The Listening Service

The Listening Service

By BBC Radio 3

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


Songs of the Moon

Many of the most instantly recognisable works in classical music are inspired by the Earth’s moon – Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’, Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata’, Dvořák’s ‘Song to the Moon’. Tom Service takes us on a musical voyage to the moon (and back), from the cosmic-scale classical to the lesser known music invoking and inspired by our mysterious celestial companion. With Professor Monica Grady CBE, leading British space scientist.Producer: Lola Grieve
25/02/24·28m 28s


Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony is given the subtitle "Pathétique", the use of the French word removing some of the negative connotations that the word pathetic has in English, which is the literal translation. Pathétique suggests something of great passion with perhaps a sense of great sadness too. Tom Service examines how this word might apply to one of Tchaikovsky's most profound and intense works.
05/02/24·28m 35s


It made Pierre Boulez want to vomit: Francis Poulenc thought it was atrocious: and Igor Stravinsky said all you needed to write it was enough manuscript paper. But its composer wrote all 80 minutes of it as a love song, and a hymn to joy. So just what is Olivier Messiaen’s epic Turangalila Symphony, premiered in 1949 by Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, why did it divide opinion so much, and what does it mean today?Producer: Ruth Thomson
21/01/24·29m 3s

Jumping Fleas: the rise and rise of the Ukulele

Tom Service explores the world of the Ukulele, from the Hawaiian Royal Court of King Kalakaua to Blackpool Pier with George Formby, the Royal Albert Hall where hundreds of ukulele players performed Beethoven's Ode to Joy at the 2009 BBC Proms, and into thousands of classrooms where it's now the most widely taught instrument in British primary schools. With Hawaiian born ukulele virtuoso and composer Taimane Gardner.Producer: Ruth Thomson
16/01/24·29m 3s


The word 'resolution' has several meanings. It can refer to something that has been settled or resolved. It can infer a desire to do something differently or to behave in a changed way - as in a New Year resolution. It can also mark the final unravelling of some great complication or drama. In music, it means something more specific: the progression from discord to consonance. With New Year in mind, Tom Service considers the idea of resolution in music in the widest sense of the word; including a look at how composers set about creating a resolve to their musical ideas. Tom's guest expert is the composer Dobrinka Tabakova.
31/12/23·29m 3s

New York, New York!

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's Tom Service, exploring the musical life of The Big Apple, from its underground scene to John and Yoko's loft and Superman's skies. He roams The City That Never Sleeps, whose origins as the swampy "hilly island" known as Mana-hatta are buried under the modern day powerhouse that acts as both setting and character in the music it inspires. From Bach in the subway to minimalist taxi drivers and King Kong, by way of Varese, Thomas Ades and Bernstein, Tom celebrates this astonishing musical city.
11/12/23·29m 14s

The Trombone Section

At the back row of the orchestra, usually three in number, sit the trombone section, but why three and how long have they been there? Tom Service reflects on their history and the ways in which they are employed. He looks back on over five hundred years of the story of the trombone and offers insight into the meaning of things such as 'Tower Music' and 'Stadtpfeifer'. Tom looks at the role of the trombone in religious music and in music for the theatre, and at its comparitively late arrival within the symphony orchestra, back in the final decades of the 18th Century. And there's a chance to enjoy some of the distinctive qualities that trombones offer to the orchestral music of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Shostakovich and Berg. This week's guest expert is the principal trombonist of the Halle Orchestra, Katy Jones.
26/11/23·29m 4s

The Old Testament of Music

Tom Service explores JS Bach's extraordinary The Well-Tempered Clavier, a series of 48 preludes and fugues for keyboard in all 24 major and minor keys. It's widely regarded as a towering achievement and a cornerstone of western art music. The 19th century German conductor and pianist, Hans von Bülow famously described it as “The Old Testament of Music” and generations of musicians and scholars have spoken of its monumental stature in the history and development of music. From the first, C major prelude with its lean and simple series of arpeggios, taking listeners on an exquisite harmonic journey, through to darker and more complex moments, with plenty of playfulness and joy along the way, The Well-Tempered Clavier is an astonishing feat of imagination. These two books of preludes and fugues are a treasure trove, where Bach combines contrapuntal wizardry with his extraordinary gift for expressing human emotion. With help from American pianist, Jeremy Denk, Tom Service lifts the lid on The Well-Tempered Clavier to discover its secrets.Producer: Jonathan Hallewell
19/11/23·29m 2s

In it to win it

From Strictly to village fête vegetables, competitions are embedded in our culture. And music is no exception: think of the Pythian Games of ancient Greece, the mediaeval singing competitions which selected the Master Singers, the improvisatory keyboard face-offs of 18th-century Vienna, and the international media-driven events of our own times. But are musical instinct and the competitive spirit uneasy bedfellows? Why do some musical tournaments consistently produce winners who go on to have spectacular careers, and others winners who sink without trace? What’s the value of music written for competitions? On hand to help Tom Service answer these questions and throw light on the sometimes murky world of music competitions are Lisa McCormick author of Performing Civility, a study of the social aspects of music competitions, and saxophonist and 2016 BBC Young Musician finalist, Jess Gillam. David Papp (producer)
05/11/23·29m 18s

Hitting the High Notes

Tom Service explores the enduring appeal of the tenor voice.
29/10/23·29m 4s

Unripe Cherries: Brahms's Symphony No 4

Tom Service explores one of the most popular, played, and performed works of all time - Johannes Brahms's Symphony No 4 in E minor.
22/10/23·29m 6s

The Ethereal

The opening orchestral strains of Wagner's opera Lohengrin with its high shimmering strings prompted the French poet Charles Baudelaire to observe that in Wagner's music he found "something rapt and enthralling, something aspiring to mount higher, something excessive and superlative". The ability of music to evoke a sense of the ethereal has a strange and powerful effect on listeners, something that composers have been aware of across the ages. Tom Service examines how this music creates its affect and to what ends. He draws on examples from Hldegard of Bingen, Gregorio Allegri, Wolfgang Mozart, James Horner, Einojuhani Rautavaara and George Crumb - among others - and of course Richard Wagner.
08/10/23·29m 31s

Strange Tuning

Mozart's famous Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola makes its effect not least through the unusual tuning of the strings of one of the solo instruments. Mozart asks the viola player to retune the strings half a tone higher than is usual. A process known by musicians a "scordatura". But what is the reason and what is the story behind this method of tuning instruments? Tom Service explains why "scordatura" is so significant and so effective.
01/10/23·30m 3s


Tom Service enters the sublime and joyous world of Poulenc's Catholic choral work Gloria.
17/09/23·29m 3s

What's the Point of Symphonies?

What exactly is a symphony, and how can one written in the 18th century by the ‘father of the symphony’ Joseph Haydn (he wrote over a hundred), have anything in common with one written today? Where did they come from in the first place, and why did they come to dominate classical music for centuries? Why do they still feature in almost every orchestral concert programmed, when so few are actually commissioned? Tom Service investigates with help from our witness, composer Deirdre Gribbin.Producer: Ruth Thomson
10/09/23·29m 3s

Musical Time Travel: Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis by Vaughan Williams

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.
26/07/23·29m 15s

What's on the programme?

Who decides what goes into a classical music concert? What music will there be? What constraints are there on what can be played? And how have ideas about concerts changed over the years, from Beethoven's four-hour marathons to today's immersive experiences?With Tom Service and the violinist, composer and music director Rakhi Singh.
09/07/23·29m 10s

Secret Music: Byrd's Masses

England in the 1590s. Elizabeth I is the reigning monarch and the religion of the country is Protestantism. Celebrating Catholic mass is outlawed. What does William Byrd, one of Elizabeth's most favoured composers, do? He writes three settings of the Catholic Mass in Latin. Why? Who will perform them? And what will happen to him as a result?
02/07/23·29m 24s

All American Ives?

What links baseball, life insurance and American art music? Charles Ives does! Unknown during his lifetime in Connecticut and New York the experimental composer and church organist created his unique style entirely on his own terms away from the contemporary music world, whilst running his insurance company Ives & Myrick. One day in his early fifties in 1927 he came downstairs with tears in his eyes and told his wife he couldn't compose anymore - nothing sounded right. He spent the rest of his life revising and promoting his pieces. He was eventually admired and championed by Bernard Herrmann, Leonard Bernstein and Arnold Schoenberg.His music incorporates everything from hymn tunes to brass band marches but foreshadowed many ideas and innovations that were later used widely in 20th-century classical music. As the conductor Leonard Slatkin puts it, 'knowing one Ives piece may not prepare you for another!'Tom Service looks beyond the quirks of Ives's unusual life as a composer and explores how his incredible music actually works.
25/06/23·29m 2s

Surround Sound: Tallis's Spem in alium

Tom Service surrounds himself in Tallis's Spem in alium, a colossal Renaissance masterpiece for 40 individual voice parts, arranged in eight groups of five voices, each situated all around the listeners. This was the original surround sound experience - one that came about not in 20th-century cinemas but in 16th-century churches.Produced by Dom Wells
18/06/23·28m 57s

Artificial intelligence and music

Tom Service programmes himself into the matrix of musical artificial intelligence.
04/06/23·29m 21s

Ravel's Bolero: A Piece without Music?

Tom Service explores Ravel's Bolero – a classical chart-topper, concert-hall-filler and the soundtrack to Torvill and Dean's Olympic skating glory. Written in 1928, Ravel described it as a 'piece without music in it' and agreed with the lady at the Paris premiere who shouted 'rubbish! rubbish!' over the applause. But he also admitted that with Bolero he had gambled and won, making one of the most experimental and popular pieces of orchestral music ever composed.
28/05/23·29m 8s

All the King's Music

Tom Service assesses the history of the masters of the king's (or queen's) music - a pantheon of 21 names, some brilliant, some average, some really rather forgettable. What have the incumbents done with their time in the post, and how has the role changed in recent years? And how do they compare with their equivalents in literature, the poets laureate? With literary historian Oliver Tearle.
07/05/23·29m 14s

Once upon a time... The Fairy-tale Operas of Judith Weir

Tom Service delves into the deep (and often dark) worlds of Judith Weir's fairy-tale and folk-inspired operas, including Blond Eckbert and The Vanishing Bridegroom.
23/04/23·29m 10s

Wild Isles: Wild Music

Inspired by David Attenborough’s Wild Isles series, Tom Service goes in search of music that reflects British wildlife and wilderness, and our relationship with it. From the songs of Henry Purcell written whilst wolves still roamed the British Isles to orchestral representations of composers like Hamish MacCunn, Grace Williams and Ralph Vaughan Williams, and the score for Wild Isles itself, written by the Oscar nominated film composer George Fenton. But perhaps truly wild music isn’t music written about wild places: perhaps it's music which has a wildness of spirit, of process, or of uncontrollably organic construction, music that releases the untamed and the untameable, by composers like Peter Maxwell Davies, Brian Eno, and Chris Wood. But where do the real sounds of nature fit into all this – the sounds of birdsong, bacteria, and fungi…?Our witness today is the award-winning author and naturalist Mark Cocker.Producer: Ruth Thomson
09/04/23·29m 23s

Stravinsky, the puppet master: Petrushka

Tom Service takes you on a journey into the extraordinary world of Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka, based on an archetypal puppet myth that shares the story of Punch.
26/03/23·29m 3s

Here Comes the Bride

Tom Service with a guide to music written for and performed at weddings.
19/03/23·29m 0s

Bluebeard's Castle: Enter at Your Peril

Tom Service intrepidly explores Bluebeard's Castle - the one-act Symbolist opera by Hungarian composer Bela Bartok first performed in 1918 which features just two characters: Duke Bluebeard and his fourth wife Judith. Newly married, he brings her home to his murky castle for the very first time, where she finds a torture chamber, armoury, treasury, garden, and lake of tears. And unfortunately for Judith, it's not long before she discovers just what happened to those first three wives...With Harvard Professor of Folklore and Mythology Maria Tatar.Producer: Ruth Thomson
12/03/23·29m 4s

Collage, writ large: Berio's Sinfonia

Tom Service explores Luciano Berio's Sinfonia - an iconic piece of the late 1960s modernism, scored for orchestra and eight amplified voices who speak, whisper and shout texts by Samuel Beckett and Claude Lévi-Strauss. This groundbreaking work also incorporates a mass of musical quotations, from Bach to Stockhausen and everything in between.Tom's witness is the virtuoso sitarist and composer Jasdeep Singh Degun, who like Berio, took Monteverdi's opera Orfeo and reinvented it.Produced by Dom Wells
05/03/23·29m 26s

Mystery, rumour and deception: Mozart's Requiem

Tom Service examines Mozart's final masterpiece - a work shrouded in mystery, rumour and deception. He’s joined by Dr Kathryn Mannix, a specialist in palliative care, who considers the factors of creativity - and music-making in particular - at the end of life.
19/02/23·29m 4s


The Listening Service - an odyssey through the musical universe with Tom Service. Join him on a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works. Today - repetition.It's been estimated that in 90 per cent of the music that we hear in our lives, we're hearing material that we've already listened to before, And if you think about the music you love the most - it's often built on repeated patterns, phrases and riffs.So why do we need our music to be so repetitive?Musicologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis is on hand as Tom finds out why repetition is hard wired into our musical brains.So join Tom as he presses repeat on music from Bach to Beyoncé, Haydn to Herbie Hancock, Stockhausen to Schubert.Tune in and rethink music with The Listening Service...Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that "to listen" is a decidedly active verb. How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What's happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what's going on in our brains when we hear them?When we listen - really listen - we're not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We're also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We're engaging the world with our ears. The Listening Service aims to help make those connections, to listen actively.First broadcast in May 2016.
09/02/23·28m 26s

