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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: Themes and Variations

Tom Service explores the endless potential of musical variations on a theme.


Themes and Variations

Tom Service explores the endless potential of musical variations on a theme. On the one hand it's the simplest of all musical ideas - take a basic tune and play around with it - and yet on the other, it's a deeply profound reflection of life, as small sequences of musical DNA provide the building blocks for structures of ever increasing complexity.


Money Makes the Music Go Round

What have the Pet Shop Boys and Prokofiev got in common? How can you sing about not wanting money at the same time as making it? What does it feel like to burn a million pounds? Tom Service explores how our transactional economy underpins centuries of music making from Notre-Dame’s patronage of the polyphonic Perotin, to Beethoven writing a symphony for £100 and Wagner losing over a million on the premiere of his operatic masterpiece The Ring cycle. Our Listening Service witness today is...


How to listen to... Gilbert and Sullivan

Tom Service immerses himself in the topsy-turvy world of Gilbert and Sullivan, and finds things are seldom what they seem... With Derek Clark of Scottish Opera and pianist and composer Richard Sisson.


Playing Second Fiddle (and Horn and Trumpet...)

What's it like to play second fiddle in an orchestra? Or to sit beside the first horn or trumpet as they garner the limelight with their flashy solos and are stood up for a bow by the conductor at the end of the concert? Are orchestral seconds a tribe of self-effacing, embittered Eeyore-ish wannabees, or does it involve a set of skills and a personality just as musically vital as their more lauded colleagues? Tom Service seeks answers with the help of London Symphony Orchestra principal...


Brass Bands

What’s the difference between a cornet and a trumpet? How did Czech music and a hill in Dorset sell a million loaves? What happened at Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoological Gardens in 1853? Tom Service answers these questions and many more as he explores the world of brass bands: our witnesses are the music director of the Elland Silver Youth Band, Samantha Harrison, who’s immersed in today’s competitive banding world, and composer Gavin Higgins, who’s written a ballet for brass band. Producer:...


Is Music Good for You?

Tom Service examines the intimate relationship between music and our minds. How does music affect our mental health? How do we use music to alter, deepen or understand the way we feel?


Tunes for 'Toons

Tom Service explores "tunes for 'toons" - the music that accompanies cartoons from the earliest Mickey Mouse to the sophisticated animations of today. Unlike conventional film soundtracks, cartoon music is often upfront and very much part of the manic action of cartoons. And that distinctive breakneck energy has inspired concert composers such as John Zorn. Tom talks to Daniel Goldmark, author of Tunes for 'Toons, about the music of Hollywood animated cartoons of the 1930s to the 1950s; and...


Leoš Janáček: music is a being come alive

How did Leoš Janáček, a committed Czech nationalist whose intensely personal response to the places, landscapes and traditions of his Moravian homeland, produce music that is not only instantly recognisable but also viscerally connects to audiences all over the world? And how, in the last decade of Janáček's life, did a chance encounter with a woman almost 40 years his junior release a surely unparalleled burst of creative energy and a spate of late, great masterpieces? Tom Service goes in...


Perfect Harmony

How does harmony work? How do certain chord sequences bring a sense of tension and release, and actually how many chords do you really need? With improvisor extraordinaire Wayne Marshall at the piano and choral director Patrick Allies.


The Viola - Music's Secret Fire

Describing it as 'music's secret fire', Tom Service explores the world of the viola. Speaking to Lawrence Power, one of the world's great viola players who has commissioned numerous works for his instrument and Sally Beamish, viola player and composer, Tom sets out to unlock the key to the viola's elusive sound and to understand how it can drive the energy of the orchestra.


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?