Isaac Newton's 'Truth is ever to be found in simplicity...' has often been echoed in music by many of the great composers down the ages. But during the 20th and 21st centuries, akin to movements in the visual arts, some composers have pared down their music to a few seemingly basic elements. But how difficult is it to achieve meaningful musical simplicity and what's the difference between that and mind-numbingly banal simple-is-as-simple-does?
With the help of composer Howard Skempton and Tate Modern curator Emma Lewis, Tom Service discovers the hard and often complex truths about simplicity.
David Papp (producer)
Prog Rock - apotheosis or nadir?
Tom Service looks at Progressive Rock, to find out whether it was an apotheosis of rock music, thanks to the influence of classical music, the virtuosity of the performers and the ambition of its structures - or was it a folly of hopelessly over-reaching naivety and vapid pomposity? For a short period in the early 1970s, rock bands such as Yes, Genesis, ELP and King Crimson were boldly experimenting with their music, devising complex pieces that bore little relation to the simple pop song, and exhibiting dazzling instrumental skills. So why did it all go wrong so quickly? Tom consults Dr Sarah Hill, co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Progressive Rock, and also speaks to legendary keyboard wizard (and ex-member of Yes), Rick Wakeman.
Al-Andalus: What makes music sound Spanish?
Tom Service looks for the essence of Spain in the music of later centuries. Why was so much "Spanish" music written by Russian, French or German composers, and how do we recognise a "Spanish" sound in music now?
The Music of the Night
From nocturnes and nightmares to dreams and dances - music loves the night. Tom discovers the music and sounds found after the sun sets, from Wagner and Mozart to Faithless and Aerosmith via the songs of nightingales and crickets.
He explores the nocturnal sounds of the natural world with sound recordist Ellie Williams and sees how composers like Bartok have tried to incorporate those sounds in their music.
Music is full of dreamscapes as well as nightmares, so science writer Alice Robb is on hand to explain why we dream and how we might be at our most creative when we close our eyes to dream.
Hannah Thorne (producer)
All the tunes
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)