Symphonic Steampunk: Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony

"I gave everything to it I was able to give. What I have here accomplished, I will never achieve again." So said child prodigy, virtuoso pianist, intellectual, conductor and composer Camille Saint-Saëns about his wildly successful 1873 ‘Organ Symphony’. Famously featured in the 1995 porcine Disney film Babe, it’s still immensely popular today. But where did it come from? What was Saint-Saëns trying to achieve and how influenced was he by his Parisian contemporaries? With organist Anna Lapwood on the thrill of playing ‘that chord’ in the Royal Albert Hall at the BBC Proms.Producer: Ruth Thomson
05/02/23·29m 5s

On the March: Pomp, Circumstance and Dam Busters

The musical and military features of the march seem pretty unpromising terrain for composers - you’ve got to constrain your creativity to two-time, easy to remember tunes that keep pace in strict time.And yet the form of the march allows for more creativity than those strictures might suggest. Tom falls in with composers including Elgar, Coates, Sousa, Strauss, Tchaikovsky and Beethoven to discover how the march can beat the drum for many different ideas and emotions.With historian, Prof Simon Heffer.
22/01/23·29m 15s

David Lang: The Little Match Girl Passion

Tom Service delves into David Lang's secular take on the Christian Passion: The Little Match Girl Passion. Winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2008, the work, scored for chorus and percussion, and lasting barely more than half an hour, takes inspiration from both Bach's St Matthew Passion and Hans Christian Andersen's famous children's story, The Little Match Girl.
15/01/23·29m 6s

Also Sprach Zarathustra: Strauss’s New Dawn

Made famous by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra which was composed by a young Richard Strauss in 1896 is much more than just two minutes of cosmic fanfare. Based on Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical novel inspired by the ancient Iranian prophet Zoroaster, its nine sections explore everything from passion, science, joy and death, to learning, convalescing, dancing and night wandering… But as a new year dawns how do the drama, power and epic sound worlds of Also Sprach Zarathustra ask and answer the fundamental questions of the universe and our place in it? Tom is joined by our witness philosopher Katrina Mitcheson to find out.Producer: Ruth Thomson
01/01/23·29m 2s

Britten's Choral Christmas

Tom Service delves into the music of Benjamin Britten and explores the unusual stories behind some of his best-loved festive works, including St Nicolas and A Ceremony of Carols.
11/12/22·29m 13s

Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune: Half Man, Half Myth, All Debussy

Tom Service plunges into the heady sound world of Debussy's Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. "The flute of the faun brought new breath to the art of music" according to composer Pierre Boulez - how does Debussy do it? A ten-minute piece of music that apparently broke all the existing rules of harmony and yet is as minutely detailed as any miniature. And what do flautists make of the famous opening solo - we hear from principal flute player with the London Symphony Orchestra, Gareth Davies, who demonstrates Debussy's strange magic on a flute of the time.
04/12/22·29m 15s

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.
20/11/22·29m 4s

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
06/11/22·29m 4s

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.
23/10/22·29m 7s

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
02/10/22·29m 3s

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
25/09/22·29m 2s

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.
18/09/22·29m 3s


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
11/09/22·28m 58s

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.
14/07/22·28m 30s

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.
26/06/22·29m 15s

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.
12/06/22·28m 53s

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 princesses, at times simultaneously praising and even criticising monarchies from within and without.
05/06/22·29m 13s

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.
22/05/22·29m 45s

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)
08/05/22·29m 13s

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)
03/05/22·29m 11s

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.
24/04/22·29m 8s

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: Ruth Thomson
10/04/22·29m 14s

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
27/03/22·29m 2s

John Williams - the Force of Music!

Tom Service has a close encounter with the film music of John Williams.
20/03/22·28m 59s

Classical Crossover

The genre of classical crossover music has produced some of the highest-selling artists of all time. Why has it become so popular, who are the great exponents of the art, and what techniques transform the performance of a classical piece or a pop track into "crossover"?
20/02/22·29m 15s


For many years, the humble, plastic and mass-produced recorder has been a mainstay of music education. The first instrument put into the hands of thousands of 20th-century primary school children across the world, creating lifelong musical memories, some good, some bad. That’s all now under threat from a small, stringed imposter: the ukulele. A recent survey of children who play a musical instrument found that the proportion playing the recorder has collapsed from 52% in 1997 to just 15% in 2020. Ukelele playing since 2014 is up by 15%.Recorders appear in paintings as early as the 15th century and have long been associated with angels and amateurs as well as children. Henry VIII was a big fan – ‘exercising himselfe dailie in … plaieing at the recorders’; and on hearing one in 1668 Samuel Pepys said it was ‘so sweet that it ravished me ; and indeed, in a word, did wrap up my soul so that it made me really sick, just as I have formerly been when in love with my wife’. He bought himself one six weeks later. An understated presence in the history of classical music nevertheless, the recorder has been utilised by composers from Henry Purcell and Handel, to Paul Hindemith and Luciano Berio.So, what next for the recorder, and can it survive all those ukuleles? Tom Service investigates…Producer: Ruth Thomson
30/01/22·28m 52s

Dancing about Architecture

Despite barbed quips about the impossibility of writing about music, people have been at it, successfully, for thousands of years, from Plato in ancient Greece until today. Many composers, too, have felt the need to set down in writing their musical credos; composers like Berlioz and Debussy have themselves been great writers about music. And then, what about the literary representations of music in passages which so clearly and evocatively describe what it's like to listen to music, which manage to articulate the emotions music so readily arouses but we find so hard to describe?So is writing about music really like dancing about architecture? No, says Tom Service. But clunky, not-quite-worked through metaphors are definitely best avoided.David Papp (producer)
23/01/22·29m 3s

Playing at sight and playing from memory

Tom Service on two of the most astounding musical skills, which the majority of professional classical musicians have in abundance - the ability to play from memory, and the ability to play at sight, without study or much in the way of rehearsal. How and why do they do it? With pianist and teacher Richard Sisson, and violinist Eva Thorarinsdottir, of the Aurora Orchestra, whose members are unusual in that they often play from memory as an ensemble.
16/01/22·29m 1s

Making Overtures

Tom Service explores the rise and fall of the musical curtain-raiser.From the birth of the opera with Monteverdi, to the lavish cinematic releases of the 20th century, the overture has had an important place in music history, priming audiences for the characters and atmospheres they'll encounter in the action that follows. So how did the overture develop, and how did it become greater than just a device to signal the start of a show? And why has it largely disappeared from concerts and cinemas?With guest Matthew Sweet, from Radio 3's Sound of Cinema.
02/01/22·29m 24s

Handel's Messiah: Hallelujah!

Written in just 24 days, premiered in Dublin almost 280 years ago, and performed thousands of times since, Handel’s ‘Messiah’ is one of the most popular choral works of all time. A staple of many amateur and professional festive concert seasons, it’s also raised huge amounts of money for charity through the annual Foundling Hospital performances and Scratch Messiahs, which now take place all over the world. But what exactly is the Messiah? How and why did Handel write it? And does its familiarity make us take it for granted? Tom Service investigates…Producer: Ruth Thomson
12/12/21·29m 11s

How to listen to...Erik Satie

Tom Service explores the maverick world of one of the most popular French composers, Erik Satie, composer of the three Gymnopédies, with help from pianist Nicolas Horvath and composer Christine Ott.
21/11/21·29m 4s

The Borrowers

Taking other people's music and using it for your own purposes might look like the very opposite of creative originality. But down the centuries, from the parody masses of the middle ages and the habitual borrowings of the Baroque, through to 21st-century digital sampling, the greatest musical minds have done just that.Tom Service looks into the hows, whys and copyright pitfalls of musical borrowing with the help of legal expert and historian Olufunmilayo Arewa and composer and sound designer Pascal Wyse. David Papp (producer)
14/11/21·29m 4s


Tom Service explores the connections between Klezmer and classical music. With violinist and founder of the London Klezmer Quartet Ilana Kravitz and writer and musicologist David Conway.
07/11/21·29m 3s

The timeless power of contemporary choral music

The vocal music of contemporary composers like Morton Lauridsen and Eric Whitacre, Ola Gjeilo and Caroline Shaw, is hugely popular with choirs, congregations and audiences. How do they achieve their brand of mystery and magic? Tom Service immerses himself in the resonant sound world of 21st-century choral music and discovers how it works. With guest, Kerry Andrew, who makes music for communities as well as choirs.
17/10/21·29m 5s

Eat to the Beat

What have a Mahler symphony and a recipe for sautéed kidneys got in common? Why do refugees and other displaced people take food and music with them when they are forced to leave their homeland? How do today's Spotify restaurant playlists and their 18th-century equivalents compare? Can you play in an orchestra and then eat your instruments?Tom Service and anthropologist Jonathan H Shannon have the answers.David Papp (producer)
03/10/21·29m 15s

Out of Tune

What does it really mean to be in tune? In tune with what - or who? And why is it simultaneously something that’s so important yet so relative, flexible and movable a feast when it comes to our musical culture? Tom Service investigates.
26/09/21·28m 50s

How to listen to... Arvo Pärt

Tom Service lifts the lid on the music of the most popular living composer - Arvo Pärt. Nominated for 11 Grammy awards and revered by Björk, P.J Harvey, and Radiohead, as well as classical musicians around the world, his seemingly simple and spiritual music is loved by millions. Born in Estonia in 1935 he did military service in the Soviet Army, worked as a radio producer, and wrote music for films, documentaries and animations, before creating his unique style of composition ‘tintinnabulation’.But what exactly is tintinnabulation? What do you get when you cross mathematics with love? And how can strict rules and discipline ultimately mean freedom?Our witnesses are violinist Viktoria Mullova who has recorded many of Pärt’s seminal works, and theologian Dr Peter Bouteneff who has researched his music’s connections with his Orthodox faith.Producer: Ruth Thomson
19/09/21·29m 5s

Fiddles and Fiddle Tunes

What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin?How did an English jig turn into a Virginian reel?And what do Bach’s violin sonatas have in common with folk tunes from Finland?In The Listening Service today Tom Service explores fiddles, fiddlers, and fiddle tunes from around the globe, looking at how they connect communities, reflecting the stories of migrants and musicians across time, and staying true to tradition whilst continually changing. And how have classical composers incorporated fiddle tunes into their work? From Max Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, based on tunes found in a library in Munich, to Aaron Copland’s Rodeo Hoe-Down, an orchestral transformation of the Kentucky fiddler Bill Stepp’s tune Bonaparte’s Retreat.Our witnesses today are Pete Cooper, who learnt classical violin as a teenager before discovering busking and ending up fiddling in West Virginia, and Lori Watson whose music and research draw on the landscapes and folklore of the Scottish Borders where she grew up.Producer: Ruth Thomson
25/07/21·29m 2s

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.
18/07/21·29m 9s

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 macroeconomist, fund manager and sometime cellist Felix Martin, who has written the unauthorised biography of money.Producer: Ruth Thomson
27/06/21·28m 50s

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.
13/06/21·29m 11s

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 second violin David Alberman, second trumpet with English National Opera and the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Will O'Sullivan and the Berlin Philharmonic's second horn, Sarah Willis. David Papp (producer)
06/06/21·29m 1s

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: Ruth Thomson
16/05/21·29m 59s

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?
09/05/21·29m 34s

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 to Lolita Ritmanis, LA-based composer for many recent animations including Batman: The Animated Series.
02/05/21·30m 3s

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 search of Leoš Janáček, composer and man, in the company of musicologist and conductor Nigel Simeone, and Relate Counsellor Simone Bose.David Papp (producer)
18/04/21·29m 36s

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.
21/03/21·29m 46s

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.
07/03/21·29m 41s

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 why studies evolved to transcend their original function, Tom Service is joined by musicologist Katy Hamilton and talks to Pierre-Laurent Aimard who worked closely with Ligeti on his extraordinary series of studies, widely regarded as some of the greatest piano music of the 20th century.David Papp (producer)
21/02/21·30m 3s

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.
07/02/21·30m 6s

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
24/01/21·30m 2s

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)
10/01/21·29m 42s

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

As we move from one year to the next, Tom indulges in some speculative musical time travel.
27/12/20·30m 5s

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 secrets of rubato.
13/12/20·30m 31s

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 her own work and what choices she has made in her new piece based on a specially recorded performance of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth.Part of Radio 3’s Beethoven Remixed project, which offers musicians and non-musicians alike the chance to create their own remixes of Beethoven’s Fifth, using recordings made by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales: Papp (producer)
06/12/20·29m 50s

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 its own teeming, wild ecologies: from the pagan creationism of Luonnotar, to the primeval forest gods of Tapiola, and the elemental forces of the Oceanides.With writer Jaye Griffiths on wilderness as freedom, listening to a woodlouse, devotion to absolute life, and silence as extinction.
15/11/20·29m 54s

