Producing a music radio package

WATCH THE VIDEO CLIP HERE

USEFUL ARTICLE/VIDEO about producing a music radio package from the BBC College of Production

A radio package is pre-recorded audio content cut together to tell a story and delivered for broadcast. There are no set rules as to how a package has to sound or how long it should last as this depends on the type of story you are telling and the radio network it is for. It could be a five minute news report, a lively film review or an in-depth biography of a composer.

Depending on what type of package you are producing it may include voiceover, interviews, ‘wild track’ (sounds from the environments where you are recording), music and effects.

Bush House Soundscapes


The closure of Bush House, home to the BBC World Service since December 1940, has provoked two wonderful soundscape projects.

Firstly, World Service studio manager Robin The Fog used recordings made in Bush House at night to create The Ghosts of Bush. “Here, atmospheric noises are slowed down and looped, with the help of some of the World Service’s ancient reel-to-reels, to form a piece of beautiful, warm spatial exploration. Chords swell and harmonic patterns emerge out of the building’s crepuscular creaking or Robin’s whistling, using the labyrinthine Portland stone corridors of the building, at one time the most expensive in the world, as a giant reverb tank.” (The Quietus, 2012).

Secondly, Creative Director of the re-launched Radiophonic Workshop Matthew Herbert created a soundscape for the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Listen to Matthew discussing his Sonic Tribute To Bush House here
Listen/download The Ghosts of Bush here

Ludwig Koch and the Music of Nature

Ludwig Koch was once as famous as David Attenborough, as pioneering as ‘Blue Planet’ and as important as the BBC Natural History Unit. They all owe their existence to this German refugee who first recorded the music of nature. Through his archive and new field recordings the poet Sean Street tells the story of Ludwig Koch.

When Sean Street was recording in a store-room at the Science Museum for a Radio 4 archive programme he came across a grey crate, stencilled, as if it belonged to a band on tour, with KOCH on it. This was the disc-cutting machine which Ludwig Koch used for a decade to make the recordings of birds, mammals and insects that led to a new field of study, of broadcasting and the creation of the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

Sean and his producer then began investigating and discovered that Koch made the first ever wildlife recording, of a bird, when he was eight, in 1889 – and that it still exists in the BBC’s archives.

Koch was an effusive man and this led to several confrontations with Nazi officials, whom he despised. There is an extraordinary recording of him telling the story of a Berliner whose bullfinch sang ‘The Internationale’. He was carted off to prison and the bird ‘executed’. “Under dictatorship,” Koch observed, “even songbirds suffer”. He came to England, worked with Julian Huxley on theories of animal language, and recorded birds from the Scillies to Shetland.

In 1940 he joined the BBC and soon became a household name, beloved of comedians (there’s a great sketch by Peter Sellers parodying him at work) because of his resolute pronunciation of English as if it were German.

As well as being wonderful radio in itself his work was of great significance. It inspired producer Desmond Hawkins to start ‘The Naturalist’, (using Koch’s enchanting recording of a curlew as its signature tune). Sean Street uses his recordings and contributions of those who worked with him in what becomes a natural history programme in itself, with Koch the subject and Sean exploring his habits and habitat.

There is also an attempt to record curlews as he did so successfully, to shed light on the achievements of this courageous, influential and loveable genius. Today sound-recordists use tiny digital machines and sophisticated microphones. But there are other problems – traffic, planes, people – and fewer, shyer curlews.

Listen to the programme here
Producer: Julian May.

Out of Silence

Curiously, the word silent is an anagram of the word listen! In this edition of Something Understood the poet Seán Street reflects upon what can be heard in silence and the difference in its nature from stillness – the difference, perhaps, between doing and being.

Using poetry, prose and music, as well as some extracts of innovative international radio, Seán explores the positive and negative aspects of the subject, the ‘magic silence of possibility’, the peace and calm it brings in a noisy world, the silence of loneliness, alienation – and when keeping silent is sometimes tantamount to complicity. ‘The words “Silent” and “Listen” are anagrams of one another,’ says Seán. ‘That is perhaps very significant. I want to explore as far as I can the poetry that lies in silence, the point where sound and silence come together, as in the tolling of a bell, the place matter and spirit merge.’

With reference to the words of Rupert Brooke, John Berger and Rachel Muers and music by John Cage, Bob Chilcott, Jonathan Harvey, Erberhard Weber, Pink Floyd and Miles Davis.

Listen to the programme here
Produced by Alan Hall
A Falling Tree Production for BBC Radio 4

Music and Technology


Music has always evolved with technology but have the advances always been beneficial?

With news of the forthcoming release of an album entirely composed by a computer what will be left of the creative process for musicians?

