Caucasian Lullaby

When the first babblings of Hooting Yard On The Air were heard across the aether almost five years ago, there was different theme music every week. After a while, a panel of experts settled on Caucasian Lullaby by Slapp Happy & Henry Cow to be the definitive theme and so it has remained to this day.

Mindful of the fact that this coming April will see the fifth anniversary of the show, Mr Key has been pondering whether or not to cast tradition aside, in a fit of what may be petulance, and to choose something different to begin the show and to play during those intervals when he stops reading to drink tea or to have a choking spasm. Incapable of making a decision, he is seeking the views of listeners. Please use the Comments here to “have your say”, as they say, even if – or especially if – you are someone who has never commented at Hooting Yard before. Those in favour of a change may wish to suggest an apt piece of music, although Mr Key cannot guarantee he will take the slightest bit of notice.

Whatever the final decision may be, every listener really ought to ensure that they are in possession of their own copy of Desperate Straights, the album from which Caucasian Lullaby is taken, and which is a unique masterpiece. Please purchase it directly from the ReR Megacorp, by clicking here. Now.

23 thoughts on “Caucasian Lullaby

  1. I wonder what piece of music could ever replace the atmosphere that the ‘Caucasian Lullaby’ creates around Hooting Yard…?


  2. I too am enamoured of this strange lullaby, and have spent many diverting moments wondering about who it might rock to sleep… Although I’ve enjoyed the occasional musical exception (Mahler, anyone?), I think Hooting Yard is the Caucasian Lullaby, and the Caucasian Lullaby is Hooting Yard.

  3. Pansy : Speaking of occasional exceptions, I was reminded by my librarian listener (Loz) the other day that I once played Snuffy Walden’s theme to “The West Wing” to introduce the show. I have absolutely no memory of having done so, but I’m sure he must be correct.

  4. Caucasian Lullaby must stay, I think – that Mahler adagietto left me feeling shattered, with a moustache, in a vaporetto, and I haven’t yet recovered.

    The only alternative, I suppose, is to feature songs from Highland Ralph “Dobby” Dobson, who I understand is a cousin by marriage of our own out-of-print pamphleteer.

  5. The theme to the West Wing did appear once…
    (See ‘Ornamental Pond Guilt’ podcast of 18/04/06)
    To which F.K. commented…
    “Why did we play the theme to the West Wing instead of the Caucasian Lullaby…?’
    “I dunno.”
    “Whim I think, mere whim…”

    The intro music that fascinates me is the piece used to introduce the “Flogiston Variations” podcast of 10/09/05…
    A piano led piece of increasing tempo resolving in a chaos of percussion…


  6. Dear Frank,

    As difficult it is to imagine my morning commute unpunctuated by the delicate strains of Caucasian Lullaby …

    Perhaps I could suggest that to open the show, then nothing says hello with a more welcoming tone than Hello Music from Fred Friths Guitar Solos (1974). Its also in keeping with the zeitgeist of Hooting Yard I think. God forbid you should use anything more recent.

    Failing that something splendid from Certain Ants perhaps, but you’d have to ask Chris Atton what he has on CD.
    I’d just like to take the opportunity to say thank you for brightening my daily drive. Its just a shame I’ve been in the USA for 5 years and not found the podcasts until December last year.
    Now in my day, the Hooting Yard website had 3 drawings and an apology for not updating more frequently…

  7. I love the ‘lullaby’. If you really are intent in “mixing it up a bit”, I was thinking of something by Satie.

    However, I would second Outaspaceman’s suggestion of the “piano led piece of increasing tempo resolving in a chaos of percussion”. I haven’t heard it, but I’m sure it’s good. I was thinking piano, and Satie’s been overdone.

    Or, how about Sibelius?

  8. I’d suggest the 2nd movement from Cantus Arcticus otherwise known as “The Symphony for Orchestra and Birds” by the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara.

    I have absolutely no memory of having done so, but I’m sure he must be correct.

    I can confirm this – it was a 2004 episode. In the same year you also played an up-beat number by a band called Vril.

  9. There was a song used on one broadcast that went…
    “Oh, Bring me on my supper boys
    I’ll take it cooked or raw..
    Oh, Bring me on my supper boys
    For I ‘ain’t had a square meal
    Since I left Arkansas
    Oh Lord
    I ‘bin all around the world
    God knows…”

    And, my personal favourite alternative to the Caucasian Lullaby,
    Windham (as performed by The Boston Camerata…)

    Broad is the road that leads to death
    And thousands walk together there
    But wisdom shows a narrow path
    With here and there a traveller

    Deny thyself and take thy cross
    Is thy redeemers great command
    Nature must count her gold but dross
    If she would gain this heav’nly land

    The fearful soul that tires and faints
    And walks the ways of God no more
    Is but esteemed almost a saint
    And makes his own destruction sure

