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The Listening Service


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

Popular episodes

Playing at sight and playing from memory

Jan 16 • 29:24
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, ...

Making Overtures

Jan 2 • 29:24
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 be...


Dec 12 • 29:11
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 ...

How to listen to...Erik Satie

Nov 21 • 29:04

The Borrowers

Nov 14 • 29:04
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 pi...


Nov 7 • 29:03

The timeless power of contemporary choral music

Oct 17 • 29:05
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 mak...

Eat to the Beat

Oct 3 • 29:15
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 Jo...

Out of Tune

Sep 26 • 28:50

How to listen to... Arvo Pärt

Sep 19 • 29:05
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,...

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