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?
04/11/20·30m 20s

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.
01/11/20·29m 7s

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 Tom Service is joined by tango historian John Turci-Escobar and Buenos Aires-born tango dancer Carla Dominguez. David Papp (producer)
18/10/20·29m 55s

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 thirty years, starting in the 1930s. Finally, we’ll hear what makes the organ timeless and immortal in music by John Cage and Olivier Messiaen. All hail: the organ!
04/10/20·28m 59s

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?
27/09/20·29m 11s

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!
20/09/20·29m 11s

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 back at ourselves? Or is it a revitalising and constantly evolving force for good, sweeping away years of lazy and complacent tradition, revealing afresh music we thought we knew? Violinist Rachel Podger and chronicler of HIPP Nicholas Kenyon are on hand to help.David Papp (producer)
30/08/20·28m 59s

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 from more diverse backgrounds in the mix.With writer and historian Katy Hamilton and oboist and researcher Uchenna Ngwe.
09/08/20·29m 5s

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.
26/07/20·30m 38s

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 Adès and novelist AL Kennedy.
12/07/20·30m 23s

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.
28/06/20·29m 47s

The Musical Universe of Maurice Ravel

Tom Service scopes the musical world of one of his favourite composers, Maurice Ravel.
14/06/20·29m 39s

Wagner’s Ring Cycle: The Ultimate Box Set Binge

Tom Service explores classical music’s ultimate binge-listening box set - Richard Wagner’s apocalyptic four-part 16-hour marathon music drama, The Ring.Cram packed with heroes, heroines, gods and goddesses, it took 25 years to write and has inspired everyone from JRR Tolkien to Francis Ford Coppola and Bugs Bunny.Selfishness, deception, hypocrisy, greed, destruction; like all good box sets they’re all in there, but what’s The Ring really about? And what can we, and perhaps today’s world leaders, learn from it?Tom has half an hour to find out.
31/05/20·30m 19s

English Music

Does English music have a formula? Think of the stirring 'nobilmente' tunes of Elgar and those melodies and harmonies of Vaughan Williams and Holst which have become inextricably linked with the very notion of Englishness. When did English music begin and is it still being written? In an attempt both to define English music and explain its appeal Tom Service enlists the help of Em Marshall-Luck, founder-director of The English Music Festival.
24/05/20·30m 4s

Talking in music

Tom Service explores talking in music - from Gilbert & Sullivan's patter songs to high-art "Sprechgesang" by Schoenberg, from Mozart's recitative to the rap of present-day LA. Anyway, who's to say what is talking and what is singing? Archive recordings of WB Yeats reveal him intoning his poetry melodically, while Ken Nordine devised what he called "Word Jazz".This edition was first broadcast in 2020: the poet named there as Kate Tempest identified as non binary later that year, changing their name to Kae
03/05/20·29m 24s


Tom takes a deep drive into the music of Franz Liszt, celebrated, and sometimes denigrated, for his ultra-virtuosity. Tom is joined by former Radio 3 New Generation Artist Mariam Batsashvili who plays some of her favourite moments of Liszt at the piano, and explains why Liszt has always held a special place in her heart. From struggling with being the first world-famous musician, to pre-empting the likes of Wagner and Schoenberg, Tom explores the surprising and conflicting role Liszt played on the musical stage.
19/04/20·29m 11s

Close Harmony

From Corsican polyphony to Jacob Collier, 50s rock and roll and global hit TV series Glee, close harmony runs through music traditions around the world: but nowhere is it more important than in barbershop, famous for its striped waistcoats, bow ties, and comedy parodies. But today over 70,000 singers of all ages and genders participate in barbershop societies around the world, coming together to compete and perform in quartets and larger choruses, enjoying its exuberant and expressive performance style, and revelling in its magical 'overtones'.With Brian Lynch from the Barbershop Harmony Society in Nashville and members of the BBC Singers, Tom explores what makes it so unique, from its vocal setting to its use of 'just intonation', and discovers the roots of its history, far from the exclusive Ivy League world it's thought to represent.
29/03/20·29m 51s

The music of Kaija Saariaho

Tom Service takes an introductory journey through the beguiling sound world of Kaija Saariaho. Finnish-born, Paris-based Saariaho's music, at once dark and dazzling, immediate and sensual, has ensured her position as one of the world's leading living composers. From operas which explore the big human themes, to orchestral and instrumental works which fuse electronic and acoustic sounds, her voice is completely distinctive and instantly recognisable, a triumph of extraordinary imagination and determination over an unpromising family background.David Papp (producer)
08/03/20·29m 42s

Sad songs say so much

In 1649, a month after the execution of King Charles I, the distraught composer Thomas Tomkins wrote a piece of music called "A sad pavan for these distracted times". And in our own confusing times, is sad music what we need - or not? Tom Service looks at music's power to heal, to build community and to redefine historical events. With Associate Professor at University College London, Dr Daisy Fancourt, and author of "Singing in the Age of Anxiety", Laura Tunbridge.
09/02/20·29m 44s

The String Quartet

Why is a chamber ensemble of two violins, viola and cello the most popular in all of music? The string quartet has inspired - and instilled fear into - composers like no other ensemble, and has been used in pop songs from The Beatles to Bjork. Tom Service explores the string quartet, from Haydn's epic 68 works for the medium, to Beethoven's heroic and tortured late masterpieces, to Shostakovich's 15 soul-bearing 20th-century works. Tom's guests are composer Dobrinka Tabakova, who takes inspiration from the wealth of quartets written before her, and one of the best quartets in the business - the Brodsky Quartet who, besides the great classical cannon, have played with pop artists including Elvis Costello, Sting and Paul McCartney in their nearly 50-year existence.
02/02/20·29m 42s

Beethoven Unleashed: Getting to grips with Beethoven

Beethoven: deaf for most of his life, unbearable egotist, flagrant opportunist and musical anarchist whose music reaches the heights of ecstasy. Where do you start with this bundle of contradictions, probably the most admired composer in western music, whose works have unfailingly filled concert halls for over 200 years? Tom Service goes in search of what makes Beethoven Beethoven and suggests a few key pieces to help unlock the man and his music.David Papp (producer)
19/01/20·30m 17s


Tom Service considers the texture of music. We often talk about the pitches and the rhythms in a piece of music, but how does it strike the ear? Is it rough or smooth, dense or transparent? And how are such textures achieved? He talks to composer Anna Meredith about how she creates excitement through combining different layers of orchestral sound; and to arranger Iain Farrington about how to preserve the textures of a Mahler symphony when it's arranged for only a dozen musicians.
12/01/20·30m 54s

How to love new music

All noise and no tunes?Why is contemporary classical music often thought of as hard work and how can we learn to love it? With music from Beethoven to Birtwistle to Burna Boy and Stormzy, new music fan Tom Service has words of encouragement.
05/01/20·29m 5s


The office party... unwelcome relatives... indigestion... alcoholic overindulgence... hideous decorations... Among all the inevitable woes that accompany the festive season, yuletide music is surely one of the most annoying and pervasive. But what are its origins, its essential ingredients and intrinsic worth? And has the commercial always been a major element of most Christmas music? On a mission to find out, Tom Service has been listening to a lot of it, so you don't have to. Including contributions from Judith Flanders, author of 'Christmas: a Biography' and some of those whose perennial Christmas hits invariably provide the season's soundtrack.David Papp (producer)
22/12/19·29m 47s

Why backing vocals matter

Every "sha-la-la-la" and every "wo-o-wo-oh"...Tom Service brings the backing singers of both the pop and opera worlds to the fore. With backing singers David Combes and Izzy Chase, and Royal Opera House chorus member, Rebecca Lodge.
08/12/19·29m 39s

The Great Highland Bagpipe

From shortbread tins to the Royal Mile, rugby games and highland weddings, the bagpipes have long been a symbol of Scottish identity: but where did they come from, what are they for, and who writes their music?With pipers Simon McKerrell and Brighde Chaimbeul, Tom Service explores their history against the backdrop of global piping traditions from Sweden to Macedonia, Spain and Hungary. What's the difference between the ceol mhor and the ceol beag? Are modern pipes more likely to be made from goat or gore-tex? And how did they make their way into everything from AC/DC to Eminem, and Berlioz to Bach? Tom is on the case...
17/11/19·30m 16s

How to Compose Music

So you want to write a piece of music? Where do you start? And then how do you carry on? How much music theory do you need to know? Or can you get away with knowing very little about music? Tom Service offers encouragement with the help of composers Brian Irvine and Cheryl Frances-Hoad.
10/11/19·29m 48s

The Real Red Priest

Can we get beyond The Four Seasons? Was he really a priest? Did he write the same concerto several hundred times? Antonio Vivaldi wrote arguably the most famous piece of classical music of all time but his reputation has suffered as a result. Some accuse him of churning out the same concerto multiple times at the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice where he taught music and performed alongside orchestras and choirs of female musicians, much to the titillation of travelling tourists of the day.With the help of violinist Hugo Ticciati (who performs Vivaldi's works alongside those of rock band Metallica), and Vivaldi expert Susan Orlando Tom explores the joyfully physical realm of The Red Priest's music, how Vivaldi's music can teach us to listen in a whole new way and why Vivaldi's operas will soon be making a comeback.
03/11/19·29m 53s

Turn up the Volume, Dial up the Drama

From loud to soft, even louder and even softer, dynamics are crucial to the dramatic effect of music. Tom Service discovers just how loud and soft classical music can be, and pop music that is louder still. Is it all about loudness, or are the quiet moments more evocative?The Royal College of Music’s Head of Composition William Mival and BBC Sound engineer Matilda Macari give an insight into just how loud the music that we're hearing through our radios is.Produced by Calantha Bonnissent.
20/10/19·29m 27s

The Simple Truth

Isaac Newton's 'Truth is ever to be found in simplicity...' has often been echoed in music by many of the great composers down the ages. But during the 20th and 21st centuries, akin to movements in the visual arts, some composers have pared down their music to a few seemingly basic elements. But how difficult is it to achieve meaningful musical simplicity and what's the difference between that and mind-numbingly banal simple-is-as-simple-does? With the help of composer Howard Skempton and Tate Modern curator Emma Lewis, Tom Service discovers the hard and often complex truths about simplicity.David Papp (producer)
13/10/19·29m 56s

Prog Rock - apotheosis or nadir?

Tom Service looks at Progressive Rock, to find out whether it was an apotheosis of rock music, thanks to the influence of classical music, the virtuosity of the performers and the ambition of its structures - or was it a folly of hopelessly over-reaching naivety and vapid pomposity? For a short period in the early 1970s, rock bands such as Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson were boldly experimenting with their music, devising complex pieces that bore little relation to the simple pop song, and exhibiting dazzling instrumental skills. So why did it all go wrong so quickly? Tom consults Dr Sarah Hill, co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Progressive Rock, and also speaks to legendary keyboard wizard (and ex-member of Yes), Rick Wakeman.
06/10/19·29m 56s

Al-Andalus: What makes music sound Spanish?

Tom Service looks for the essence of Spain in the music of later centuries. Why was so much "Spanish" music written by Russian, French or German composers, and how do we recognise a "Spanish" sound in music now?
29/09/19·29m 40s

The Music of the Night

From nocturnes and nightmares to dreams and dances - music loves the night. Tom discovers the music and sounds found after the sun sets, from Wagner and Mozart to Faithless and Aerosmith via the songs of nightingales and crickets. He explores the nocturnal sounds of the natural world with sound recordist Ellie Williams and sees how composers like Bartok have tried to incorporate those sounds in their music.Music is full of dreamscapes as well as nightmares, so science writer Alice Robb is on hand to explain why we dream and how we might be at our most creative when we close our eyes to dream.Hannah Thorne (producer)
22/09/19·29m 42s

All the Tunes

What links pre-war picker George Formby and Wagner, US rock duo The White Stripes and Bruckner, crooning legend Barry Manilow and Chopin? The surprising answer is that they've all shared tunes. Is that because, after 1,000 years of written music, there are no tunes left? What are the essential ingredients of a great tune and how difficult is it to write one?Tom Service seeks answers with the help of maths man Marcus du Sautoy and composer Jessica Curry.David Papp (producer)
15/09/19·29m 37s

Olivier Messiaen and the Interstellar Call!

In a live edition of The Listening Service, Tom Service hears and responds to composer Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Interstellar Call’, sent out in his epic "From the canyons to the stars..." The music is inspired by the wild beauty of Arizona, filled with birdsong and the sounds of nature, but also with a cosmic sense of awe - where does Messiaen's visionary work fit in the culture of the early 70s and in the present day?
29/07/19·30m 24s

Is complicated music better than simple music?

Tom Service looks at complexity in music. From Bach fugues to contemporary pop production, musicians and composers love to elaborate ideas to the limits of their imaginations. But when we listen, we only have one chance to hear all that's going on in their music. According to physicist Marvin Minsky, the human brain can only register a maximum of three different musical ideas going on at the same time. So how do we manage to enjoy listening to the rich counterpoint of a Mozart symphony, a Beethoven string quartet, even a highly produced pop song by Janelle Monae? Tom wrestles with ideas of detail versus texture, emotion versus intellectual design and asks, can we hear the wood for the trees?
07/07/19·29m 29s

Why do babies love music?

