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THE CBS RADIO WORKSHOP was radio at its best. This series, originally broadcast from January 27, 1956 to September 22, 1957, was “dedicated to mans imagination… the theatre of the mind.”
The workshop’s inaugural program was a two-part Brave New World, narrated by no less than the book’s author, Aldous Huxley. Other programs highlighted here at SimanaitisSays include “Unearthing the Weans,” a light-hearted misanalysis of our civilization viewed from the year 7859, and a moving “Meditations on CBS Radio Workshop. with Edward R. Morrow’s commentary and composer Norman Dello Joio’s Meditations on Ecclesiastes.
Today’s tidbits are gleaned from “1489 Words,” the workshop’s February 10, 1957, celebration of sound: the words of four writers spoken by radio great William Conrad and accompanied by the music of Jerry Goldsmith.
William Conrad. Conrad was well known at the time as Marshal Matt Dillion on radio’s Gunsmoke. He was a mainstay of CBS West Coast broadcasting, also occasionally free-lancing with the radio pseudonym Julius Krelboyne. He estimated that he played more than 7500 roles during his radio career.
Bill had been a fighter pilot in World War II. Wikipedia notes, “He left the United States Army Air Force with the rank of captain and as a producer-director of the Armed Forces Radio Service.”
Jerry Goldsmith. Jerry’s career in film music includes scores for five movies in the Star Trek series, three for Rambo, as well as Logan’s Run, Planet of the Apes, Patton, Chinatown, and a goodly number of others.
Goldsmith’s concert works include a Toccata for Solo Guitar, the cantata Christus Apollo, Music for Orchestra, and Fireworks: A Celebration of Los Angeles.
1489 Words. Conrad opens with “They say one picture is worth 10,000 words. I wonder; is it?” He shares four examples of words ranging from an ancient Japanese poet to a popular 20th-century novelist. Goldsmith’s accompanying music beautifully enhances the words.
“The Highwayman,” Alfred Noyes, 956 Words. Wikipedia notes, “The poem, set in 18th century rural England, tells the story of an unnamed highwayman,” he of “a French cocked hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin.” This outlaw is in love with Bess, “the landlord’s black-eyed daughter, … Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.”
King George’s men come hunting the highwayman. They bound Bess to her bed, “a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!”
Bess sacrifices her life to warn her lover. He later “lay in his blood on the highway with a bunch of lace at his throat.”
The spirits of both live on in their love.
Jerry Goldsmith’s accompanying music is a rip-roaring film score, with the film unreeling in the mind.
“Sonnet Number 43,” Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 128 Words. As part of courtship, Elizabeth Moulton-Barrett wrote poems of love to Robert Browning. She became Elizabeth Barrett Browning in 1846, around the time she composed Sonnets from the Portuguese.
“Sonnet Number 43” is the most famous: It begins “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
The sonnet’s traditional 14 lines conclude touchingly with “… I love thee with the breath,/Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,/I shall but love thee better after death.”
Goldsmith’s music for “Sonnet Number 43” is appropriately graceful and romantic.
”The Thunder of Imperial Names,” Thomas Wolfe, 398 Words. Of Time and the River is a 1935 fictional autobiography by Thomas Wolfe, 1900–1938. Wolfe’s life and interaction with editor Maxwell Perkins is depicted in the 2016 movie Genius.
“The Thunder of Imperial Names” is an excerpt from this book. It celebrates our country’s battlegrounds, regions, states, Native Americans and their nations, the country’s railroads and its rivers,
“These,” Conrad says, “are a few of their princely names. These are a few of their great, proud, glittery names…”
Goldsmith’s score is respectfully Coplandesque.
“Silence,” an Unknown Ancient Japanese Poet, Completing the 1489 Words. “Just a few more words,” Conrad says, “and we’re done: In the ancient Japanese, a tanka, a poem consisting of only seven words. A poem called ‘Silence.’ ”
Accompanied by gentle Japanese tonality, the poem “Silence” is “The butterfly sleeps on the temple bell.” ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021