, Jamie Cullum, Tony Bennett, Norma Miller and Laura Mvula.
To mark the publication of Keith Richards' autobiography, Life, this Culture Show special looks at the life of the man with five strings and nine lives. In a candid interview he chats to Andrew Graham-Dixon about his childhood in Dartford, his passion for music and the decade that catapulted the Rolling Stones from back-room blues boys to one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands in the world.
Suzy Klein explores the use, abuse and manipulation of music in the Second World War - from swinging jazz to film soundtracks and from ballads to ballets. The war, she demonstrates, wasn't just a military fight but an ideological battle where both sides used music as a weapon to secure their vision for civilisation. Suzy reveals how the forces' sweetheart Vera Lynn was taken off air by the BBC for fear her sentimental songs undermined the British war effort. She reveals the war work of two British composers. Walton's Spitfire Prelude became the archetype for a particularly British form of patriotic music. By contrast, Tippett was sent to prison for being a conscientious objector, but his anti-war oratorio A Child of Our Time was showcased at the Royal Albert Hall. Suzy examines Olivier Messiaen's haunting Quartet for the End of Time, written in a POW camp. At Auschwitz, Suzy reveals how music was co-opted to serve the Nazis' evil purposes.
The composer examines the middle to late 19th century, exploring the European craze for opera and music that dealt with death and destiny. He suggests that composers were inspired by Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique to write about witches, ghouls, trolls and hellish torment, and that the death of the heroine in Verdi's La Traviata was a comment on the hypocrisies of wider society. Howard also argues that the image of the composer as a misunderstood genius was cemented in the public imagination during this period.
The composer examines the age of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann and Chopin. This period from 1750 to 1850 saw composers going from being paid, liveried servants of princes and archbishops to working as freelancers required to appeal to a new, middle-class audience. The era also saw tremendous social upheaval, including the American, French and Industrial revolutions, but until around the turn of the 19th century, the music that was being written bore little relevance to the tumultuous changes in society.
Film about the pop culture phenomenon that is Daft Punk, the duo with 12 million albums sold worldwide and seven Grammy awards. Throughout their career Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have always resisted compromise and the established codes of show business. They have remained determined to maintain control of every link in the chain of their creative process. In the era of globalisation and social networks, they rarely speak in public and neither do they show their faces on TV. This documentary explores this unprecedented cultural revolution, revealing two artists on a permanent quest for creativity, independence and freedom. Between fiction and reality, magic and secret, future and reinvention, theatricality and humility, The Robots have built a unique world. The film combines rare archive footage as well as exclusive interviews with their closest collaborators who talk about their work with Daft Punk, including Pharrell Williams, Giorgio Moroder, Nile Rodgers and Michel Gondry.
2016 • Music
John Eliot Gardiner goes in search of Bach the man and the musician. The famous portrait of Bach portrays a grumpy 62-year-old man in a wig and formal coat, yet his greatest works were composed 20 years earlier in an almost unrivalled blaze of creativity. We reveal a complex and passionate artist; a warm and convivial family man at the same time a rebellious spirit struggling with the hierarchies of state and church who wrote timeless music that is today known world-wide. Gardiner undertakes a 'Bach Tour' of Germany, and sifts the relatively few clues we have - some newly-found. Most of all, he uses the music to reveal the real Bach.
2013 • Music