Why do we seem to love music from the day we're born? Are we born musical or do we learn it along the way?Whether it's melodies by Mozart, Queen, nursery rhymes or Baby Shark, music seems to captivate our babies - but what is it about these tunes that they're enjoying?Tom is joined by infant psychology expert Dr Laurel Trainor to find out how babies really interact with music - what are they hearing in the womb? Do they have musical preferences? Does participating in music have any developmental benefits? And is there any truth in the so-called Mozart effect?How do you go about writing music for tiny people? Andrew Davenport, creator and composer of iconic pre-school hit In the Night Garden and Moon and Me explains how babies and music go hand in hand.And Tom finds out why we've sung lullabies to our infants all over the world since Babylonian times.Hannah Thorne - producer
20/06/19·29m 15s

Better than background music?

From ancient Greek drama until today, music has often been an integral part of the theatre and it's where many concert hall staples - think Beethoven's Egmont... Schubert's Rosamunde... Mendelssohn's A Midsummer Night's Dream.... Grieg's Peer Gynt - began life. But does the very act of collaboration make incidental music a sort of anaemic, second rate cousin to symphonies, string quartets and sonatas? To help find answers, Tom Service enlists the help of theatre director Elle While and Harrison Birtwistle, whose music was so vital to the 1983 landmark Peter Hall National Theatre production of Aeschylus's The Oresteia. David Papp (producer)
16/06/19·29m 6s

Countertenors - classical rock gods!

From Frankie Valli and Jeff Buckley to Andreas Scholl and Iestyn Davies - Tom Service celebrates the male singers hitting the high notes. Why do they do it? How do they do it? And why is it so uniquely thrilling a sound? And it's not about singing like a woman!With inside knowledge from countertenor Lawrence Zazzo.
09/06/19·28m 48s

What's the point of practice?

Does practice make perfect? And what is perfect practice? Tom Service asks whether anyone can become a good musician by just putting in the hours. Pianist James Rhodes talks about the role practice plays in his life, and Professor Brooke Macnamara reveals the true role practice plays in performance.
26/05/19·28m 27s

Sound of the Underground

What does the underground sound like?Beneath the earth lies a noisy vibrant place, from the explosive roar of a volcano erupting, the echoes of caverns down to the barely audible grinding of the earth's plates.All this noise has long inspired composers and musicians - from Stravinsky and Wagner to Howard Shore and Tom Waits, we burrow into the earth itself to uncover the musical treats that lie under our feet. How do you translate the underground into music and does it bear any resemblance to what is actually happening down there?Tom discovers what really lies beneath with the sound recordist Jez Riley French who reveals the hidden sounds from the earth itself turning to underground woodlice going about their daily business.Plus music actually made in the deep places of the world - from Pauline Oliveros's Deep Listening Band to the songs of Welsh miners.Hannah Thorne (producer)
19/05/19·29m 53s

What Is Sound Art? And Why?

Tom Service considers the rise of Sound Art, commonly found in art galleries today, and wonders whether it is a new genre or simply music in an art space? He consults musician and sound artist Mark Fell, finds precedents in Wagner's operas, considers how a 16th-century choral work became a contemporary art installation, and celebrates the American performance artist Laurie Anderson who accidentally had a pop hit with her piece O Superman.
05/05/19·28m 22s

Ranked Amateurs

Today, 'amateur' has become a byword for sloppiness and low standards. But for centuries amateurs were the bedrock of musical life and an essential and vitalising force for composers, providing not only a cohort of highly-accomplished performers and the most discerning audience but also a lucrative vein to be mined by music publishers. To find out how and why attitudes changed - and if they are still changing - Tom Service is joined by writer and historian Katy Hamilton.David Papp (producer)
28/04/19·29m 33s

Why are classical audiences so quiet?

Tom looks at how modern audiences are hooked on silence in the concert hall. Citing a recent incident where the rustling of a sweet wrapper by an audience member in Malmo created a ruckus so powerful that it spilled spectacularly into a violent brawl, Tom will examine why silence is considered so important and noise so abhorrent in classical concerts.
21/04/19·29m 16s

The Power of One

Music where the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many - but also where the many can become one... Tom Service looks at music performed solo or in unison. What is happening in music where there is no harmony? And how can a single musical line build a sense of community?
07/04/19·29m 49s

Anger in Music

LET'S GET ANGRY!Music’s power to express and exorcise anger has taken composers, performers, and listeners, to the Dark Side of music’s profoundly emotional powers. How do you make the sounds of anger? We’ll scream like heavy metal virtuosos and operatic divas, we’ll explore the harmonies of anger through the sounds of the angriest classical music over the centuries, and we’ll hear what happens in our brains when we just have to express our vexatious impulses. But while there’s a cathartic feeling of release once we’ve got over the musical, emotional, and hormonal expression of angriness, music itself can also make us angry. It makes Tom Service angry: when you’re on hold on that phone-call to the gas-board, when that TV theme or YouTube meme gets stuck in your head and just won’t budge: music can make us as exquisitely cross as any other fact of our lives. We'll get anger management advice from Commander-In-Chief, Shred guitarist Berit Hagen (angry), composer Richard Sisson (very angry) and Professor of Black Studies Kehinde Andrews (seething). From the sounds of anger to anger-inducing ear-worm: join us in an emotionally exorcising edition of The Listening Service. You’ll feel better. And if you don't you can get very angry with us!
02/04/19·30m 17s

Bruckner and the Symphonic Boa Constrictors

Even today, some music lovers will nod knowingly when they hear Brahms's comparison of Anton Bruckner's epic symphonies with a nightmare-scary giant snake that kills its victims in the inescapable embrace of its crushing coils. Poor Bruckner, ever the easy target of sneering critics. At once childishly obsessive and intensely spiritual, ultra-sophisticated musician and naive country bumpkin: even by composers' standards he stood out as weird. No wonder the music was so hopeless!But Tom Service wants you to think of Bruckner as one of the greatest and most original symphonists of all time (whose symphonies really don't all sound the same), as much master of daring long-range musical form as of the perfect miniature.David Papp (producer)
24/03/19·30m 41s

The Double Bass

It's huge, it's awkward, it's difficult to play, and while it’s totally pivotal to the musical spectrum, it's rarely talked about.It's the epitome of the elephant in the room, and yet we'll discover why it is possibly the most underrated instrument in the orchestra.Tom Service talks about the history and development of the largest and lowest pitched orchestral string instrument, and hears how it's played today. He's joined by performers Leon Bosch and Daphna Sadeh to discuss why the bass is much, much more than the elephant in the room.
19/03/19·30m 3s

Can music be gendered?

Can you hear 'masculine' and 'feminine' in music? And how have these concepts had an impact on music and how people have heard it over the centuries? With Tom Service.
10/03/19·29m 46s

Style Counsel

Tom Service dispenses Style Counsel - what are the different eras in music history, and how can you tell them from each other? How did they come about and grow and change? And as Radio 3 is about to launch its New Year New Music season, is there an overarching distinguishing style in music today? Tom is joined by composer and writer Neil Brand at the piano for some answers.
03/03/19·28m 46s

The Key to Keys

What is a key? In western music, if all the intervals and possible chords in every scale in any major key are the same (and ditto for every scale and chord in every minor key), why do we need 12 major keys and 12 minor ones? What have keys meant to composers down the centuries and has that changed? Are keys now so last-century (or even before that)? What even is a key? Why is the Pythagorean Comma important and what even is it? So many questions... To attempt some answers, Tom Service enlists the help of harpsichord maker and tuner Andrew Wooderson, harpsichord player Masumi Yamamoto and musicologist Katy Hamilton.David Papp (producer)
10/02/19·30m 38s

Schubert - The Dark Side

Tom Service delves into the dark side of Franz Schubert. What can we hear in his music?A provincial composer who died young, described as looking like a "little mushroom", on the face of it Franz Schubert doesn't seem a likely candidate for deep insight into the human condition. But appearances are very definitely deceptive, and some of his music can seem deceptively straightforward as well. Join Tom Service for a journey into Schubert's psyche and discover what his music tells us about the man, and perhaps about ourselves.With Dr Laura Tunbridge of Oxford University.
03/02/19·30m 14s

Riffs, loops and ostinati - the art of repeating yourself!

Tom Service investigates the ostinato, a repeated phrase in music that can nag or hypnotise the listener (the word derives from the Italian for "stubborn "). From Ravel's Boléro to Donna Summer's "I Feel Love", the ostinato is everywhere in music - driving the crescendo of Rossini's William Tell overture, underpinning the primitive ritual dances of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring - but is it an accompaniment or a riff? A rhythm or a tune? Tom finds it can be all those things and more....
26/01/19·31m 8s

Classical Icons

As BBC 2's epic history series Icons is underway, Tom Service takes a closer look at four icons of the classical music world: Maria Callas, Nigel Kennedy, Jacqueline du Pré, and Luciano Pavarotti. With the help of opera critic Anna Picard Tom asks whether these icons are born or whether they're made, and what factors (beyond great artistry and talent) are at play in the making of an icon.
20/01/19·30m 10s

What Makes a Song?

Tom Service considers what makes a good song work - verse, chorus, a good tune and...? Is a pop song using fundamentally the same structure as an art song or lied? From the timeless pop of The Carpenters to the gigantic "song symphonies" of Gustav Mahler, Tom examines what you can do with a few verses, perhaps a chorus, and maybe a "middle eight". He's also joined by composer and pianist Richard Sisson to consider the genius of Robert Schumann's songcraft, and by producer Dan Carey who considers contrasting song structures by The Beach Boys and Frank Ocean.
06/01/19·30m 14s

The Nutcracker - Strange Enchantments

Think of The Nutcracker as a super-saccharine classic for the feel-good season? Think again. Is everything really all sweetness and light in the world of sugar-plum fairy? No! But don't let the tale's dark undertones spoil your enjoyment of the wonderful music. Tom Service tears the gaudy wrapping paper from Tchaikovsky's balletic masterpiece to remind us you don't always get what you want. Behind the tinsel and fluffy snowflakes lies a story imbued with darkness and death. But maybe that is the secret of its unfading allure and beauty. Tom is joined by Marina Frolova-Walker and Peggy Reynolds to crack the most popular nut in the repertoire.
30/12/18·30m 22s

The bells, the bells...

Tom Service on the mystery, magic and music associated with bellsFor thousands of years human life has been accompanied by the sound of bells - calls to prayer, driving away evil spirits, marking the hours and seasons of life - births, marriages, deaths, alarm bells, peace bells, sleigh bells and Christmas bells. In a programme first broadcast in 2018, Tom looks at the meaning and magic of the sound of bells, and listens to the interpretations and reverberations of bells in music.
23/12/18·30m 2s

Concertos: All for one and one for all?

With the help of violinist Pekka Kuusisto Tom Service explores the concerto from Vivaldi in the early 18th century to today's composers. How has the idea of the concerto evolved over three centuries and what are the challenges for the soloist, walking the tightrope of virtuosity, sandwiched between orchestral colleagues and expectant audience? David Papp (producer)
09/12/18·29m 54s

Extreme Classical!

What are the most extreme pieces of classical music ever written? And is today's shock-of-the-new tomorrow's old-hat?Tom Service looks some of the longest, the most apocalyptic, the weirdest and the most expensive music ever written - what were the composers up to, exactly? And where do we go from here?
02/12/18·29m 41s

The Power of Three

From medieval English music to the Everly Brothers - what is it about the musical interval of the third that sounds so attractive? Why does a major third tend to feel positive, and a minor third tend to feel sad? Nature or nurture? And what about their dark cousin, the tritone - the so-called "Devil in Music" - what on earth can be that sinister about a couple of notes?Tom Service is joined by Dr Adam Ockelford to try and find some answers.
25/11/18·29m 47s

Rossini - Master Chef and Maestro

To mark the 150th anniversary of Rossini's death, Tom Service salutes the opera composer who was a celebrity in his own time, whose music was whistled in the street. A colourful, jovial character, Rossini was also a renowned gourmand (Bolognese-spattered manuscripts are evidence that he composed while he ate) whose love of food permeated his whole creative outlook. His innovative whipping up of musical excitement earned him the nickname "Signor Crescendo", and he had a healthy attitude to the ephemeral nature of his art: as today's guest, baritone Simon Butteriss, points out, Rossini famously re-composed a page of manuscript that he had dropped while composing in bed, rather than disturb his breakfast tray getting out of bed to pick it up. Rossini understood that music is an essential ingredient of everyday existence - and we all need him in our lives.
18/11/18·29m 31s

What counts as 'classical music'?

What do we actually mean when we talk about "classical music"? What is - or isn't it?By its narrowest definition it's essentially mid-18th to early 19th century music and yet it's usually used to mean much much more. So how is classical music defined these days? Is it a walled garden of a very distinct style, or can it embrace all sorts of things? Does being played by an orchestra make something classical? Is film music classical? Are crossover artists classical? Is game music classical? Questions, and possibly some answers, with Tom Service, plus thoughts from composer Max Richter and writer Charlotte Higgins..
11/11/18·28m 35s

What's the Point of the Conductor?

