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All the tunes

After 1,000 years of written music, are there any more tunes left to be composed? What makes a great tune, how hard is it to write one and what connects them across the centuries?

What links pre-War picker George Formby and Wagner, US rock duo The White Stripes and Bruckner, crooning legend Barry Manilow and Chopin? The surprising answer is that they've all shared tunes. Is that because, after 1,000 years of written music, there are no tunes left? What are the essential ingredients of a great tune and how difficult is it to write one?

Tom Service seeks answers with the help of maths man Marcus du Sautoy and composer Jessica Curry.

David Papp (producer)

5 days left to listen

29 minutes

Music Played

  • Noel Gay

    I'm leaning on a lamp post

    Performer: GEORGE FORMBY.
    • ACL-1062.
  • Richard Wagner

    Parsifal - opera in 3 acts

    Conductor: Herbert von Karajan. Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • DG.
    • 4133472.
  • Richard Strauss

    Tod und Verklarung Op.24

    Conductor: Herbert Blomstedt. Performer: San Francisco S O.
    • DECCA.
    • 4833974.
  • John Williams

    Superman: Love Theme

    Performer: John Williams. Performer: London Symphony Orchestra.
    • WARNER.
    • 32572.

    I Don't Know How to Love Him

    • MCA.
    • MCAD2-11757.
  • Felix Mendelssohn

    Concerto in E minor Op.64 for violin and orchestra

    Conductor: Vladimir Ashkenazy. Performer: James Ehnes. Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra.
    • ONYX.
    • ONYX4060.

    Classic FM Jingle

  • Gracie Films Ident

  • George Frideric Handel


    Performer: Trevor Pinnock. Performer: English Concert Choir. Performer: English Concert Orchestra.
    • Archiv.
    • 4236302.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Requiem in D minor K.626, compl. Duncan Druce

    Conductor: René Jacobs. Performer: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • HMM902291.
  • Franz Schubert

    Symphony no. 9 in C major D.944 (Great)

    Performer: Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • Berliner Philharmoniker.
    • BPHR150061.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Symphony no. 9 in D minor Op.125 (Choral)

    Conductor: Claudio Abbado. Performer: Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • DG.
    • 4714912.
  • The White Stripes

    Seven Nation Army

    • XL Recordings.
    • XLCD-162.
  • Anton Bruckner

    Symphony no. 5 in B flat major

    Conductor: Bernard Haitink. Performer: Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.
    • BR-Klassik.
    • 900109.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

    Le Nozze di Figaro - opera in 4 acts K.492

    Conductor: René Jacobs. Performer: Lorenzo Regazzo. Performer: Concerto Köln.
    • Harmonia Mundi.
    • HMC901818/20.
  • Beyoncé

    Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)

    Composer: Christopher Stewart. Composer: Terius Y Nash. Composer: Thaddis L Harrell. Performer: Beyoncé.
    • 88697-409802.
  • Ludwig van Beethoven

    Egmont - incidental music Op.84

    Conductor: Riccardo Chailly. Performer: Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.
    • DECCA.
    • 4783492.
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage

    Hammered out for orchestra

    Conductor: David Robertson. Performer: BBC Symphony Orchestra.
  • Ruggero Leoncavallo

    I Pagliacci - opera in 2 acts

    Conductor: Sir Antonio Pappano. Performer: Jonas Kaufmann. Performer: Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Rome Orchestra.
    • DECCA.
    • 4782258.
  • Procol Harum

    A whiter shade of pale

    • Salvo.
    • B000-TZGPUA.
  • Gioachino Rossini

    Il Barbiere di Siviglia - opera in 2 acts

    Conductor: Ion Marin. Performer: Dmitri Hvorostovsky. Performer: Philharmonia Orchestra.
    • philips.
    • 4349122.
  • D Warner

    Grace Kelly

    Composer: J. Marr. Composer: J. Merchant. Performer: Mika.
    • Casablanca.
    • MIKACD-003.
  • Frank Sinatra

    Full Moon and Empty Arms

    • ASV.
    • CDAJA-5339.
  • Sergey Rachmaninov

    Concerto no. 2 in C minor Op.18 for piano and orchestra

    Conductor: Yannick Nézet‐Séguin. Performer: Daniil Trifonov. Performer: The Philadelphia Orchestra.
    • DG.
    • 4835335.
  • Ramin Djawadi

    Game Of Thrones (Main Title) (Instrumental)

    Performer: Ramin Djawadi.
    • Varèse Sarabande.
    • unknown.
  • Geoffrey Burgon

    Brideshead Revisited (Theme)

    • EMI.
    • B0000006UQ9.
  • François Couperin

    Premiere lecon de tenebres for soprano and continuo

    Performer: Hasnaa Bennani. Performer: Vincent Dumestre. Performer: Le Poème Harmonique.
    • Alpha.
    • 957.
  • Jessica Curry

    Everybody's gone to the rapture - music for the video game

    Music Arranger: James Morgan. Performer: London Voices. Performer: Metro Voices.
    • Sony.
    • G010003370324C.
  • Stevie Wonder

    Isn't She Lovely

    Performer: Stevie Wonder.
    • 981-4464.
  • Barry Manilow

    Could it be Magic

    • 822 793-2.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    24 Preludes Op.28 for piano

    Performer: Vladimir Ashkenazy.
    • DECCA.
    • 4832895.


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