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Radio listener: The Mother of Japanese Whisky | Silent Film

  • by JIM GILCHRIST
 

THE notion of Japanese whisky remains something of an anathema in Scotland, whereas it can actually produce award-winning drams. Even less appreciated, however, is the role of a Scotswoman in establishing distilling in Japan.

Women with a Past: The Mother of Japanese Whisky; Monday, Radio Scotland, 2:05pm

Archive on 4: The Devil’s Horn; Tonight, Radio 4, 8pm

Silent Film; Monday, Radio 2, 10pm

Radio Scotland’s WOMEN WITH A PAST: THE MOTHER OF JAPANESE WHISKY sets the record straight as Susan Morrison reveals the story of a Kirkintilloch woman, Rita Cowan, who in 1920 went to Japan as the wife of Masataka Taketsuru, a young Japanese chemist who had come here to study whisky-making.

Having married the Japanese lodger without her mother’s approval, and struggling to settle into the very different culture of her adopted country – she was ostracised by her neighbours and accused of spying during the Second World War – she nevertheless helped Masataka fulfil his dream.

Recently, Taketsuru blended malts have won at the World Whisky Awards for four consecutive years.

An innovator of a different kind, the Belgian Adolphe Sax, probably never appreciated what he was unleashing on the world when he patented an oddly shaped single-reed brass instrument in 1846. Today, the saxophone has been described as the most significant musical invention of the past 170 years. In tonight’s ARCHIVE ON 4: THE DEVIL’S HORN, the London alto saxophonist and rapper Soweto Kinch traces this crooked horn’s chequered history, with the help of friend and fellow saxophonist Courtney Pine, classical player Amy Dickson and Richard Ingham, musician in residence at St Andrews University and organiser of last year’s World Saxophone Congress.

I recently heard saxophone being used very effectively within a band playing a live score for an old silent movie. Before the advent of the “talkies”, in the early 20th century, thousands of musicians made their livings accompanying the flickering images on the silver screen.

In SILENT FILM, Mark Kermode presents some of that music, from simple piano pieces to full orchestral scores, and speaks to such authorities as the doyen of contemporary silent film pianists Neil Brand, composer Carl Davis and Ludovic Bource, who wrote the Oscar-winning score for The Artist.

 

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