The Listening Service had a question from a listener: "When I see the musicians playing, they seem to be looking at their sheet music, not the conductor. Can an orchestra not function perfectly well without a conductor? If I'm intensely moved by a piece of orchestral music, is it not the musicians which moved me? Why must I applaud some arbitrary conductor, who never touched a single instrument throughout the entire performance?"Tom Service rises to the challenge and looks at the role of the conductor - is it all about their ego, their clothes, their ability to beat time or their emotional outpouring onstage - or it is something else entirely? Rethink music with The Listening Service.
04/11/18·29m 49s

Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

In a programme first broadcast in 2017, Tom Service explores arguably the most famous piece of music in the world: the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. It's a piece which has been appropriated by everyone from the European Union, to the writer Anthony Burgess, who used it as an unsettling counterpoint to the murderous exploits of the characters in his novel A Clockwork Orange. Tom asks whether Beethoven's original vision of a musical utopia has actually turned out to be far more dangerous than the composer could ever have imagined.
28/10/18·29m 30s

The Magical Forest

Enter the magical musical world of the forest. It's charming, mysterious, beautiful and scary. Tom Service is your guide as he explores the magical role of the forest in music, from the Romantic charms of Schubert songs to the nightmarish spirits of Weber's Freischütz opera, and beyond to the symbolic psychological forests of Schoenberg's Erwartung and Sibelius's Tapiola. He also talks to sound artist Jez Riley French about his close-up recordings of forests, which bring us the truly wild sounds of un-romanticised nature.
21/10/18·30m 52s

The Cowpat Controversy

The line-up of early 20th-century English composers includes great figures such as Holst, Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax and Frederick Delius. Since the 1950s, these composers have been dogged by a casual and unkind slur against their work, namely by referring to it as 'cowpat music'. Tom Service argues that, far from producing shallow and whimsical pastoral scores, the music produced by this English movement is among the most profound and communicative of the last century, rarely far from the influence of the two world wars.
14/10/18·30m 24s


A rollercoaster of a show as Tom experiences how music gets our hearts racing. How do composers from Bach to Jarvis Cocker manipulate speed in music? How can a slow movement by Sibelius be 'faster' than 'speedcore' dance music? Tom takes us inside the mechanics of speed, and discovers that Sibelius controls our heart rate in symphonic music in the same way that a DJ in Ibiza does as their set unfolds. Just to put his theories to the test, Tom rides a roller coaster with the composer Anna Meredith who explains how those mighty rides do much the same thing as she does when writing the music designed to get our pulse rate up.
07/10/18·29m 27s

Technical Mastery

From the dawn of human music-making, all instrumental music has been made via technology, whether bone flutes, violins, pianos, tape or synthesisers. Is new musical technology driven by the needs of composers and musicians or are they dazzled by its possibilities before they can really get to grips with it? How has cheap technology impacted on music, now that laptops have done for expensive studios and choosy producers. Do the infinite possibilities of today's digital technology limit musical imagination? To help answer these and many other questions, Tom is joined by Maggie Cole, player of keyboard-based technologies from the clavichord to the synthesiser, and by composer, producer, and surfer of today’s digital technological Utopia, Jono Buchanan.
30/09/18·29m 49s

In space no-one can hear you sing...

Space. A place few men or women have gone before ... but plenty of composers have. The universe has inspired musicians for hundreds of years and consequently we all know what space music sounds like. Or do we?From Holst and David Bowie to John Williams via Ligeti, Thomas Ades and the Beastie Boys, Tom Service dons his spacesuit on a mission to explore why cosmic-inspired music sounds the way it does, and discovers how space science is just as inspired by music as musicians are by space.En route to the stars, space scientist Lucie Green is on hand to tell Tom the reality of sound in space, while mathematician Elaine Chew helps him uncover the music of the spheres.
23/09/18·30m 12s

Maxing out on Minimalism

Less really is more on today’s The Listening Service: we’re maxing out on minimalism, that most popular but also most divisive and most misunderstood of all 20th-century musical movements. Music that either makes you bliss out or brings you out in hives - it's the sound of that rhythmic repetitive music by a quartet of American composers - Steve Reich, Philip Glass, LaMonte Young, and Terry Riley, who have defined the movement, the style, even the genre of minimalism. Take a chord, a pattern, a handful of notes - and repeat them - and repeat again…and again...What is minimalism in music and why should you listen to it?
16/09/18·30m 18s

Searching for Paradise - 2018 Proms Special

Humanity has used music to commune with the sacred for as long as we have been human: from the caves of Chauvet, tens of thousands of years ago, to the churches, temples, and synagogues of today, we have sung and hymned and played our connection with our God(s). Something else has happened in modern Western society: as organised religion has waned, a cult of music has developed, in which we don't just use music to worship, but worship music and musicians as carriers of a divine spark. With the help of Keith Howard, Emeritus Professor of Music at SOAS and The Reverend Lucy Winkett, Tom explores how music has sounded the sacred and itself become sacred. In association with Prom 73 2018
02/09/18·29m 1s

Virtuosity - 2018 Proms Special

What does it mean to be good? If you're a virtuoso pianist, violinist, cellist, does that mean you can play faster than everybody else - or better? What does it mean to be a virtuoso? Are you in league with the devil, as 19th-century critics said about the violinist Paganini, or are you able to communicate more movingly, more emotionally, more humanly than other players? In association with Prom 3 2018 - BBC Young Musician 40th Anniversary
26/08/18·29m 3s

Endings - 2018 Proms Special

Tom Service looks at how pieces of music end, and asks what endings mean. Are they mere framing devices, or can they suggest weightier thoughts of triumph, or conversely, of death? And what of the fading away so prevalent in pop music? From Beethoven's insistent affirmations to Tchaikovsky's bleak despair, from Haydn's witty farewells to Human League's intimations of eternity, the ways that music ends are as various as music itself.Released in association with Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 6 – The Sense of An Ending.
19/08/18·29m 41s

Colour and Music - 2018 Proms Special

Tom Service investigates the link between music and colour ahead of Prom 45 and Stravinsky’s colourful folk-ballet Petrushka.A piece of music can be 'dark' or 'bright' or we could be singing the 'Blues' - but what does that mean? Professor Jamie Ward - an expert in synaesthesia - is on hand to help. Tom delves into a world of musical colour from Messiaen and Copland, Scriabin and Ravel to David Bowie and Beyoncé to discover whether music can ever be colourful.
12/08/18·29m 50s

Britten's Sea Interludes - 2018 Proms Special

The sea in all its musical majesty
05/08/18·29m 36s

Folk Music - 2018 Proms Special

Tom delves in to folk music’s mysterious history before Prom 27, celebrating folk music across Britain and Ireland with Sam Lee and The Unthanks.
29/07/18·29m 49s

Mahler's 8th Symphony - 2018 Proms Special

Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight
23/07/18·28m 49s

Devilish Musical Pacts

Dancing with the devil in the pale moonlight, Tom Service signs his soul in blood as he explores musical versions of the Faust story - including Mahler's epic setting of Goethe's Faust in his eighth symphony. Guest Matthew Sweet lends his devilish expertise on Faustian films, from Bedazzled to The Witches of Eastwick. Recorded earlier today at Imperial College, London, as a prelude to tonight's Proms performance of Mahler's Symphony No.8.
23/07/18·27m 48s

Pioneers of Sound - Proms 2018 Special

Why synths are so cool
15/07/18·29m 47s

Orchestral Manoeuvres

As the world's greatest celebration of orchestras and orchestral music that is the BBC Proms gets underway, Tom Service attempts to shed some light on three centuries of orchestral manoeuvres... When did orchestras begin and why? Why do they have standardised sections of strings, woodwind, brass and percussion? Why did they seem to get bigger and bigger as the 19th century turned into the 20th? Why have so many of the great composers spent so much of their time writing for them? Are they still relevant to today's composers and what's their future? And to find out what it's actually like to play in an orchestra, an individual working together with sometimes 100 others, Tom talks to Beverley Jones, double bassist with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. David Papp (producer).
15/07/18·28m 50s

Beginnings - Proms 2018 Special

Music – where do we start?
12/07/18·29m 33s

The Fifth

Tom Service savours the sound of the fifth - an interval with many meanings, from mystic drone to military bugle call. He's joined by Early Music expert Jeremy Llewellyn who explains the significance of the fifth in medieval music, related to The Music of the Spheres and used to invoke the Almighty in religious chant; and by composer David Bruce, who describes how composers today find fresh uses for this primal sound. Tom finds the open, ringing sound of the fifth in all sorts of music, from a Buzzcocks guitar solo to a Bruckner symphony, providing the thrill of adventure in the Star Wars theme and underpinning the reels of Scottish bagpipe music.
01/07/18·29m 41s

Truck Driver Modulation

Today on The Listening Service Tom gets into gear for the truck driver modulation - crunching from one key to another, and not worrying overly about the musical synchromesh. There's not too much attention paid to the proper rules of harmony in today's programme, which celebrates the emotional and dramatic impact of the well-placed sudden key change. From Bruckner to Bon Jovi, Mahler to Michael Jackson, and less alliteratively, from Schubert to Bill Withers via Barry Manilow, we may love to hate this technique, but join Tom as he stands up for the key change (like Westlife).With Dr. Dai Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Music at Oxford Brookes University, and novelist Elizabeth Day.
24/06/18·29m 30s

Igor Stravinsky: Understood Best by Children and Animals

"My music is best understood by children and animals," pronounced Igor Stravinsky, no doubt with a twinkle in his eye. According to his critics (and jealous colleagues), Stravinsky's composing consisted of picking up any old second-hand musical baubles he fancied, like a restless musical magpie - sometimes he even had the effrontery to leave them virtually unchanged. Frustratingly, audiences seemed to lap it up. To make matters worse, when it came to explaining his music, Igor liked nothing better than to hide behind contradictory and gnomic statements, as bewildering and frequent as his changes of musical style.Tom Service goes in search of the essence of Stravinsky, at once one of the greatest yet most elusive 20th Century composers. Including contributions from playwright Meredith Oakes and Stravinsky biographer Jonathan Cross.David Papp (producer).
17/06/18·29m 29s

The Listening Service recorded live at Hay Festival

In this special edition of The Listening Service recorded live at this year's Hay Festival, Tom Service explores the parallels between great children's literature and music written for young people. From Debussy to Prokofiev, Bizet to Britten - childhood has fascinated some of the greatest composers - how does their approach compare to children's writers and illustrators? What can we learn from music written by youngsters themselves and what lessons can be learned from music, pictures and words created for children? Joining Tom to answer those questions at the piano, is the composer and pianist Richard Sisson who wrote the score for Alan Bennett's The History Boys at The National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company's Goodnight Children Everywhere; and the award-winning author and illustrator Ed Vere, creator of Mr Big, Max the Brave and Bedtime for Monsters.
03/06/18·28m 38s

Syncopation Syncopation Syncopation

What's the secret musical ingredient that music from salsa to Saturday Night Fever, from Charlie Parker to George Gershwin, from Johann Sebastian Bach to Leonard Bernstein, from ragtime to funk and disco, not to mention baroque sarabandes, has in common? The answer is that they all swoon to the sounds of syncopation: to rhythms that dance against, as well as with, the beat - to make us tap our fingers and toes, to get us dancing. On today's The Listening Service: what are the secrets of syncopation: what defines these rhythms in our music, and in our brains and our bodies, in the physiological and psychological ways that we process them? Tom Service goes off beat! (And tries his hand at Cuban percussion).
20/05/18·28m 42s

What does ancient history really sound like?

From Paleolithic caves to Roman arenas, we know that music was made, and even what instruments were played - but what did the music sound like? Tom attempts to find out, with help from flautist Anna Friederike Potengowski, composer Neil Brand, and media historian David Hendy. Journey with them from the prehistoric to ancient Rome, via the "modern stone age" town of Bedrock.
14/05/18·28m 39s

The Sea

Join Tom on a Listening Service voyage across our oceans to discover why music has long been inspired by the sea - from Sibelius and Mendelssohn to John Luther Adams and The Beatles - how have composers tried to capture the ocean in their music? Is it even possible?Meanwhile, Tom discovers music that is literally created by the sea itself from Blackpool to the Arctic, and dives down into the sounds of coral reefs with the marine biologist Helen Scales to hear the noisy vibrant reality of life under the waves, from snapping pistol shrimps and angry damsel fish to singing whales.
06/05/18·28m 57s

How does video game music work?

Bleep... bleep.... bleeeeepIt's amazing how a few electronic bleeps can tell us so much about what's going on in a video game without us even being aware of itBut music in video games has come a long way from the arcades, from the bleeps and bloops of Space Invaders and Super Mario to epic orchestral scores of the Legend of Zelda and Bioshock, Tom Service goes on an interactive odyssey to discover the secrets behind our favourite video game music. Along the way he meets composer Jessica Curry and video game expert Tim Summers who tell us what's really happening in the music when we're playing, the composer tricks of the trade and how video games can get new audiences closer to classical music.bleeeeeeep... GAME OVER.
29/04/18·28m 47s

Is Music a Universal Language?

