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.
DJ and broadcaster Rita Ray travels to Mali in West Africa, home to a deep musical culture and ancient instruments that are the hallmark of their sound. Mali has produced more Grammy-winning artists than any other African country, and this well of talent has drawn in artists and producers from around the world to collaborate with the local musicians. Whilst the country has been rocked by Islamist insurgency, leading to a ban on music in some areas, Rita finds out how a traditional way of life and rich musical culture have endured.
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
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
They defined music and popular culture like no other band ever will. But how did The Beatles make the journey from Merseyside teenagers to international pop stars in the 1960s? The Beatles: Made on Merseyside recounts how American rock ‘n’ roll and rhythm and blues dragged post-war Liverpool into one of the most vibrant music cities ever with the Mersey Sound. Featuring unique archive and revealing interviews from those involved in the early years of The Beatles in Liverpool and Hamburg, we discover the story of The Beatles’ previous band formations and why it took so long for them to achieve success. From school bands to colleges, Hamburg to The Cavern Club, The Beatles moved from skiffle to rock ‘n’ roll before creating their unique sound.
2019 • Music
Ritchie Blackmore is beyond doubt one of the all-time great guitar players. The Ritchie Blackmore Story traces the long and winding road of the guitar legend — from his early days as a session player (with legendary producer Joe Meek) and his early '60s combo the Outlaws up through his years guiding one of hard rock's finest bands, Deep Purple, the formation of Rainbow and into his recent work with Blackmore's Night. Ritchie has proven to be a master of the guitar across a multitude of styles. The 'man in black' helped invent neo-classical heavy metal with his medieval-oriented guitar solos. He gave the world perhaps the most played guitar riff ever with the opening notes to "Smoke on the Water." For the first time his story is told in this extraordinary rockumentary. "The Ritchie Blackmore Story" tells the career through some of it's historical performance and extensive specially recorded new interviews with Ritchie himself and many of his colleagues and admirers including: Brian May, Glenn Hughes, Lars Ulrich, Steve Lukather, Joe Satriani, the late Jon Lord, David Coverdale, Gene Simmons, Joe Lynn Turner, Steve Vai, Graham Bonnet and Ian Anderson. This is the definitive story of a true guitar legend.
2015 • Music