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Rethink music with The Listening Service. Tom Service presents a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works

Rethink music with The Listening Service. Tom Service presents a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works


United Kingdom




Rethink music with The Listening Service. Tom Service presents a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works




The Listening Service: Kurt Weill and The Threepenny Opera

Tom Service dives into the decadent sound world of Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera.


Kurt Weill and The Threepenny Opera

Tom Service takes a musical dive into the decadent sound world of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's epoque-making The Threepenny Opera.


Steve Reich's Different Trains: Minimalism and Memory

Tom explores Steve Reich’s 1988 work Different Trains, its use of sampling and speech melodies, and its evocation of the Holocaust. Our witness is the author and journalist Jonathan Freedland. Producer: Ruth Thomson


The Hebrides Overture: Mendelssohn's melodious cave

Tom Service explores the story behind the very first orchestral tone poem and one of the best-loved pieces in classical music: Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture. Cave expert Prof Stuart Jeffrey shares his insights into Fingal's cave (which inspired Mendelssohn to write his overture), from its many famous visitors over the years to its extraordinary - and sometimes disconcerting - acoustic.


Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams - musical time travel

Tom Service experiences musical time travel as he listens to "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis" by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with its magical interplay of ancient and modern. And film music expert Neil Brand examines how this and other classical adagios have been used to great effect in Hollywood blockbusters.


Musical Ecstasy

Tom Service explores musical ecstasy from techno to classical, dissecting 'Ecstasio' by the British composer Thomas Ades and talking to the Dutch composer and DJ Junkie XL


Stormy Weather

Tom Service explores how and why storms and extreme weather events have inspired classical composers from Beethoven to Britten. With meteorologist, space physicist, and double bass player Dr Karen Aplin. Producer: Ruth Thomson


The Enchantment of Chant

The immense power of chant to transform both the listener and the chanter has ensured the survival of this ancient musical form. Starting with the Abbess Hildegard of Bingen, Tom explores how chant has resonated across a thousand years of music, taking in American Hopi and Buddhist chants and the Hildegurls, a 21st century reading of Hildegard's music.



Tom Service waves his magic wand to explore the connections between music and magic, discovering how an 18th century German poet, 19th century French composer, and 20th century cartoon mouse, cast a spell over audiences everywhere in The Sorcerer's Apprentice. With magician, performer, and academic Naomi Paxton on what happens when a trick goes wrong... Producer: Ruth Thomson


TV Themes

Tom Service explores television themes with Oscar-winning composer Anne Dudley, who wrote the music for Poldark, Black Narcissus, and Jeeves and Wooster.


The Music of Sound

Did music begin in ancient cave systems? How did medieval cathedrals inspire musical developments? What effect does a particular concert hall have on the music heard there, or the music on the design of the concert hall? And what can we do with our 21st-century ability to change our acoustic environment at the touch of a button? Tom Service looks at the relationship between music and its surroundings, and how that relationship has developed over the centuries.


What's the point of cadenzas?

Tom Service is joined at the 2022 Hay Festival by the American pianist, writer and self confessed 'classical music nerd of the highest order' Jeremy Denk, to explore cadenzas - virtuosic solo improvisations - with help from Freddie Mercury, John Coltrane and J.S Bach.


Royal Music

Royal music throughout the ages. Tom Service asks: what makes it sound royal, and why? And is there really such a thing as a royal sound world? Royal music doesn’t have to be heraldic, ranging from the pomp and ceremony of Elgar; to the intimacy of lutenists like Dowland writing in the court of Christian IV in Denmark; to the secret music of the Kyoto imperial court, performed exclusively for royal ears. Composers over the centuries and millennia have written for kings, queens, princes and...


Can music be funny?

Tom Service on the art of classical music comedy. And it's not necessarily all about timing - see also parody, pastiche, absurdities, incongruity, subverting of expectations and sometimes, just good old funny noises... With musician and comedian Vikki Stone.


The Musical Recycling Plant

For centuries, composers have re-used music from their earlier works in their new ones. But why? Were they simply pressed for time, or might there be another reason? And what do these 'recycled' versions sounds like? Does music become diluted and weaker with each reincarnation, or could the opposite be true? Together with expert musical recycler Saul Eisenberg of The Junk Orchestra, Tom Service explores this 'green' musical practice. Dom Wells (producer)


More Than the Score

Are the 100s of recordings of each Beethoven symphony (and the thousands upon thousands of live performances over the years) really so very different from each other? Can one interpretation be better than another? What is interpretation and why is it apparently so central to western classical music? Why do we keep coming back for more? With the help of music critic Fiona Maddocks and pianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Tom Service is on the case. David Papp (producer)


What's in a Name?

A listener asks: "What makes a concerto different from a suite? A bagatelle from a caprice? On my way to work once, Radio 3 Breakfast played a gentle, quiet piece, with chords languidly spread into arpeggios. Aha, I thought; this is a nocturne. But no, it was an etude." So when is a song not a song? Tom Service tackles the complicated world of classical musical titles, catalogue numbers and naming conventions.


Song Cycles and Concept Albums

Tom Service explores the world of the song cycle - from the tortured passions and existential angst of Beethoven and Schubert's protagonists in 19th-century Vienna, to Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole's ebullient takes on the genre with the birth of the concept album, and Kate Bush's groundbreaking experimental pop suite The Ninth Wave. Our witness today is composer Emily Hall whose work Life Cycle, written with Toby Litt for singer Mara Carlyle, explores the theme of motherhood. Producer:...


Finishing the Hat

Tom Service explores the unique relationship between music and lyrics in the work of Stephen Sondheim who died in 2021. Credited with 'reinventing the American musical' his works include Follies, Passion, Company, Into the Woods, and Sweeney Todd. Our witnesses are musical director Jason Carr, and thanks to archive interviews, Stephen Sondheim himself. Producer: Ruth Thomson


John Williams - the Force of Music!

Tom Service has a close encounter with the film music of John Williams.