What is music good for? In our concluding link with the BBC's Civilisations season, The Listening Service asks one of the most fundamental questions we can about music, a claim often made on the art-form's behalf in a list of reasons why it's an essential good: is music a universal language? It's a seductive idea, that music's primal activation of the world of our emotions, bypassing the rationalising parts of our brains, means that it has an essential communicative function that carries across cultures in the way that no other phenomenon of the human imagination can. Music binds us together, because Beethoven and the blues sound the same and mean the same whether you're listening in Oklahoma or Osaka. It's a nice theory, but on The Listening Service, we'll reveal the limits of these claims to the universal. And we'll suggest that music separates and defines us just as much as it brings us together. Not giving the game away, but music isn't a universal language: it's much, much more powerful than that - as we'll discover!
22/04/18·28m 55s


Tom Service considers drums - one of the most ancient and primitive instruments, yet capable of great sophistication in the context of the classical orchestra or a jazz band. He discusses contemporary composition for drums with percussionist Serge Vuille, and looks at non-western drum traditions with Brazilian percussionist Adriano Adewale.
08/04/18·28m 53s

Orientalism and the Music of Elsewhere

In the second of three companion programmes to BBC TV's Civilisations series, Tom Service unpicks western music's debt to the exotic and ponders the allure of western music for other cultures.Reflecting contemporary attitudes and trends in fashion and the arts, the exotic has long cast its spell on western composers. Mozart catered to the 18th-century Viennese craze for all things Turkish; in 19th-century France the exotic stretched east to Indonesia and Japan. More recently, the music of Africa has attracted the likes of Steve Reich and György Ligeti. And 150 years ago, as Japan opened up to outside influences, western culture became suddenly desirable in the east, with profound and lasting consequences. But what does it take to make the exotic in music more than a titillating and imperialist added extra?Including contributions from composer Unsuk Chin, and cultural historian of Japan, Jonathan Service.David Papp (producer).
01/04/18·28m 47s

Searching for Paradise

The Listening Service investigates music's divine journeys as part of the BBC's Civilisations season.Humanity has used music to commune with the sacred for as long as we have been human: from the caves of Chauvet, tens of thousands of years ago, to the churches, temples, and synagogues of today, we have sung and hymned and played our connection with our God(s). Something else has happened in modern Western society: as organised religion has waned, a cult of music has developed, in which we don't just use music to worship, but worship music and musicians as carriers of a divine spark. With the help of Keith Howard, Emeritus Professor of Music at SOAS and The Reverend Lucy Winkett, Tom explores how music has sounded the sacred and itself become sacred.
19/03/18·28m 50s

The Listening Service at Free Thinking

Tom Service explores the idea of polyphony - many voices, of equal importance, independent of each other and yet essential to the greater whole. A musical democratic utopia? Or are some voices always going to be more equal than others? Taking the theme of this year's festival "the one and the many", Tom asks what singing together as one, and yet in different parts and voices, tells us about ourselves and our relationships with each other. Live at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead with the festival house choir, "Voices of Hope".
12/03/18·30m 22s

The French Horn Unwound

The French horn, elemental and atavistic, noble and heroic, has long held a special place in composers' affections. Just think of the horn writing of Bach and Handel, at once earthy and sophisticated, the concertos and chamber music of Mozart, the horns of Beethoven symphonies! Not to mention Schumann's supercharged Konzertstuck for four horns, or the central role the horn plays in Wagner's epic Ring - and in the orchestra of Brahms, Strauss and Mahler. And then there are today's composers...Tom Service unwinds this 12-foot metal tube to discover its continuous appeal over three centuries with the help of natural horn virtuoso Anneke Scott and self-confessed French horn superfan Oliver Knussen, whose very personal concerto for the instrument was inspired by family and friendship, as well as the great horn writing of the past.David Papp (producer).
04/03/18·28m 53s

Debussy the Impressionist?

Tom Service considers whether Claude Debussy was an impressionist or not. He is often said to have composed Impressionist music - in such popular works as Claire de Lune and La Mer. But Tom argues that Debussy's music has quite a different character to that of the Impressionist painters - and to prove it he discusses the techniques of those painters with art historian Anthea Callen. Debussy, Tom argues, was a modernist, an abstract composer and also (in his opera Pelléas et Melisande) a creator of nightmares.
18/02/18·29m 9s

Sonata Form - or There and Back Again

Tom Service tells stories in sonata form.This word sonata originally meant simply a piece of music. But over the course of music history "sonata form" came to mean something very specific and laid the foundations for over two hundred years of sonatas, string quartets, symphonies and concertos.In this edition of The Listening Service, Tom explores sonata form - according to the revision guides it's all about Exposition-Development-Recapitulation. But it’s so much more than that - the template is just the bare bones of a three act drama - lyrical, exciting and compelling musical stories are told in sonata form. How can you hear them? How is it done?With David Owen Norris at the piano, with his Sonata of the Prodigal Son.
11/02/18·28m 46s

I guess that's why they call it the Blues

We all think we know what 'The Blues' means - whether it's feeling down in the dumps or a musical genre that links Muddy Waters through to The Rolling Stones.But what is it really? What makes The Blues the Blues? And where did it come from? Tom Service is joined by jazz pianist Julian Joseph to discover its earliest African-American origins right up to current-day Blues music and its influence on classical musicians.Whether we're talking Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, classical composers using 'Blue' notes or that feeling of melancholy - the Blues has often found its way onto the concert stage too. Tom looks back across classical music history to find that actually music has had a bad case of the blues for many centuries.
04/02/18·28m 55s

From the New World?

Tom Service examines Dvorak's Symphony No 9, "From the New World", one of the BBC's current "Ten Pieces III". Dvorak told the New York Herald in 1893 that "a serious and original school of composition should be established in the United States of America" which he hoped would have at its foundation black composers, like those he met, taught, and whose music he promoted at the National Conservatory of Music of America. Alongside Dvorak's Symphony "From the New World', Tom explores the lesser known Symphonies of three black composers: William Grant Still, Florence Price and William Dawson and how they realised Dvorak's dream for American music and used the symphony to create new languages and communities of listeners.
21/01/18·29m 3s


Tom service explores the extraordinarily original music of Bela Bartok. This Hungarian composer, who was a contemporary of Schoenberg and Stravinsky, managed to avoid the direct influence of these two giants of modern music and created his own musical style, partly inspired by the folk music that he discovered (and recorded onto wax cylinders) in the Hungarian countryside before the First World War. His six string quartets are unmatched for their intensity and invention, and as a concert pianist himself, he wrote much groundbreaking piano music, including three concertos. Bartok's pedagogical series of pieces called Mikrokosmos is still much used by students of the piano, and Tom discusses the composer's piano music with another virtuoso pianist, Cédric Tiberghien.
14/01/18·28m 54s

The Joy of Bach

Tom Service celebrates The Joy of Bach.
12/12/17·29m 18s


Mahler's music - Huge eighty minute long symphonies, enormous orchestral forces, it should be thought of as the epitome of a complex cerebral classical music culture, surely?Not if Mahler has anything to do with it.Tom Service discovers how Mahler is the first non-classical Classical composer, how he happily harvested his tunes from everwhere from folk songs and children's rhymes to the landscape and nature, and how we as listeners are the most crucial part of them all and why he wanted every one of us to hear his music differently.
10/12/17·28m 41s

Bad Music

Everyone loves good music, but when is music bad? Can we objectively define bad music - are there any rules to help - or is it a matter of taste and fashion? What music was once thought good but we now regard as bad? (And vice versa.) Join arbiter of taste Tom Service as he dispenses judgment, both considered and otherwise.
03/12/17·28m 45s


Tom Service invites you to take stroll around a rogues' gallery of musical fakers, from the perpetrators of innocent pranks, to calculating fraudsters' deliberate deceptions. As well as the satisfying sight of seeing musical experts consuming humble pie, what are the motivations behind musical hoaxes? How can aesthetic value shift when work, once thought to be by a musical giant, is discovered to be a forgery or a by a much lesser figure? To help answer these and other questions, Tom is joined by Frances Christie, Sotheby's Head of Modern British Art, and author of An Incomplete History of the Art of Funerary Violin, Rohan Kriwaczek.David Papp (producer)
19/11/17·28m 56s

The Synthesizer. Hannah Peel, Peter Zinovieff

Tom Service investigates the rise of the synthesizer. How did this initially crude assemblage of electrical components develop in a few decades to become one of the most ubiquitous and flexible of musical instruments? He consults Peter Zinovieff, inventor of the first British commercially available synthesizer (the VCS3, made in his garden shed in Putney); and also young composer/performer Hannah Peel, who likes to work with the sound of vintage analogue synths.
12/11/17·28m 56s

Shostakovich's Symphony No 15

Ahead of Radio 3's 'Breaking Free: A Century of Russian Culture' season, Tom Service unlocks the mysteries of Shostakovich's baffling late masterpiece, his Symphony No. 15. Why does Shostakovich create a nightmarish toy shop soundscape in the opening movement? What compelled him to include musical quotations from Rossini and Wagner? And how does that final movement represent perhaps the greatest act of nihilism in musical history? To answer these questions Tom is joined by this week's Listening Service witness, the music historian David Metzer.
05/11/17·28m 49s

Can Music Scare Us?

Tom Service discovers the darker side of music in a Halloween edition of The Listening Service.From Berlioz and Ligeti, to Don Giovanni and Psycho - there are some frankly terrifying pieces of music out there. But what is it about them that makes them scary - is it something in the music, or something in ourselves....Tom enlists the help of the 'Halloween' director John Carpenter, who also composed its iconic eerie synthesiser score, and neuroscientist Nathalie Gosselin to unearth the fear factor in music.Find out... if you dare...
29/10/17·28m 57s


Remember the last tune you had stuck in your head? It's probably back there now... sorry about that... Whether it's Ravel's Bolero or Lady Gaga's Bad Romance we've all had them. But why and how can certain songs or pieces lodge themselves in our musical memory and refuse to budge.In a special edition live from the Reading Rooms of Wellcome Collection, Tom Service is joined by singer and broadcaster Jarvis Cocker to unearth the maddening musical secrets behind earworms as they pick some of their 'favourites', try to create an earworm out of the most unlikely music possible, and hear from music psychologist Kelly Jakubowski on the science behind it all.Part of Why Music? The Key to Memory, a weekend of live events, concerts and discussions exploring the implications of music's unique capacity to be remembered, produced by Radio 3 in partnership with Wellcome Collection.
16/10/17·28m 37s


All music begins and ends in silence and often there's a bit in the middle, too. Some pieces skirt silence as they hover at the edge of audibility; in others the performers are completely silent. Tom Service ponders silence's fundamental importance to music and how composers have made it an integral part of their works, from classical concert hall to today's avant-garde, from indie pop to techno dance floor. And as he asks if we, as listeners, can ever actually experience real silence, he's joined by composer Michael Pisaro to hear about the implications of silence for him and his audience.
08/10/17·28m 38s

Why is opera so ridiculous?

Tom Service considers opera - capable of the greatest profundity and beauty, why is it so often also ridiculous? From Mozart to Birtwistle, Tom explores the highs and lows of this dramatic genre, and talks to two expert witnesses - the acclaimed comic writer Armando Iannucci, who is an opera lover who sees the absurd side of it; and international soprano Lore Lixenberg, star of the high-camp Jerry Springer: The Opera, who recently opened a singing café in Berlin called Pret A Chanter where customers must sing rather than speak. Pret A Chanter is a post-internet real-time opera that seeks to blur the boundaries between art and life. Anyone who steps over the threshold must abide by the rules of the opera. The main rule is: No Speaking. Only Vocalisations other than speaking are allowed.
01/10/17·29m 1s

Music for Mourning

Tom Service asks why music has always been an essential part of mourning. With the help of cognitive neuropsychologist Catherine Loveday, he compares the music of two royal funerals separated by three centuries, and by tracing the development of funeral music into abstract art music he uncovers the private grief behind Bach's great D-minor violin Chaconne. And before ending with a Top Ten countdown of today's UK musical funeral favourites, he ponders why some music, never intended to be mournful, becomes indelibly associated with grieving. Producer David Papp.
24/09/17·28m 49s

Musical Protests

Across the globe, music has been an essential rallying-cry of revolution and social change: from the Marseillaise to Strange Fruit, from classical symphonies to hip-hop, music has accompanied some of the most vital changes to our world. How does music do it? Peggy Seeger, folk music icon and protest-song-writing genius, tells us how her life in music has been a clarion call for political and social activism, and writer and broadcaster Kevin LeGendre charts the story of music's role in the Civil Rights movement, from the 1960s to today. And through the music of Shostakovich and Prokofiev, we hear what happens when revolutionary fervour curdles into something darker: when does music protest a regime, and when does it support tyranny? A century and more of musical protests and revolutions on The Listening Service at the BBC Proms presented by Tom Service.
20/09/17·29m 11s

Codes, Ciphers, Enigmas

The Listening Service returns to its regular slot now the Proms are over, and chooses one of the BBC's "Ten Pieces III", Elgar's "Enigma Variations", to look at codes, ciphers and hidden messages in music. What might be the "dark saying" or mystery tune that the Enigma Variations are based around? Which other composers were keen on the use of codes and ciphers in their music? And if we can't crack the codes, does it matter? With Tom Service and Prof. Marcus du Sautoy.
10/09/17·28m 43s

The Proms Podcast Episode II - A New Episode

While The Listening Service takes a break, why not try this episode of The Proms Podcast?
01/08/17·23m 59s

