TL;DR – A fascinating documentary that looks at all facets of music, from slow motion uvulas to metal screaming and everything in-between.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Music is one of those things that is both universal but also deeply personal, everybody on the planet loves music in some way even if we don’t agree on the particular style. One of the things I have started to look more at as I delve into the realm of cinema is the impact that music has on me, so a series exploring all the different facets of music immediately caught my attention. With this in mind, today we are going to look at the first three episodes and also the number of shorts they have created which seems to be a good barometer of how the series will progress. But before we go on, just a reminder that the show is also being posted online, so you can watch all the episodes here.
So to set the scene, the first thing that happens is that we get introduced to our hosts Dan Golding and Linda Marigliano. Dan is a lecturer at Swinburne in Melbourne, can play a number of instruments, and really loves John Williams score from Star Wars. Linda is a radio host, DJ, Bass playing dancer, and really knows her beats. Each episode they explore a different part of music from how you make it, to how it affects you, and everything in-between.
The first thing that you notice from the show is just how up for anything the show’s hosts are as they explore The world of music, as in the first few episodes we have Linda dressing up in full Valkyrie regalia and Dan having a camera inserted into his mouth to get a picture of his uvula … in slow motion … it’s a bit gross if I am to be honest. However, not only are they up for anything there is a sense of fun with this show that is just infectious and makes you want to watch every episode. For example, I didn’t think I needed an operatic rendition of the Play School opening theme, but now that I have it I want to see performed by a full orchestra. I mean, they have a spot on John Farnham joke in the first 50 seconds, and who can’t love that. Also, I do love a little bit of sassy editing, though marks off for missing a perfectly good Rhythm is a Dancer reference in episode three.
Because this is an ABC show, the exploration of music is not the only thing we have to do here, we also have to look at the science behind it all. In some shows like this, the ‘educational’ section feels like this forced addition that doesn’t gel with the rest of the show. However, here thought and care has gone into how every episode has been constructed so that you never feel pulled out of it. For example, you can talk about how music can give you goosebumps, but then it feels right to run an experiment to see if those theories pan out. Oh and side note I totally get those Binary Sunset feels. Also they take that a step further, like in the first episode where they get different singers from widely different genres to explore not only how they sing, but also get them to workshop each other’s musical styles.
One of the things I really liked about watching the show is how I discovered things about music and about myself and how I relate to music that I never knew. In my past I have received musical training in high school, and I do still dabble with it a bit today. However, I have never really thought about things like how much breath I put into my signing, or why once a beat structure gets more complicated than my brain goes nope, and peaces out. I honestly wasn’t expecting any self-reflection when I started watching so it was an interesting discovery.
So in the end, do we recommend What is Music? Yes, we really do. It is fun, entertaining, and educational, which is a hard balance to get right. The hosts are engaging, they meet with interesting experts, and you can tell that a lot of work has gone into the production. I think anyone who enjoys music, which is just about everyone, will enjoy this series.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of What is Music?
Production Team – Nick Hayden, Lin Jie Kong, Peter Burns, Colin Ho, Paul Smith, Kieran Bycroft, Gannon Conroy, Jessica Peach, Andrew Hope, Gus Ronald, Dorothy Teng, Adam Toole & Susan Lumsdon
Starring – Dan Golding & Linda Marigliano with Wallace, John Floreani, Jermaine Chau, Cate Madill, Emery Schubert, Bill Thompson, Peter Keller, Tomas Lenc, Cecile Bouvet & Amrita Hepi.