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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


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




The Feasibility of Studies

Studies began life as an aid in the struggle to master the piano within the human limitations of two hands and ten fingers. But from being the bane of many a pianist's life and a means of selling more pianos, these arid technical exercises flowered into some of the greatest music written for piano from Chopin, though Debussy to György Ligeti. And in Conlon Nancarrow's studies for player piano, they even inspired the greatest set of keyboard works beyond any human ability. To find out how and...


Musical Signatures

What gives away a composer's personal style? How can we spot their musical signatures? And having done so, could they be convincingly copied? Tom looks for clues in the potentially similar music of Mozart and Haydn, and in the English styles of Vaughan Williams and Elgar, and speaks to art historian and discoverer of lost masterpieces, Dr Bendor Grosvenor.


Dream Teams

Tom Service explores some of the most successful working partnerships in music. Mozart and Da Ponte wrote some of Mozart's most famous operas but what came first, the music or the words - what's more important? With the help of librettist and translator Amanda Holden, Tom discovers what makes a musical spark. Produced by Calantha Bonnissent


The Inbetweeners

Baroque, Classical and Romantic... the big categories of music history all have their big-name composers. But what about the composers less easy to categorise, the ones who fall in between the gaps? Tom Service goes in search of the Inbetweeners from all eras and, with the help of CPE Bach aficionado Andreas Staier, discovers how these once hugely influential figures still speak directly to us now. David Papp (producer)


What if...? Tom's Marvellous Musical Multiverse

As we move from one year to the next, Tom indulges in some speculative musical time travel.


Swing, Rubato and Bounce

Tom Service investigates what happens when musical rhythm gets stretched or loosened. What is going on when a jazz band makes a tune swing, or a Viennese orchestra makes a waltz swirl? Liberties are taken with strict musical time in order to add expression and excitement - but you have to have the knack. He also consults pianist Stephen Hough about how to play Chopin and Rachmaninov with authentic flexibility. So whether it's Count Basie's Band or the Vienna Philharmonic, Tom unlocks the...


Becoming Beethoven's Fifth

Beethoven 5: one of the most instantly recognisable and enduring works in all classical music. How did Beethoven compose it? How did he whittle down his musical choices from the endless number available to make this seemingly inevitable-sounding, gripping orchestral drama? For insights into the essence of composition -- how you decide what comes next -- Tom Service talks to one of today's most exciting young composers. Shiva Feshareki explains how she decides one musical path over another in...


Rewilding Sibelius

Tom Service explores the music of Sibelius as a force of nature with 'Wild' writer Jaye Griffiths. The inspiration for Sibelius's Fifth Symphony - the famous flight of sixteen majestic swans across the lake from his house north of Helsinki was, in the composer's words 'one of my greatest experiences. Lord God, that Beauty...' It's a well-known story, but in today's Listening Service Tom argues that Sibelius's music isn't just a prettified depiction of nature, it's a wilderness itself, with...


How to Sing Classical - Vibrato!

Good vibrations or horrible wobbling? Why do singers use vibrato? Tom Service goes to the wobbling heart of the matter of vibrato in singing. Why does it induce such visceral reactions - love and hate? Is it a matter of classical-singing artifice or is it a welcome and naturally occurring phenomenon in the healthy workings of our vocal cords, in the way our bodies make the sounds we call singing?


Tricky timing

Two, three and four beats in a bar are pretty standard in music. But what happens when a composer decides to go with 7 or 5 or 13 as the underlying structure? And why would they do that? Tom Service talks to composer Anna Meredith and conductor Martyn Brabbins about the fascination and challenge of the off-beat beat.


Latin America: It Takes Two

What is it about the Tango that has enabled it to transcend its origins in the late 19th-century slums of Buenos Aires to become one of most popular dances in the world's glittering ballrooms and beloved of gymnasts, figure skaters and synchronized swimmers? How did Tango escape the sparkle of the glitter ball and the borders of Argentina to be taken seriously as art music? It may take two to Tango but there's a trio here to tease out the complex, multiple strands of this beguiling dance, as...


What makes the organ so mighty?

Tom Service takes on the largest instrument created by human hands: the organ. With the help of organist Anna Lapwood, Tom asks: what makes the organ so mighty? Why has it fascinated musicians from Bach to Procol Harum? Along the way, Tom will delve into the Delphian roots of the organ and we’ll hear what its ancestor the Hydraulis sounded like, created in ancient Egypt. And we’ll drop in on Madison Square Garden where Gladys Gooding entertained huge audiences at sports events for over...


Musical Highs

Tom Service looks under the bonnet at musical climaxes and crescendos. How do composers negotiate musical drama to often devastating beauty and power?


Is Classical music fashionable?

You might think classical music is timeless and sits above passing trends and fashions, but in this edition of The Listening Service Tom discovers otherwise. He talks to newspaper fashion director Lisa Armstrong about how trends are made in what we wear, and to music streaming curator Guy Jones, about what influences our listening habits. And – spoiler alert - classical music is IN!


HIPP to be Square

Tom Service dips a toe into the choppy waters of historically informed performance practice. HIPP is the latest term for the well-established vogue of recreating the sounds of music from past centuries. But how can we possibly know what music sounded like before it was recorded? Can HIPP ever be more than a hopeful stab in the dark? Like quinoa and farmers' markets, is it merely another facet of fashion and commercial imperative, a mirror which reflects us and our current concerns straight...


Is it canon?

The classical music canon - who decides what's in and what's out? Can it and should it change? Bach, Beethoven, Brahms - widely regarded as permanent fixtures in the generally accepted canon. But what about the Chevalier de Saint-Georges, Louise Farrenc or Steve Reich? Tom Service looks at how and why certain composers and pieces of music became part of an established canon, and how things are changing over time, especially with the desire to see better representation of women and composers...


The Goldberg Variations

Tom Service is joined by harpsichordist Richard Egarr to explore one of the most mysterious, complex and rewarding pieces in all music, Bach's keyboard work The Goldberg Variations.


Going Slow

Listening to slow music, composing slow music and playing slow music - what happens when our music goes slow? Tom Service asks if going slow means making a chilled out, super-relaxed, concentration-free zone or if slow music is more focused, more intense, more dramatic, more emotionally and intellectually compelling than music that goes fast. This week's witnesses helping him find the answers are composer Thomas Ades and novelist AL Kennedy.


Music and breathing

How is the rhythm and physicality of our breathing reflected in music? From operatic breath control to circular breathing techniques to a flautist inspired by the relearning of her technique after sinus and asthma problems, Tom looks at a fundamental element of music making.


The musical universe of Maurice Ravel

Tom Service scopes the musical world of one of his favourite composers, Maurice Ravel.