Extreme Voices

Whether it's an eye-wateringly high soprano or profoundly low bass, lightning quick rappers, the star castrati of the 18th century, the screamers, the growlers, the robots or the singers that can produce two notes at once - there are a lot of extreme voices out there.Tom Service takes a trip through the many purveyors of vocal pyrotechnics from Mozart and Rachmaninov to Stockhausen, Tom Waits and Daft Punk, has a lesson in throat singing from overtone singer Michael Ormiston, and finds out whether we're all extreme singers at heart.
09/07/17·28m 40s


Tom Service discovers endless variety in music based on a drone - from rustic dance to mystic religious ecstasy. Medieval Christian music used a drone to provide support for their liturgical chants; old country dances went with a swing to the drone of bagpipes and hurdy-gurdy. Much Indian classical music builds elaborate melodic variations over a drone. Minimalist composer Lamonte Young has a never-ending drone piece playing in his loft in New York; and rock band The Velvet Underground brought psychedelic drones into the pop scene of the late 1960s.Tom talks to Northumbrian piper Kathryn Tickell about the drones on her bagpipes, and to American minimalist composer Phill Niblock about his use of microtonal drones in his music.
02/07/17·28m 39s

I Got Rhythm

Ever gone out dancing? Or found your fingers and toes tapping along to your favourite tune? We find rhythm irresistible as humans.But what is rhythm? How do we feel that beat - and do we need it to enjoy music? Tom Service explores rhythm in music from Bach's courtly dances to Steve Reich's clapping hands, finds out what puts the rhythm in RnB and discovers music that has no rhythm at all.Meanwhile, musical neuroscientist Dr Jessica Grahn is on hand to show us how rhythm affects our brains and together they find out the beat really does go on throughout our human lives.
25/06/17·28m 39s

Hay Festival 2017

In a special edition of The Listening Service recorded live at this year's Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, Tom is joined by the composer Richard Sisson (at the piano), and poet Gillian Clarke to discuss the art of setting words to music. From the thwarted romance of Lieder to the game-changing musicals of Stephen Sondheim and the era-defining pop songs of Jarvis Cocker, finding the perfect synergy between written word and musical note is an elusive art. Tom and his guests explore just how it's done and by the end of the show they'll have created their own setting live in front of the eyes and ears of the Hay audience.Part of Radio 3's week-long residency at Hay Festival, with Lunchtime Concert, In Tune, Free Thinking, The Verb and The Listening Service all broadcasting from the festival.
06/06/17·41m 15s


Tom Service looks at how pieces of music end, and asks what endings mean. Are they mere framing devices, or can they suggest weightier thoughts of triumph, or conversely, of death? And what of the fading away so prevalent in pop music? From Beethoven's insistent affirmations to Tchaikovsky's bleak despair, from Haydn's witty farewells to Human League's intimations of eternity, the ways that music ends are as various as music itself.
07/05/17·28m 44s

Breaking Free: Martin Luther's Revolution

As part of Radio 3's Breaking Free: Martin Luther's Revolution, The Listening Service asks where the idea of communal singing, especially in religious contexts, came from in modern Europe. It seems natural to us today but the practice of congregational singing was once a radical, revolutionary idea that brought religion and politics together. And - what do the football chants heard on the terraces share with the hymns we sing in church? Tom talks to Bach scholar John Butt and the Reverend Lucy Winkett to find some answers. Rethink music with The Listening Service.
30/04/17·28m 27s

Who Wrote the First Folk Song?

Who wrote the first folk song? It's an age old question, these tunes that everyone knows which have been passed down from generation to generation... Where do they come from? Enlisting the help of ethnomusicologist and folk singer Dr Fay Hield and folklore expert Steve Roud, Tom Service embarks on a quest to the very origins of music. It's a journey that takes him back in time from modern-day folk clubs to the origins of the species (via rural Lincolnshire in the early 20th century).
24/04/17·28m 52s

Brahms - Behind the Beard

The most famous beard in classical music? Perhaps. And if so, what does Johannes Brahms's abundant facial hair have to do with his music? Tom Service looks at four contrasting compositions for clues: the First Piano Concerto, the Second Sextet, the choral piece 'Gesang der Parzen' (Song of the Fates) and the A-major Intermezzo.
24/04/17·28m 45s


Tom Service ponders brevity in music - how short you can go? From Beethoven bagatelles to Webern's chamber miniatures, short doesn't need to mean lightweight. Short pieces may be intricate as a netsuke or as simple as a sonic doodle. Or suggest a fragment of something larger. Tom talks to sonic artist JLIAT, who has made a piece lasting 1/44100 of a second. But he's thinking of shorter pieces.
26/03/17·28m 39s

Deep Listening: Pauline Oliveros

Tom Service immerses himself in Deep Listening, a practice created by composer Pauline Oliveros. It's a kind of sonic meditation, a way of approaching music with more sensitivity that anyone can practise. In exploring this concept, Tom also explores the music of Oliveros, one of the most influential composers of the late twentieth century. She was a pioneer of electronic music, working with tape machines and early synthesizers in the 1060s in California. She wrote: "Deep listening for me is learning to expand the perception of sounds to include the whole space/time continuum of sound - encountering the vastness and complexities as much as possible.".
25/03/17·29m 25s

Music - It's About Time

A programme recorded earlier this afternoon at the Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead, in which Tom goes on a journey into musical time and space. Find out what connects Wagner and Stockhausen, speed metal and slow movements - and how you can transform the fastest music in the world into the slowest, right in front of your ears...
20/03/17·30m 14s

What's All that Noise?

The Listening Service - an odyssey through the musical universe with Tom Service. Join him on a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works. Today - What's all that that Noise? Tom investigates. When is noise just noise, and when is it music? Is it just sound in the wrong place? Tom finds that, though we resent noises in the concert hall, music needs some noise in it to give it character. He also investigates the contemporary genre of Noise Music at an avant-garde club. He considers noise in our daily lives, and talks to Emily Cockayne, author of Hubbub: Filth, Noise and Stench in England 1600-1770; and to David Hendy, author of Noise: a Human History. We can't avoid noise, so can we learn to love it?Tune in and rethink music with The Listening Service...
12/03/17·29m 5s

The Power of Love Songs

The Listening Service - an odyssey through the musical universe with Tom Service. Join him on a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works. With Valentines Day just around the corner, Tom explores the enduring power of love songs. He talks to Ted Gioia, author of Love Songs: The Hidden History who explains that the very first traces of writing in human history are hymns to love. The tenor Ian Bostridge reflects on the inward-looking art of Lieder and what they tell us about true love in the Romantic era. And Tom turns to the operatic stage for some of the ultimate expressions of love as a subversive and even revolutionary force, showing how Verdi and Strauss used thwarted lovers in their operas to shine a light on the hypocrisy and gender politics of their times.Tune in and rethink music with The Listening Service.
12/02/17·33m 11s

What you see is what you hear?

Tom Service asks whether the way we see composers depicted in art influences the way we hear their music. With particular reference to three pictures that you can see on the Listening Service page of the Radio 3 website for this programme - Hildegard of Bingen, Bach and Beethoven. Rethink music with The Listening Service.
05/02/17·33m 38s


Virtuosity: what does it mean to be good? Really, really good? If you're a virtuoso pianist, violinist, cellist, does that mean you can play faster than everybody else - or better? From Liszt to Paganini, Horowitz to Lang Lang, what does it mean to be a virtuoso? Are you in league with the devil, as 19th-century critics said about the violinist Paganini, or are you able to communicate more movingly, more emotionally, more humanly than other players? With Tom Service.
22/01/17·28m 28s

Whatever Happened to the Waltz?

A hotbed of vice, immorality, and social meltdown... or a musical embodiment of gilded nostalgia and conservatism...The sounds of an empire at whirling play in Vienna... or the final soundtrack to the end of a musical and political world order...Tom Service invites you to dance through history in three-time, and whirl through waltzes both wonderful and weird.With dance historian Darren Royston and dancing queen Katie Derham.
15/01/17·28m 34s

Breaking Free: Tom Service on the Second Viennese School

Breaking Free - the minds that changed music. Tom Service explores how to listen to the Second Viennese School - music that exploded with expressive feeling in the early years of the 20th century, and then gradually rebuilt harmony into a new system, using the 12-note series. He explains how the music developed from Arnold Schoenberg's early expressionist ventures into atonality, to the cool jewel-like precision of his pupil Anton Webern. In conversation with art historian Lisa Florman, he finds parallels in the painter Wassily Kandinsky's journey towards abstraction and his theories of shapes and colours. (Kandinsky was a friend of Schoenberg). And composer George Benjamin describes the intricate structures of Webern's music, which greatly inspired his own compositions.
01/01/17·28m 49s

The Listening Service Extra 12 of 12 - Schoenberg’s Compositional Vision

Tom explores how Schoenberg hears the music that he is going to write.'I hear the music which I am going to write. I hear the music and I have acquired a thing which every composer has to acquire in time. I have acquired the capacity of finding out what composes this music which I hear in my mind, in my imagination. And it's a kind of analysis of course but it's possible to mechanically express, if I say analysis, but the process is certainly similar to an analysis. I know, like a good cook would know of what the food is prepared, you know, what is in this food. So the composer knows what is in this sound which he hears.' - Arnold Schoenberg, 1950Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·4m 22s

The Listening Service Extra 11 of 12 - Twelve-tone music and its reception

We hear Schoenberg on the reception of his music in America, Europe.'When in 1933 I came to America I was a very renowned composer, even so that Mr. Goebbels himself in his "Der Angriff" reprimanded me for leaving Germany. Thanks to the attitude of most American conductors and under the leadership of Toscanini, Koussevitzky, and of Walter, suppression of my works soon began with the effect that the number of my performances sunk to an extremely low point. A year ago I had counted in Europe alone about a hundred performances of my works. There was also opposition and violent propoganda against my music in Europe. But musical education was high enough to meet the opposition of the illiterate. Therefore there existed a satisfactory number of first class musicians who at once were able to recognize that logic, order, and organization will be greatly promoted by application of the method of composing with twelve tones.' - Arnold Schoenberg, 1949Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 19s

The Listening Service Extra 10 of 12 - Do the correct notes matter?

Tom looks at Schoenberg’s plea to musicians to play the correct notes in his String Trio, and why it matters so much to his serial music...'A true musician, reading the score during the performance of one of my later works, went to the artists' room and showed the players many errors, faults, and other shortcomings he had observed in their rendition. He was given the very strange answer: "Maybe, but nobody noticed that!" Strange indeed! Strange at first the morale, which compares very well to a viewpoint excusing a crime if it cannot be proven. But strange also the logic to make such a contention when facing a man who has noticed those "differences." It seems, these players expected nobody would notice differences, which probably they themselves did not notice.' - Arnold Schoenberg 1949Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·2m 55s

The Listening Service Extra 9 of 12 - Tennis Partners

Tom looks at Schoenberg’s love of Gershwin, who was also his tennis partner in Hollywood.'George Gershwin was one of these rare kind of musicians to whom music is not a matter of more or less ability. Music, to him, was the air he breathed, the food which nourished him, the drink that refreshed him. Music was what made him feel and music was the feeling he expressed. Directness of this kind is given only to great men. And there is no doubt that he was a great composer. What he has achieved was not only to the benefit of a national American music but also a contribution to the music of the whole world. In this meaning I want to express the deepest grief for the deplorable loss to music. But may I mention that I lose also a friend whose amiable personality was very dear to me.' - Arnold Schoenberg 1937Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 12s

The Listening Service Extra 8 of 12 - Alban Berg

We listen to Schoenberg’s praise of his pupil, Alban Berg - and his surprise that this “soft-hearted young man” could write an opera of the ferocity and tragedy of Wozzeck.'When Alban Berg, in 1904, came to me he was a very tall youngster and extremely timid… I was greatly surprised when this soft-hearted, timid young man had the courage to engage in a venture which seemed to invite misfortune: namely to compose Wozzeck, a drama of such extraordinary tragedy that it seemed forbidding to music. And even more: it contained scenes of everyday life which were contrary to the concept of the opera which still lived on stylized costumes and conventionalized characters. He succeeded. Wozzeck was one of the greatest successes of opera…He succeeded with his opera like he had succeeded in his insistence on studying with me. Making the belief in ideas one's own destiny is the substance of are made the great man.' - Arnold Schoenberg, 1949Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 18s

The Listening Service Extra 7 of 12 - Expressive Melodies

Tom looks at Schoenberg’s own demonstration of how to harmonize a melody to maximum effect, using his Orchestral Variations as an example. As Schoenberg says: "There is nothing I long for more intensely than to be taken for a better sort of Tchaikovsky”.Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·4m 4s

The Listening Service Extra 6 of 12 - Twelve Tones

Tom listens to Schoenberg’s distillation and defence of his theory of composition with 12 tones: serialism in a nutshell.'The method of composing with twelve tones substitutes for the order granted by the permanent reference to tonal centers an order according to which every unit of a piece being a derivative of the tonal relations in a basic set of twelve tones, the "Grundgestalt," is coherent because of this permanent reference to it. Shall I repeat this? I mean instead of relating every configuration in a piece to a tonal center, every configuration in a twelve-tone piece is related to the Grundgestalt in that it consisted of always the same tone relation as this Grundgestalt provides. Reference to this set offers also the justification of dissonant sounds.' - Arnold Schoenberg, 1949Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·4m 2s

