“One of the most musically brave – or stupid – things I’ve ever heard in my life”

Before I had the meltdown

Mid-way through the meltdown

That quote’s from Tom Service, one of the UK’s best music journalists, and is worryingly about me.

Tom’s, right now, behind a great BBC radio show and podcast called The Listening Service where he explores how music works.

Here’s an amazing episode on repetition; here’s another on musical beginnings; and here’s one on noise. You should listen to them all.

But this week’s is all about national anthems – pieces, as he says, that have “been made to carry more bloodshed, hope, victory, despair, arrogance, humility and even cynicism than any other melodies before or since.” See, it’s not just me who’s obsessed with these songs.

I’m on the episode quite a bit and you can listen to the whole thing here, but I thought I’d put up a couple of excerpts up in case you haven’t got half-an-hour to waste.

Firstly, here’s Tom on Stockhausen’s Hymnen – the great German composer’s attempt at a world anthem – since I don’t actually mention it in the book.

But secondly, here’s that brave/stupid thing.

When we were recording the show, Tom asked me to tell a story about the time I sung the Star-Spangled Banner at a song contest in Nashville. And he found it so funny, he then begged me for the recording.

The story’s in my book, but if you want to hear the sound of a man basically having a nervous breakdown in a baseball stadium, listen below. Dear God!

Any Listening Service fans who stumble across this, read this from BBC Music Magazine for a lot of information on famous composers and anthems. It has everyone from Verdi to Haydn – your every classical need met!

Everything you should see at this weekend’s Stoke Newington Literary Festival

stokeylitfest

Most importantly, me! On Sunday at 2pm, I’ll be revealing everything you need to know about national anthems just in time for Euro 2016 and the Olympics. I’m even going to shoehorn in the EU referendum, which should please Boris Johnson. Or maybe not. Get tickets here.

But as I’m all about spreading the love, I also seriously recommend:

David Quantick, Saturday at 1pm, who is talking the art of swearing. TicketsIf you can’t get into that, at the same time Thurston Moore, once of Sonic Youth, is talking about free jazz. Afterwards, he will presumably dodge your questions about his ex-wife. Tickets for that are here.

Sarah Perry. She’s written a great sounding book about Essex, where I’m from. She is apparently one of 2016’s most exciting literary voices. That’s all you need to know really, isn’t it? She’s speaking Saturday at 4pm, and it’s free. Details are here.

Hadley Freeman, the hilarious journalist, is being hilarious about ’80s movies Sunday at 5pm. If you’d like to get a ticket, you know what to do.

And finally, at 6pm on Sunday, David Mitchell – DAVID MITCHELL! – is talking all his amazing books. I probably shouldn’t go as I’m a bit obsessed – if you and I were ever to go out, I’d give you a copy of his book Black Swan Green – but you should. Tickets are at that link!