Many other musicians have used the latest technology to ‘push the outside of the envelope’ of music, creating sounds and ways of listening previously unknown to man.

In a special edition of Click from the BBC Radio Theatre, presenter Gareth Mitchel and technology specialist Bill Thompson, focus on music and technology.

They are joined by a panel of experts, including the soundscape artist, Martyn Ware – founder member of The Human League and Heaven 17; the technophile composer Alexis Kirke, who has been called “the Philip K Dick of contemporary music”; and the experimenting pianist Sarah Nicolls, who plays on her own ‘Inside-Out Piano’ and triggers music via sensors on her muscles.

Listen to the programme here

Tales From The Bridge – Martyn Ware


At level 1, one of the first assessment tasks I ask students to undertake is the creation of a soundscape. However, for some, the very notion of the soundscape is unfamiliar. Soundscapes can take many different forms – some can be very challenging for the listener/audience.

Whilst listening to Radio 4 this morning, I heard a short interview with Martyn Ware (The Human League, Heaven 17) in which he explains the concept behind his Tales From The Bridge soundscape currently installed at London’s Millennium Bridge. This is an excellent example of an accessible approach to the creation of a soundscape and hopefully one which will inspire some of our students’ creativity.

Listen to the clip here

Excellent Advice From Chilly Gonzales

I love Chilly Gonzales’s approach to playing and his compositions for the solo piano. In this clip from Rob Da Bank’s Dawn Chorus he explains his thinking behind the challenge of performing beat driven electronic music on a solo acoustic instrument. He also highlights the importance of an understanding of rhythm in music composition.
Recorded at Maida Vale for BBC Radio 1 (25/08/2012).
Solo Piano II is out on August 27

Excellent Advice From Chilly Gonzales by audioproduction

John Cage’s 4’33” and other ‘daft’ compositions

It’s the 60th anniversary of the creation of John Cage’s Four Minutes, Thirty Three Seconds. In BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Evan Davis asks “Is it a profound statement about the concept of music or the silliest composition ever?”

Nicola Stanbridge considers some groundbreaking pieces including Stockhausen’s Helicopter String Quartet and La Monte Young’s piece for Terry Riley which involves pushing a piano into a wall until you exhaust yourself.

Listen to the clip here

A Sound British Adventure

Comedian Stewart Lee is passionate about electronic music and he take us on a remarkable musical journey. We discover how, after the Second World War, a small group of electronic pioneers began tinkering with their army surplus kit to create new sounds and music.

Tristram Cary started the first electronic music studio in Britain but, while France, Germany, Italy and the USA had lavishly funded research centres, British electronic music remained the preserve of boffins on a budget.

As the programme reveals, this make do and mend approach prevailed long after austerity Britain had given way to the swinging 60s, with Peter Zinovieff developing EMS synthesizers from a shed at the bottom of his garden in Putney. (Paul McCartney put on his wellies and took a look). Zinovieff is interviewed about his experiments in sound.

Unsurprisingly, the electronic community in Britain was a small, intimate group and joining Cary and Zinovieff was Daphne Oram, who devoted decades to developing a ‘drawn sound’ electronic composition system that never really quite worked.

Brian Hodgson tells us about 1960s experimental and electronic festivals, including The Million Volt Light and Sound Rave (1967) at which The Beatles’ electronic piece Carnival Of Light had its only public airing. We shall also hear how the radiophonic workshop broke new musical ground with Dr. Who.

Experts in the history of electronic music, including author and musician Mark Ayers and Goldsmith College lecturer in computer studies Dr. Michael Griegson give the boffins’ view and Portishead’s Adrian Utley explains why the early forays in electronics are still relevant today.

Produced by John Sugar
A Sugar Production for BBC Radio 4.

Listen to the programme here

Metropolis

Cultural commentator Paul Morley explores a history of popular music through some of the iconic recording studios in which classic albums were created.

Without them music as we know it would simply not exist. At its most basic, there’d be no technology to capture the sounds envisaged by the musicians and created and enhanced by the engineers and producers… and there’d be no music for the record companies to market and distribute. But more than that, the studios actually played a crucial part in the structure and fabric of the music recorded there – the sounds enhanced by the studio space itself… the potential and shortcomings of the equipment and technology housed in the cubicles… and the ability and ‘vision’ of the engineers and producers operating it all to find the new sound that makes the recordings sound different and fresh.

In the final programme of the series Paul Morley ventures to West London and one of the last major studio complexes to be built in the heyday of the music industry. But without an exalted musical history to fall back on and decades of experience to help run it, how do you go about creating a world-class facility frequented by the likes of Amy Winehouse, Mick Jagger and Rihanna… and how do you keep it going when all around you are closing their doors?

Producer: Paul Kobrak.

Listen to the programme here