The Listening Service Extra 5 of 12 - Boiling Water

Tom looks at Schoenberg’s own experience in the new atonal world that he entered, which Schoenberg likened to being dropped in boiling water.‘Personally I had the feeling as if I had fallen into an ocean of boiling water, and not knowing how to swim or to get out in another manner, I tried with my legs and arms as best as I could. I do not know what saved me; why I was not drowned or cooked alive. I have perhaps only one merit: I never gave up! I had fallen into an ocean, into an ocean of overheated water and it burned not only my skin, it burned also internally. And I could not swim. …At least: I could not swim with the tide, all I could do was to swim against the tide--whether it saved me or not…' - Arnold Schoenberg 1947Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 35s

The Listening Service Extra 4 of 12 - Schoenberg’s IDEA

Schoenberg’s conception of what the “idea” of a piece of music really was - something even bigger than the sounds it makes.‘I personally believe in "l'art pour l'art." In the creation of a work of art, nothing should interfere with the real idea. A work of art must elaborate on its own idea and follow the conditions which this idea establishes. This does not mean that an artist must have principles for which he obeys...’ - Arnold Schoenberg, late 1940sArchive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 33s

The Listening Service Extra 3 of 12 - Dissonance

Tom explores what Schoenberg meant by the dissonance and how he broke free from tonality in his music.‘Contemporary music has taken advantage of my adventurous use of dissonances. Let us not forget that I came to that gradually, as a result of a convincing development, which enabled me to establish the law of the emancipation of the dissonance, which I mentioned before already, according to which the comprehensibility of the dissonance is considered tantamount to the comprehensibility of the consonance. I do not say the dissonance is the same as the consonance. I say the comprehensibility of both is tantamount. Thus, dissonances need not be a spicy addition to dull sounds. They are natural and logic substantiation of an organism. And this organism lives as vitally on its phrases, rhythms, motives and also melodies, as ever before.' - Arnold Schoenberg 1949Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 27s

The Listening Service Extra 2 of 12 - Heir to the German Mainstream

Tom illustrates why Schoenberg felt such a strong lineage from Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Bach.‘there is a possibility to learn something of my technical achievements. But I think it is even better to go back to those men from whom I learned them: I mean, to Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Bach. I can really, you can really contend that I owe very, very much to Mozart; and if one studies, for instance, the way in which I write for string quartet, then one cannot deny that I have learned this directly from Mozart. And I am proud of it!’ - Arnold Schoenberg 1949Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 30s

The Listening Service Extra 1 of 12 - Who am I?

Tom explores Schoenberg’s objection to being dubbed a “famous theoretician and controversial musician”. ‘I wonder sometimes who I am. When the Committee on Lectures and Drama announced my lecture in the newspapers, someone was afraid the readers might not know who I am. So they informed them as follows: "famous theoretician and controversial musical figure, known for the influence he has brought to bear on modern music." Up to now, I thought I compose for different reasons.’ - Arnold Schoenberg, 1949 Archive audio and photos with kind permission of Arnold Schönberg Center, Wien
29/12/16·3m 31s

Background Music

Tom tunes into the background, exploring what background music really is; telling the surprising story of the Muzak corporation, and discovering that there's a range of background functions that music can have: from the 'furniture music' of Erik Satie to the Stimulus Progression albums used in Lyndon B Johnson's White House. Daniel Barenboim, Julian Lloyd-Webber and Brian Eno help explain the power of and problems with background music.
11/12/16·28m 43s

The Semitone

Tom Service considers the semitone. Music's most fundamental building block, it can mean sorrow when it falls, triumph when it rises, but also provoke fear (in the theme from Jaws). It can become a glittering decoration when repeated as a trill. Tom talks to mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly about the tragic falling semitones of Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, and also to musicologist Sarha Moore about the varied significances of the semitone in musical traditions of the Middle East and India, and its special effect in the riffs of Heavy Metal rock music. In the Sound of Music, Julie Andrews sang "Tee - a drink with jam and bread - that will bring us back to Doh" - but what makes that "tee" note pull us so inexorably back (by a semitone) to "doh" - the tonic? Tom calls the semitone "the piquant spice that drives the change from one key to another" - powerful effects from a little interval.
04/12/16·28m 42s

What is it about Mozart?

The Listening Service - an odyssey through the musical universe with Tom Service. Join him on a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works. Today's programme asks, "What is it about Mozart?" - how have his life and music become the template for what a composer should be - a child prodigy, a virtuoso, a cultural monument, not to mention a confectionery industry... And is there anything that we can say is uniquely "Mozartean" - what makes his music so distinctive, and why does it connect so readily with audiences? Explore Mozart's music with Tom and see what conclusions you come to.Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that “to listen” is a decidedly active verb. How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What’s happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what’s going on in our brains when we hear them?When we listen - really listen - we’re not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We’re also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We’re engaging the world with our ears. The Listening Service aims to help make those connections, to listen actively.Tune in and rethink music with The Listening Service.
20/11/16·28m 54s


Tom Service considers the art of musical improvisation. When pianist Lenny Tristano first recorded free improvisations in 1949, his record company didn't want to release them. Today, Free Improvisation is a well-established genre. But can improvising ever be "free"? Tom discusses with musician and writer David Toop and improvising bassist Joëlle Leandre. Improvisation is a fundamental part of music-making - it even has a place in Western classical music, such as the freely invented cadenza in a piano concerto. Other musical traditions are fundamentally based in improvising, such as the classical Indian tradition, and jazz. In the 1950s, Free Improvisation developed from experiments in extending jazz, as an attempt to make music spontaneously with no reference to any style or tradition. David Toop has written a book about improvising, and Joelle Leandre has had a long career as a free improviser, playing with a wide variety of musicians around the world. But, she says, "we cannot be free...".
13/11/16·28m 45s

Cover Versions

The Listening Service explores the art of the cover version: what happens when one composer 'covers' the art of another? Why was it common practice for Baroque composers to recycle their own work and 'borrow' from their colleagues on a regular basis? And what of musical traditions like folk and jazz where key pieces or 'standards' are covered by multiple artists? Tom Service talks to Baroque expert Berta Joncas and folk star Eliza Carthy to get some answers.
06/11/16·28m 47s

Colour and music

Tom Service listens to the world in glorious technicolor as he investigates the link between music and colour.We put music and colour together all the time. A piece of music can be 'dark' or 'bright' or we could be singing the 'Blues' - but what does that mean? Professor Jamie Ward - an expert in synaesthesia - is on hand to help. While Tom delves into a world of musical colour from Messiaen and Copland, Scriabin and Ravel to David Bowie and Beyoncé to discover whether music can ever be colourful.
16/10/16·28m 57s

Tristan und Isolde

How do you listen to a four-hour opera? Tom Service considers the extraordinary impact of Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde, a medieval romance that became in Wagner's hands a highly-charged erotic drama of unfulfilled longing. It scandalised and over-excited early audiences in the 1860s, and it still has a profound effect on listeners. How come? Tom explores the influence of the philosopher Schopenhauer on Wagner's thinking, and how the composer's own love-life may have influenced this piece. And musicologist Kenneth Hamilton takes Tom through the radical musical structures in this piece, which somehow manage to remain unresolved over long stretches of music. Did one special chord really change music forever?
03/10/16·28m 46s

Sound Frontiers: Listening to Recordings

As part of Radio 3 live at Southbank Centre, London, Tom Service considers the strange art of recorded sound - how can a cardboard speaker cone sound exactly like all the different instruments in an orchestra? How has the availability of recording technology changed our ways of listening? What of the future, when all possible recordings seem freely available? Musician and writer David Toop joins Tom to discuss the uncanny aspects of listening to disembodied sounds.
26/09/16·29m 32s

Why is music addicted to bass?

Can you imagine a piece of music without its bass line? Or going out dancing with no bass to move to?Whether it's an epic symphony or a club classic - we love listening to the bass. But what actually is 'bass'? How is it that we can often feel it as much as hear it? And why is it that every genre of music seems to need it.Tom Service goes on a whistlestop tour of bass through the musical ages: from Bach to Boulez, via reggae to rock n roll, Stevie Wonder to Dizzee Rascal. He discovers what links whales and horror movies in the world of bass. And he enlists the help of neuroscientist Dr Laurel Trainor to find out how we're hardwired into the bass as humans and whether it might even be true that the bigger the bass, the more we like each other.
18/09/16·28m 52s

Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concerto

Tom Service examines one of the most famous concertos in the piano repertoire. What is the secret of its appeal? Why does it have such emotional impact? Why did the critics hate it, yet why is it such a classical favourite in the world of popular culture - from Mickey Mouse to Marilyn Monroe to Muse? And what did Rachmaninov have to go through to compose it? With pianist Lucy Parham.
11/09/16·32m 0s


Tom Service considers how music can be transcendent. From Wagner's sublime harmonies in Tristan und Isolde, to the hypnotic drumming of shamans, what is it about some kinds of music that can take us to a higher plane? He considers music for contemplation (such as church music by Messiaen, and Fauré's Requiem); music for dancing to oblivion (the techno "Trance" genre, whirling dervishes); music evoking ecstasy (Scriabin, Gospel music); and he discusses the ancient practises of shamans in various cultures, with ethnomusicologist Keith Howard. (Presented in front of a live audience)
18/07/16·31m 32s

Chasing a Fugue

Tom Service looks at music in flight - the miraculous musical form that is the fugue, where melodies chase each other, work against each other and come together in a supremely logical and often exhilarating fusion. How does it work, why is it important and can we learn to love the fugue in the 21st century? Tom tries his hand at playing Bach's Fugue in C minor from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier, a challenge to many a piano exam student, gets tips on tackling fugues from virtuoso harpsichord player Mahan Esfahani, and comes across a very contemporary take on the art of learning about fugue. Lady Gaga is involved...
10/07/16·28m 38s

Why does music move us?

How can music make us cry? Why does our favourite piece give us the shivers? And why, when we're feeling down, do we enjoy nothing more than a good wallow in sad music?Is it something in the music - or something in ourselves?From Schubert to Stravinsky and Mahler to Miley Cyrus - Tom Service is joined by music psychology expert Dr Victoria Williamson to investigate how music can tug on our heartstrings like nothing else.Rethink music, with The Listening Service.
03/07/16·28m 47s

Beethoven - Hero or Villain?

Presented by Tom ServiceBeethoven lived in an age of revolution and his music has long been associated with heroism. But does posterity's casting of Beethoven as a hero mean that we miss crucial things in the music of others, or even of Beethoven himself? Is he a musical hero or a musical villain? And what does Beethoven have to say about heroines?Rethink music, with The Listening Service.
26/06/16·28m 53s

Is Birdsong Music?

Birdsong has fascinated composers for centuries, but is it really music as we understand it? Tom Service asks how birdsong has inspired and equipped human music over the years. He listens to music inspired by birdsong, made up from elements of birdsong and performed alongside birdsong - why does it have such a deep effect on the human psyche and how have the sounds of the natural world informed the development of human music?With contributions from sound recordist, musician and ecologist Bernie Krause, Messiaen scholar Delphine Evans and naturalist Stephen Moss. Also archive material from Ludwig Koch, the pioneering sound recordist who made the first documented recording of a bird as an 8-year-old in 1889.Rethink Music, with The Listening Service.Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that "to listen" is a decidedly active verb. How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What's happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what's going on in our brains when we hear them?When we listen - really listen - we're not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We're also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We're engaging the world with our ears. The Listening Service aims to help make those connections, to listen actively.
19/06/16·34m 5s

How do you describe a teaspoon in music?

Can you describe a teaspoon in music? Why would you even want to? Tom Service explores how music is able to tell stories in soundTom is joined by musicologist Ken Hamilton for a journey through musical history to reveal music's ability to describe the most everyday actions and the most heartfelt emotions. From Vivaldi and Beethoven, to the epic tone poems of Richard Strauss (which may or may not contain teaspoons), to Hollywood blockbusters - how does music paint those pictures in our mind, and do those pictures always look the same?Rethink Music, with The Listening Service.Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that "to listen" is a decidedly active verb. How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What's happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what's going on in our brains when we hear them?When we listen - really listen - we're not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We're also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We're engaging the world with our ears.
12/06/16·30m 19s

How Do You Make a National Anthem?

Tom Service on the music, meaning and occasional madness of the world's national anthems. How are they chosen, what are they for, and is the music any good? He's joined by writer Alex Marshall, author of the book "Republic or Death, Travels in Search of National Anthems",and by soprano Elin Manahan Thomas who looks at why some of them are easier to sing than others...Rethink Music, with The Listening Service.Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that "to listen" is a decidedly active verb. How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What's happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what's going on in our brains when we hear them?When we listen - really listen - we're not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We're also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We're engaging the world with our ears. The Listening Service aims to help make those connections, to listen actively.
05/06/16·29m 26s


The Listening Service - an odyssey through the musical universe with Tom Service. Join him on a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works. Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that "to listen" is a decidedly active verb. How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What's happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what's going on in our brains when we hear them?When we listen - really listen - we're not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We're also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We're engaging the world with our ears. The Listening Service aims to help make those connections, to listen actively.So where do we start? This inaugural programme takes "Beginnings" at its theme - how do you begin a piece of music? Tom looks at a cornucopia of opening bars - from classical to pop, to see how composers grab our attention, and go on to keep us listening. With thoughts from composer Anna Meredith on the terror of the blank page, tune in and rethink music with The Listening Service..
01/05/16·29m 5s
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