In-depth documentary investigation into the story of a popular music genre that is often said to be made to be heard but not listened to. The film looks at easy listening's architects and practitioners, its dangers and delights, and the mark it has left on modern life. From its emergence in the 50s to its heyday in the 60s, through its survival in the 70s and 80s and its revival in the 90s and beyond, the film traces the hidden history of a music that has reflected society every bit as much as pop and rock - just in a more relaxed way. Invented at the dawn of rock 'n' roll, easy listening has shadowed pop music and the emerging teenage market since the mid-50s. It is a genre that equally soundtracks our modern age, but perhaps for a rather more 'mature' generation and therefore with its own distinct purpose and aesthetic. Contributors include Richard Carpenter, Herb Alpert, Richard Clayderman, Engelbert Humperdinck, Jimmy Webb, Mike Flowers, James Last and others.
We don't know much about the human brain on music. Do people instinctively know the sound patterns of the pentatonic scale? Is there a base level of musical knowledge in all of us, just waiting to be tapped? Or is the pentatonic scale simply so common in Western music that it has become ingrained in all of our minds? Improvisational genius Bobby McFerrin uses audience participation to demonstrate the power of the pentatonic scale - or at least the audience's familiarity with it.
2011 • Music
How many times does the chorus repeat in your favorite song? How many times have you listened to that chorus? Repetition in music isn’t just a feature of Western pop songs, either; it’s a global phenomenon. Why? Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis walks us through the basic principles of the ‘exposure effect,’ detailing how repetition invites us into music as active participants, rather than passive listeners.
Howard Goodall examines the ways in which modernism and the birth of recorded sound in the late 19th century changed the way music was played, heard and distributed. He reveals how the works of Mussorgsky made a huge impression on European composers when aired at the 1889 Paris World Fair, and discusses how increasingly disparate musical influences were woven together to create groundbreaking new sounds.
In the 1970s, America was one nation under a groove as an irresistible new style of music took hold of the country - funk. The music burst out of the black community at a time of self-discovery, struggle and social change. Funk reflected all of that. It has produced some of the most famous, eccentric and best-loved acts in the world - James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, George Clinton's Funkadelic and Parliament, Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire. During the 1970s this fun, futuristic and freaky music changed the streets of America with its outrageous fashion, space-age vision and streetwise slang. But more than that, funk was a celebration of being black, providing a platform for a new philosophy, belief system and lifestyle that was able to unite young black Americans into taking pride in who they were. Today, like blues and jazz, it is looked on as one of the great American musical cultures, its rhythms and hooks reverberating throughout popular music. Without it hip-hop wouldn't have happened. Dance music would have no groove. This documentary tells that story, exploring the music and artists who created a positive soundtrack at a negative time for African-Americans. Includes new interviews with George Clinton, Sly & the Family Stone, Earth, Wind & Fire, Kool & the Gang, War, Cameo, Ray Parker Jnr and trombonist Fred Wesley.
2014 • Music
Musician Neil Brand explores the magical elements that come together to create great songs by recreating some of the most memorable and innovative recording sessions in music history - from Elvis's slapback echo in Memphis and the Beatles' tape loops at Abbey Road to Phil Spector's Wall of Sound and the Beach Boys' pop symphonies. He shows that all this was made possible by the discovery of magnetic tape by an American soldier in the ruins of WWII Germany, the invention that, more than any other, drove the emergence of the music studio as a compositional tool and the rise of the producer as a new creative force shaping the sound of song.