    Lord we are vile
    Conceived in sin
    And born unholy and unclean
    Sprung from the man who’s guilty born
    Corrupts his race and taints us all

    Lord let not all my hopes be vain
    Create my heart entirely new
    Which hypocrites could ne’er attain
    Which false apostates never knew

  10. The status quo seems fine to me; but a possible rival comes to mind: ‘Hopa’ by Pascal LeFeuvre’s Viellistic Orchestra from the album ‘1000 Ans Déjà‘ (ascribed on my CD both to “Thierry Moreau & Turbulences Bleues” and to “Thierry Bertrand”). There are also some cracking bits of Bartok on the same disc in the section entitled ‘Machination Polyphonique’: possibly even more suitable, specially ‘Szunyogtanc’ or the extract from ‘Mikrokosmos’, which would suit very well for any Plovdiv tales. Hell … anything by Pascal LeFeuvre and his cohorts. The sound of hurdy-gurdies (or hurdies-gurdy) strikes me as intrinsically Hooting Yardesque, if that is the correct adjective.

  11. I apologise to everyone (and to Mr. Key specifically) for appearing a little over excited by this discussion…
    Strangely I heard an example of Hurdy-gurdy playing on Saturday night in Brighton at a Richard Thompson gig…
    It has that ‘primitive’ resonance that would complement H.Y. perfectly…
    Bartok’s string quartets carry that same resonance…
    But I’m still a Caucasian Lullaby man myself…

    (I’ll get my anorak…)

  12. Stability is a wonderful thing to have in life. Makes the soul feel comfy inside its physical wrappings. So a vote for ‘no change’.

    For the past year and a half, I have listened to the Hooting Yard audio recordings practically every night while travelling to the land of Nod. Mr Key’s charismatic and clear way of reading the plotless prose allows my fuming brain to cool down and ready itself for the nights rest. And, no, no snide remarks were hidden in those two sentences.

    Having heard each podcast on average four or five times now, something O.S.M. just wrote gripped my attention. Ever since the lamentable Resonance FM software ‘upgrades’ many of the old audios have been lost. Or is it just my computer acting up? I could find some of them from, and just this morning I found all the recordings of shows from 2004 in the Internet Archive ( Joy! But still, the O.S.M. mentioned “Flogiston Variations” is not in any of them. Can you please instruct us where to find it together with perhaps other ‘lost’ shows?

    And the final note. As a native of tiny and insignificant Finland, I am always tickled with the out of the blue mentions of us.

  13. OSM, Phil : The “piano led piece of increasing tempo resolving in a chaos of percussion” is something by the Tickmayer Formatio, as I recall.

    OSM : The song beginning “Oh, Bring me on my supper boys, I’ll take it cooked or raw..” is by the American poet Carl Sandburg. He has a great voice.

    Glyn : There’s a new Vril album in the pipeline. Once again. I’m very pleased to have been asked to provide titles, sleevenotes, etc etc, so the release date is pending me getting all that sorted out.

    Mike Jennings : I too recall the bad old days when Hooting Yard was a static site, rarely updated. Another life, another time.

    iffi : Always a pleasure to mention Finland. I’ll send your comments about the Resonance audio upgrades to the podcast maestro, hoping any problems will thus be rectified.

  14. Oh, two other things.

    “Flogiston”, as it appears in the Resonance listings (I think) should of course be “Phlogiston”.

    The Caucasian Lullaby works well, as a theme and as interval music, because it’s about 8 minutes long and you can dip in and out of it without it sounding jarring. Much as I’m fond of some of the suggestions above, and of much else, they wouldn’t work in the same way.

  15. I think that the only viable and coherent alternative would be to play the piece of music from which the title “Caucasian Lullaby” is taken, namely one of the songs (I can’t remember which, sorry, perhaps “By the People”) from Van Dyke Parks’s “Song Cycle”. It has a strange fiddle interlude that you may find pleasing; and VDP’s whiney vocals backed by a Deep South Chorus.

  16. There is a harrowing account of Babbage’s last days in ‘Cogwheel Brain’ by Doron Swade..
    ISBN 0 349 11239 8
    His final hours were plagued by organ-grinders…

  17. >Strangely I heard an example of Hurdy-gurdy playing on Saturday night in Brighton at a Richard Thompson gig…

    I saw him the night before, but I must point out (at risk of turning Mr Key’s comments page into a hurdy-gurdy forum) that RT was not exploiting the ‘chien’, merely a constant drone with some twiddly key-work; and he was playing only one hurdy-gurdy. What I have in mind for Hooting Yard, and am recommending above, is a fair-sized ensemble of hysterically-buzzing hurdies-gurdy. Imagine a jeroboam filled with consumptively-coughing Bartok-crazed Euro-hornets and you’ll have some idea of the effect. (Failing that, there are some shortlived clips at … catch them while you can …)

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