Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Song in Your Heart

A good friend recently turned me on to a fantastic podcast, Song Exploder. The show is about how music is made. Each episode examines a different piece of music, and it casts a wide net from current releases to recent chart-topping pop music to scores from film, television, and even video games.

Song Exploder is hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway (who is also the co-host of another podcast I'll blog about at some point here), though part of what makes the podcast so compelling is how little he's present in each episode. Instead, he yields the floor entirely to the composer of the music of the week. It's an approach that always gets fantastic results.

In each episode, the featured composer breaks down a song bit by bit. You learn exactly what they were thinking, about everything. What did they have in mind with this melody, this verse structure, this choice of instrumentation? What were the challenges of this particular composition? Where did the original germ of the idea come from? It's all there, with stripped down stems from the full piece to demonstrate exactly what's being talked about.

Also impressive is how much information comes across in a very short span of time. The typical episode of Song Exploder lasts only 10 to 15 minutes, including (at the end of each episode) a full play of the music that was just talked about. It doesn't feel too short, because by the end of each episode, you come away feeling that you understand a particular song on a really deep level. Yet at the same time, it's short enough to fit into an overstuffed diet of podcasts -- this one takes a fraction of the time that most do.

So far, I've only been cherry picking from Song Exploder's more than 100 back episodes. I've stuck with composers and songs that I already know. But that experience has been so rewarding that I can easily see myself moving on to other episodes featuring music I don't know as well.

Any lover of music is sure to love this podcast. Perhaps the appeal will fade just a bit for me when I'm not getting a peek inside the mind of composers whose minds I'd specifically like to peek inside of, but for now the show is a top notch grade A experience.

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