Jun. 12th, 2017

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Recommended: "Sgt. Pepper's Musical Revolution" (BBC Two; U.S. public broadcast channels)

It's the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band": tributes are flooding the newspapers, and a super-deluxe 6-CD set is topping the charts in the UK. Everybody describes Sgt. Pepper as "groundbreaking," but an essential question usually remains unasked: why is it groundbreaking?

In a one-hour special, British composer and music historian Howard Goodall digs into the Sgt. Pepper recording sessions of 1966-67 and shows how the Beatles (along with producer George Martin and engineer Geoff Emerick) used their extensive time in the studio to literally create new sounds, and to invent recording techniques that are now commonplace in the music industry.

Goodall looks at the inspirations for the songs (John and Paul's childhood, newspaper articles and 19th century circus posters), their use of modulation and counterpoint, and how they borrowed from Stockhausen and John Cage to create the orchestral finale to "A Day in the Life."

I could have used more archival film clips, audio and stills from Abbey Road (can never get enough of those). Otherwise, this special is an advanced class in music theory that anyone who loves the Beatles will find completely fascinating.

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