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.
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
There was nothing predictable about David Bowie. Everything was designed to intrigue, to challenge, to defy all expectations. But perhaps no period in David Bowie's extraordinary career raised more fascination, more surprise, and more questions than the last five years. This is an intimate portrait of one of the defining artists of the twentieth and early twenty first centuries, told by the people who knew him best - his friends and artistic collaborators. This film takes a detailed look at Bowie's last albums, The Next Day and Blackstar, and his play Lazarus. In his final five years, Bowie not only began producing music again, but returned to the core and defining themes of his career. This film explores how Bowie was a far more consistent artist than many interpretations of his career would have us believe. It traces the core themes from his final works and relates them to his incredible back catalogue. His urge to communicate feelings of spirituality, alienation and fame underpin his greatest works from the 1960s to 2016. This is what lies at the heart of his success and appeal - music that deals with what it means to be human in a way that goes far beyond the normal palette of a rock star. The film is not a comprehensive overview of his entire career, but an in-depth exploration of pivotal moments that show how the themes, the narrative and the approach is consistent - it is simply the palette that changes. The film includes every key member of the Next Day band, the Blackstar band and those who worked with him on the stage play Lazarus. In addition, old friends and colleagues are on hand to explore how the work of the last five years relates to Bowie's back catalogue. And, as in David Bowie: Five Years, there is a wealth of unseen and rare archive footage.
2017 • Music
Ian Hislop and John Eliot Gardiner reveal the story behind Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Described as the 'greatest 'great' piece ever written,' its opening notes are among the most recognisable in history. But no one really knows what Beethoven was trying to express with this piece. The traditional wisdom is that he is railing against fate and his deafness. But John Eliot believes the music expresses Beethoven's belief in the French Revolution. This is turbulent music from a turbulent man living in a turbulent age. John Eliot and Ian Hislop bring to life the exciting and dangerous times that shaped Beethoven personally and creatively.
2016 • Music
Composer and musician Neil Brand presents a series which explores the magical elements that come together to create our favourite songs, and how music changed forever the moment it was recorded. Recording radically changed music performance itself, and became an integral part of the artistic process. Told through archive clips and interviews series tells the story of popular song, covering hundred years from Tin Pan Alley song-publishing industry and jazz era singers to modern-day pop artist. Songs are the soundtrack of our lives and it takes a kind of genius to create a true pop masterpiece. But, as Neil Brand argues, there is more to consider in the story of what makes a great song. Neil looks at every moment in the life cycle of a song - how they are written, performed, recorded and the changing ways we have listened to them. He reveals how it is the wonderful alchemy of all of these elements that makes songs so special to us. To open the series, Neil investigates how songs were recorded for the first time, the listening revolution in the home that followed and the birth of a new style of singing that came with the arrival of the microphone - crooning. He also looks at the songwriting genius of Irving Berlin and the interpretative power of singers Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong and Bing Crosby.