Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, PBS’ highly anticipated music series, premieres Monday, Nov. 14, and explores the extraordinary impact of recorded music on the modern world in eight, one-hour episodes. The series combines unprecedented access to some of the most celebrated artists, producers and innovators from across the music spectrum with new interviews, rare archival studio footage and an extensive soundtrack.
The series was the final project of legendary music producer Sir George Martin, a connection Nashville-based Carter Little said made his job as music supervisor on the series easier. “The way we were able to bring all of this music and get all of these labels and publishers was that Sir George Martin and the Beatles were a major part of this show.”
Little addressed the audience at NPT’s October advance screening of Soundbreaking at the Belcourt Theatre and recently spoke with NPT about the series. His involvement with the project began while it was still in development and he worked with the filmmakers to identify songs and storylines in the show around which sequences were built. “It’s been many, many years in the making,” he laughed.
A self-described music and recording junkie, Little said it was a joy “to spend so much time investigating, exploring the records, the producers, the engineers and the artists and the songwriters that I love so much and that have had such a big influence on my life.” The project was a labor of love for Little and other members of the team. He added that despite spending the last 25 years immersed in music and recording, he has still learned much from Soundbreaking.
Highlights of the series include:
- George Martin and the Beatles’ groundbreaking work in the studio creates a new paradigm for pop music
- Phil Spector rises as the first “rock star producer”
- Paul Epworth collaborates with Adele on “Rolling in the Deep”
- Stevie Wonder embraces the synthesizer and makes a break with Motown
- Giorgio Moroder fuses R&B with electronica and the dance floor explodes
- The art of sampling gives rise to hip-hop
- Michael Jackson and Madonna take the art of the music video to new heights
- Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye use the long-playing record for new kinds of expression
The Stevie Wonder segment is part of “Going Electric,” the fifth episode of Soundbreaking, and concerns the musician’s post-Motown discovery of the work of synthesizer pioneers Bob Margouleff and Malcolm Cecil. “[Their synthesizer] looked like eight airplane cockpits tied together with cables, ropes and electrical connections,” Little said. “Stevie Wonder loved the sound and ended up collaborating with them on the next string of records he made, which included Songs in the Key of Life, Inner Visions and Talking Book. This is a great story and unlikely story.”
Soundbreaking not only tells such little-known stories, it tells them in an innovative manner. “What Jeff [Dupre] and Maro [Chermayeff] did in this show, and what we were able to do with the licensing to match their creative vision, was to license the song so that if we wanted to have a whole song play for its entirety, we could,” Little said. In the episodes, the songs play longer than the usual snippet familiar to viewers of music documentaries. The idea, Little explained, is to give viewers an immersive experience minus extensive editorializing. “That is beautiful,” he said, “because what they’re saying is that the song speaks for itself and that we’re not going to hit you over the head constantly with commentary; that each of these eight hours will tell a story that’s compelling enough that we can back off for a few minutes and not say anything.”
Soundbreaking will air on NPT weekdays, November 14-23, 2016, at 9 p.m.; check our complete schedule at wnpt.org/schedule for replays.
Soundbreaking is presented by Higher Ground in association with the late Sir George Martin, and produced and directed by Emmy- and Peabody Award®-winning filmmakers Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre of Show of Force (Half the Sky, A Path Appears, Carrier, Circus, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present). The television series is the centerpiece of a multi-platform project that includes an extensive educational outreach initiative in partnership with PBS, The Grammy Museum® at L.A. LIVE and The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. An interactive website, soundtrack CD and companion book with stunning photographs and unique interviews will also accompany the Soundbreaking series.