Quiet blast from the past 

22 October 2003 tbs.pm/801

As someone kindly pointed out the other day, that old Channel 4 out-of-hours stalwart, “The Art of Landscape” is back, but this time on FriendlyTV (Channel 268 on Sky). It’s running from 04:00 to 09:00 hours and from 10:00 to 11:00.

Playing “New Age” and classical pieces over a combination of specially-shot video and old BBC wildlife footage obtained for a song, plus the occasional music video, the original “Art of Landscape” was started by Nick Austin as an offshoot of his Coda record label. Some of the items were quite popular at the time, notably a segment consisting of views of penguins on the ice-floes of the Antarctic. It was a kind of primaeval inspiration for ClassicFM-TV.

Over the intervening decade or two, Austin has turned the idea of those original Channel 4 segments into an apparently fairly successful international satellite-distributed premium channel, available for some time in mainland Europe and now once again in the UK, inspired by an esoteric document called “The Book of Life”. More details from www.landscapetv.com.

Not generally being around when it’s on, I set my Sky+ box to record the 10:00-11:00 segment this morning and sat down to look at it earlier. There, lo and behold, was something very similar to the original. In fact some of the items were the original, and the information panel, overlayed on the video near the end of each track, from time to time displayed the names of long-dead record companies. On the other hand, a good few items were evidently created more recently.

But it was interesting to note that first up in the hour were the good old ex-BBC penguins – with their heads cut off to satisfy a double-cropping of 4:3 to something that sat in a wide black frame on my widescreen set.

The more things change, the more they… seem to get worse.

–Richard Elen

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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