The DJ and sage Mark Radcliffe once said that he didn’t think he could ever like anyone who didn’t love David Bowie’s song ‘Heroes’, and while that might be going a bit far, I can see what he means. As it happens, ‘Heroes’ is still my favourite Bowie song, and Low and Heroes are still

Boulez est mort

Pierre Boulez, who died last week at the age of 90, would have been the last person, one hopes, to want a unanimous chorus of praise to surge from the media, to an extent that has not been seen at the death of any other classical musician — certainly not at Stravinsky’s, to mention one

Arts feature

Away with the angels?

I remember the shock, like a jolt of static electricity. One day, between taking my degree and beginning my first job, while looking through a 16th-century book about numerology that had once belonged to John Dee in the British Library, I came upon an annotation in his own neat italic hand casting up the numerical

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Off the page

Dance has its own archaeological periods, and 2016’s schedules are confirming what 2015 indicated — that the era of dances with scientists is over. If you’ve an aversion to digital fidgets and have felt left out in recent years, you will wallow in stories galore this year. There are big new ballets coming about The


Gallows humour

It begins with a sketch. We’re in a prison in 1963 where Harry Wade, the UK’s second most famous hangman, is overseeing the execution of a killer who protests his innocence. The well-built convict effortlessly shrugs aside two burly but incompetent prison officers. ‘I’m being hanged by nincompoops,’ he laments. One of them helpfully points


In two minds

There are some operas, as there are some people, that it is impossible to establish a settled relationship with, and in my case Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande is one of them, in fact by far the most pressing one. I never know in advance how I’m going to react to it, and to some extent


Compliance order

Never a man tortured by self-doubt, Derren Brown introduced his latest special Pushed to the Edge (Channel 4, Tuesday) as a fascinating psychological experiment about the dangers of ‘social compliance’ — our willingness to do what authority figures ask, however morally dubious. In fact, much of what followed was a weird, and itself rather morally


Disciple of Duchamp

Michael Craig-Martin has had a paradoxical career. He is, I think, a disciple of Marcel Duchamp. But the latter famously gave up painting in favour of something more conceptual — ready-mades and whatnot — whereas Craig-Martin began with Duchampian concepts. He once exhibited a glass of water on a shelf together with a claim that


Endurance test

The Revenant is a survival-against-the-odds film that so puts Leonardo DiCaprio through it I bet he was thinking, ‘I wish I was back on that boat that went down.’ He is mauled by a bear. Viciously. He is buried alive. He eats still-throbbing, blood-dripping raw liver, and quite forgets his manners. (Wipe your chin, man;


Chance encounters

Some might say that Jeremy Corbyn is cloth-eared, tone-deaf, socially inept but on Monday morning, as the death of the pop artist David Bowie scrambled the agenda on Radio 4’s Today programme, he was as graceful and twinkle-toed as Bowie himself. The opposition leader had been invited on to the ‘big slot’ just after the