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Read, Watch and Listen

The Musicians’ Journal, New Series 3 (October 1929)

Reflecting the accelerating pace of converting cinemas for sound, this cartoon’s prediction for 1930 relied on a counterattack that instrumentalists thought incontrovertible. In October 1929, few filmgoers would have disagreed that the quality of mechanical sound reproduction was far inferior to live music. But the riposte sidestepped two key facts: sound systems were improving fast and, more significantly, that autumn British audiences, no matter the music’s quality, were flocking to the latest sensation, the talkies.

Marble statue of Mithras slaying the bull, found in Rome (2nd century AD)

In the 1st-4th centuries AD, the Mithraic Mysteries seeped into Roman culture from the East. This secretive religion was inspired by the Zoroastrian Mithra, divinity of Contract and Oath. This statue displays Roman Mithras in a Parthian-like costume powerfully pinning down a bull for ritual slaughter. It is thought that Mithras appealed to the martial identity of Roman soldiers serving in the East. A Zoroastrian hymn describes an armed Mithra victoriously smashing the skulls of the Daevas or evil spirits.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Explanations

Each bag was displayed with a label identifying its designer, and also hinted at a name for the model – much like high-street products (Ikea’s ‘Billy’ bookcase, or Louis Vuitton’s ‘Alma’ handbag).

Panel one detail

140 people were surveyed about their interpretations of ‘The Ties That Bind (II)’. Shared interpretations of the triptych included war/wartime (114 responses), imprisonment (109), suffering (99) and family relationships - some in relation to war (98). 21 viewers clearly interpreted pacifist meanings from the triptych that correlated with the practitioner’s communication intention. The ship predominantly signified war to viewers, but this image was also interpreted as migration. The hands predominantly signified hope and prayer. 

Musicians’ Union Monthly Report, New Series 3 (March 1930)

The vision of orchestras returning to cinemas arose when the Union recognised filmgoers’ continuing appetite (despite improvements in sound reproduction) for hearing live music as part of the programme. Kine-Variety revived Victorian music hall and vaudeville formulas, programming live orchestras and performers alongside talkie feature films. Unhappily, few Musicians’ Union writers recognised that in the Depression era this was exclusively a big-city phenomenon. Only in picture palaces were well-to-do audiences and holidaymakers paying the high prices for these top-class shows. 

Painted manuscript showing the hero Rostam piercing an enemy, made in Shiraz in southern Iran (1435-1440 AD).

This illustration shows a scene from the Shahnameh, an epic work that recounts Iran’s historical and mythological past. Elements from Roman, Greek and Zoroastrian sources are echoed in the depicted central hero, Rostam. A feline skin covers Rostam’s helmet and jacket, mirroring the Greek hero Herakles’ famed lion pelt. As seen in Commagene, Herakles was associated with Verethragna, the Zoroastrian divinity of Victory who appeared as a gold-adorned horse and warrior. Golden details also decorate Rostam’s illustrated weapons and armour.

© Trustees of the British Museum

Theft proof

The labels provided information about the design inspiration and features of the bag, including the ways that the bag was designed against theft.

‘The Ties That Bind (II)’

Although communication intentions for the panels were specific, each image and composition was open to multiple interpretations. Readings of the textiles were inevitably informed by viewers’ personal and cultural experiences, their own memories, histories, and wider social and historical knowledge. Evidence of contextual influence on interpretations of the work also emerged at some sites, with viewers associating the images with local or regional history.

The Musicians Journal, New Series 10 (July 1931)

This cartoon includes the caption: “Trades Union Congress Resolution, 1923. This Congress emphatically condemns the practice of allowing Army, Navy and Air Force bands to enter into collective and individual competition with civilian musicians, on the ground that it is unfair and subsidised competition, and intensifies the unemployment problem. The Congress further calls on all Labour representatives in Parliament and on Local Authorities to exert all their power to put a stop to this injustice.” Eight years later, with 4,000 musicians unemployed, the Union claimed that the injustice continued.

(c) Katarina Kelsey, no title, translation of Auriol's image, 18-25 March 2015:

“I was given some contextual background to Auriol’s translation of Sam’s piece that I initially thought I would base my translation on. However I felt unable to translate her narrative and realised I would only be interpreting it. Ultimately I turned to a material translation to translate some of the key themes of her work. Taking inspiration from translations such as Hölderlin's Antigone and Christian Hawkey’s Ventrakl, I hope my material translation can convey Auriol’s piece to you.” 
http://katarinakelseybookarts.tumblr.com/