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Musicologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis joins Tom Service to explore why repetition is so essential in music.

The Listening Service - an odyssey through the musical universe with Tom Service. Join him on a journey of imagination and insight, exploring how music works.

Today - repetition.

It's been estimated that in 90 per cent of the music that we hear in our lives, we're hearing material that we've already listened to before, And if you think about the music you love the most - it's often built on repeated patterns, phrases and riffs.

So why do we need our music to be so repetitive?

Musicologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis is on hand as Tom finds out why repetition is hard wired into our musical brains.

So join Tom as he presses repeat on music from Bach to Beyoncé, Haydn to Herbie Hancock, Stockhausen to Schubert.

Tune in and rethink music with The Listening Service...

Each week, Tom aims to open our ears to different ways of imagining a musical idea, a work, or a musical conundrum, on the premise that "to listen" is a decidedly active verb.

How does music connect with us, make us feel that gamut of sensations from the fiercely passionate to the rationally intellectual, from the expressively poetic to the overwhelmingly visceral? What's happening in the pieces we love that takes us on that emotional rollercoaster? And what's going on in our brains when we hear them?

When we listen - really listen - we're not just attending to the way that songs, symphonies, and string quartets work as collections of notes and melodies. We're also creating meanings and connections that reverberate powerfully with other worlds of ideas, of history and culture, as well as the widest range of musical genres. We're engaging the world with our ears. The Listening Service aims to help make those connections, to listen actively.

First broadcast in May 2016.

Available now

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Nina Simone


    • The Very Best of Nina Simone.
    • Sony BMG.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach

    Brandenburg Concerto no.4 1st movement

    Orchestra: Academy for Ancient Music Berlin.
    • J.S. Bach: Orchestral Music: Akademie fur Alte Musik Berlin.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • 7.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony No 5 in C minor, Op 67 (1st mvt)

    Conductor: Paavo Järvi. Orchestra: Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.
    • Beethoven: Symphony no.5 & no.1: Paavo Jarvi.
    • Sony BMG.
    • 1.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Symphony No 7 in E major (Scherzo)

    Orchestra: Budapest Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Iván Fischer.
    • Channel Classics.
  • Philip Glass

    Metamorphosis two

    Performer: Bruce Brubaker.
    • glass cage, music for piano by Philip Glass and John Cage. Bruce Brubaker (pno).
    • Arabesque recordings.
    • 4.
  • Bassboy & Beyoncé

    Single Ladies

    • I Am...Sasha Fierce.
    • Columbia.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Sonata for piano no.21 (Op.53) in C major "Waldstein"; 1st mvt; Allegro con brio

    Performer: Steven Osborne.
    • Beethoven Piano Sonatas: 'Moonlight' 'Pathetique' 'Waldstein' Steven Osborne pia.
    • Hyperion.
    • 10.
  • Nina Simone


    • The Best of Nina Simone.
    • Philips.
    • 3.
  • Steve Reich & Brother Walter

    It’s Gonna Rain

    • Steve Reich – Early Works.
    • Nonesuch.
  • Johann Pachelbel

    Canon and Gigue in D major

    Performer: Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Performer: Daniel Hope.
    • DG.
  • Joseph Haydn

    Symphony no.104 (H.1.104) in D major "London", fourth movement; Finale

    Orchestra: Vienna Philharmonic. Conductor: André Previn.
    • J. Haydn: Symphonies nos. 102 & 104: Wiener Philharmoniker/Previn.
    • Philips.
    • 8.
  • Igor Stravinsky

    The Rite of Spring (Augurs of Spring)

    Orchestra: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle.
    • Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring: Rattle / Berliner Philarmoniker.
    • EMI.
    • 3-5.
  • Karlheinz Stockhausen


    Orchestra: WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne. Conductor: Péter Eötvös.
    • Stockhausen – Gruppen & Punkte.
    • Budapest Music Center Records.
  • Steve Reich, Art Murphy, Philip Glass & Steve Chambers

    Four Organs

    • Steve Reich - Four Organs / Phase Patterns.
    • New Tone Records.
  • Luciano Berio

    Sequenza IX

  • Gabriel Fauré

    Pavane for orchestra (with chorus ad lib) (Op.50)

    Orchestra: Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Leonard Slatkin.
    • Vaughan Williams; Barber; Grainger; Faure; Satie.
    • Telarc.
    • 5.
  • Franz Schubert

    2nd movement (Andantino) from Piano sonata in A major, D.959

    Performer: Paul Lewis.
    • Schubert, The Late Piano sonatas D.784,958, 959 960.
    • 2.
  • Herbie Hancock


    • Head Hunters.
    • Columbia.


Role Contributor
Interviewed Guest Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis
Presenter Tom Service
Unknown Hannah Thorne


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