Plankton of the midsummer air

This week’s Something Understood takes its title Inebriate of the Air, from an Emily Dickinson poem about the insect heavy honeyed thickness of midsummer light and air. And insect and bird sounds (swifts) dominate this programme.

Entomologist Ross Piper helps us pin down the insects that make up the plankton of the air with the aid of a large net in his garden.


I was obsessed as a child with the diagrams of the earth’s rotational spin in the opening pages of my parents’ atlas, marking the solstices and equinoxes. John Agard’s poem about the tropical mixing with the regular colder clime fruits on the supermarket shelves and Purcell’s The Indian Queen – a English baroque reimagining of the heat of the Mayan world – are a bit of fun with the tilting of the axis  at the summer solstice.

There’s a Nordic/Midnight Sun flavour too, with readings from Tove Jansson and Moon music from Bjork.  The best thing about Midsummer in my youth was staying up late and heading out to parties and college balls.  Plus I get to share my love of The Zombies’  cover of Summertime. Totally English. Totally inspired. All the music and some extras are on this Spotify list.

Listen to the progamme here:

Something Understood: Inebriate of the Air produced by Natalie Steed is on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday June 21st (6am, 1130pm) and iPlayer for a month after.

About samiraahmed

Journalist. Writer. Broadcaster.
This entry was posted in Music, Radio, Science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Plankton of the midsummer air

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.