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What Makes a Song?

Tom Service explores what makes a good song work. He asks if pop songs use the same structure as an art song or lied, and is joined by Richard Sisson to explore Schumann's songs.

Tom Service considers what makes a good song work - verse, chorus, a good tune and...? Is a pop song using fundamentally the same structure as an art song or Lied? From the timeless pop of The Carpenters to the gigantic "song-symphonies" of Gustav Mahler, Tom examines what you can do with a few verses, perhaps a chorus, and maybe a "middle eight". He's also joined by composer and pianist Richard Sisson to consider the genius of Robert Schumann's songcraft, and by producer Dan Carey who considers contrasting song structures by The Beach Boys and Frank Ocean.

Available now

30 minutes

Music Played

  • The Young Tradition

    The Boar's Head Carol

    • Beginner’s Guide to English Folk.
    • Nascente.
  • Carpenters

    Sing

    • Now & Then.
    • A&M Records.
  • Franz Schubert

    An Sylvia

    Performer: Gerald Moore. Singer: Dietrich Fischer‐Dieskau.
    • DG.
  • Robert Schumann

    Im wunderschönen monat Mai (song 1 from Dichterliebe)

    Performer: Alice Coote. Performer: Christian Blackshaw.
    • Wigmore Live.
  • Shirley Collins

    The Foggy Dew

    • The Foggy Dew.
    • Collector Records.
  • Motörhead

    Ace Of Spades

    • Ace of Spades.
    • Bronze Records.
  • Asha Bhosle

    Aaja O Mere Raja

    • The Very Best of Asha Bhosle, Queen of Bollywood.
    • Nascente.
  • Björk

    Human Behaviour

    • Debut.
    • Elektra Records.
  • Billy Preston

    I Wrote A Simple Song

    • I Wrote A Simple Song.
    • A&M.
  • Kylie Minogue

    Slow

    • Body Language.
    • Parlophone.
  • Robert Schumann

    Im wunderschönen monat Mai (song 1 from Dichterliebe)

    Performer: Ian Bostridge. Performer: Julius Drake.
    • EMI.
  • Robert Schumann

    Er, der herrlichste von allen (Frauenliebe und - leben song 2)

    Performer: Alice Coote. Performer: Christian Blackshaw.
    • Wigmore Live.
  • Robert Schumann

    Susser Freund (Frauenliebe und - leben song 6)

    Performer: Alice Coote. Performer: Christian Blackshaw.
    • Wigmore Live.
  • Richard Wagner

    Meistersinger von Nurnberg

    Performer: Bavarian State Orchestra. Performer: Wolfgang Sawallisch.
    • EMI.
  • Richard Wagner

    Meistersinger von Nurnberg - Beckmesser's song

    Performer: Bavarian State Orchestra. Performer: Wolfgang Sawallisch. Performer: Siegfried Lorenz.
    • EMI.
  • Richard Wagner

    Meistersinger von Nurnberg - Walther's Prize Song

    Performer: Bavarian State Orchestra. Performer: Wolfgang Sawallisch. Performer: Ben Heppner.
    • EMI.
  • Gustav Mahler

    Abschied (Das Lied von der Erde)

    Singer: Christa Ludwig. Orchestra: Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Otto Klemperer.
    • EMI.
  • Laurie Anderson

    O Superman (For Massenet)

    • Big Science.
    • Warner Bros. Records.
  • Queen

    Bohemian Rhapsody

    • A Night at the Opera.
    • EMI.
  • Neil Luck, Fiona Bevan & ARCO Quartet

    Last Wane Days Act 1: That swoon feverous seven of the throne

    • squib-box.com.
  • The Beach Boys

    Good Vibrations

    • Good Vibrations.
    • Capitol.
  • Frank Ocean

    Nikes

    • Blonde.
    • Boys Don't Cry.
  • Nina Simone

    My Baby Just Cares For Me

    • Little Girl Blue.
    • Bethlehem Records.

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