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Steve Pretty On The Origin of the Pieces

Double bass, planetary resonance and jam

Ep. 16

Steve invites jazz double bassist/singer Charlie Pyne to the studio for a fascinating chat about all things bass. As well as a tour of her beautiful, historic instrument (affectionately named Claude), Charlie talks about the role of the bass in jazz and swing, and we hear some incredibly soulful playing. Charlie is so warm and joyful, and this really

comes across in her music, which she gives us a live snippet of here, before an impromptu jam

with Steve and trombonist/occasional podcast assistant Joel Knee.

Before this deep dive (sorry…), we hear an excerpt of the live podcast recording at Wilton’s Music Hall from earlier in the year. Astronomer Chris Lintott introduces us to a planetary system many light years away, and Steve explains how this distant star system can teach us about music, and vice versa, with the help of Filament Choir, Valeria Clarke and Hackney Colliery Band’s rhythm section.

Oh, and stay right to the end for a very special offer…

Sign up for the Patreon, mailing list and everything else here:

Charlie Pyne:

First Light Festival:

Chris Lintott: and his brilliant podcast that I forgot to mention in the show (sorry Chris!):

Valeria Clarke:

Hackney Colliery Band:

Also Festival:

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  • 18. Serpents, shanties and shells

    In this episode of "Steve Pretty on the Origin of the Pieces," host Steve Pretty chats with Jeff Miller, a specialist in early brass instruments. They explore the origins and evolution of low brass instruments, particularly the serpent, and its historical significance. The discussion covers the cultural and physical aspects of music, the unique characteristics of various instruments, and the universal nature of musical languages. Steve also recaps his recent experiences at the First Light Festival in Lowestoft. The episode rounds off with an interview with and performance from the Lowestoft Longshoremen, a sea shanty choir, highlighting the cultural importance of their music.Recap of Last Episode (00:00:07)Steve summarizes the previous episode, including a session with a BBC engineer, discussion on Debussy and Arabesque music, and experiences at the First Light Festival in Lowestoft.First Light Festival in Lowestoft (00:02:22)Steve shares his experiences at the First Light Festival, including performances, interactions, and the festival's significance.Performances at First Light Festival (00:03:34)Steve details his performances at the festival, including a parade, concerts, and a dawn set on the beach.Emotional Experience at Dawn Set (00:05:35)Steve recounts the emotional impact of playing shells at dawn.Introduction to Jeff Miller (00:08:41)Steve introduces Jeff Miller, a multi-instrumentalist and low brass specialist, and their musical collaborations.Evolution of Low Brass Instruments (00:09:55)Jeff discusses the origins and evolution of low brass instruments and cultural influences on music.Cultural Perspectives on Music (00:14:49)Jeff and Steve explore cultural differences in musical harmony and its impact on music experience.Classification of Musical Instruments (00:19:21)Jeff explains the classification of musical instruments and his experience with various brass and woodwind instruments.The origin of brass instruments (00:20:34)Discussion on the historical evolution of brass instruments from animal horns to the cornet.Design and structure of the serpent (00:23:31)Description of the serpent, its components, and design.Challenges of playing the serpent (00:27:07)Explanation of the difficulties in playing the serpent.Range and performance of the serpent (00:33:19)Demonstration of the serpent's range and its use in orchestral performances.Musical examples and timbre of the serpent (00:36:16)Performance of a cello piece on the serpent and discussion of its unique timbre.Challenges of playing the serpent (00:38:44)Exploration of the difficulties in playing the serpent.Serpent musical performance (00:39:39)Musical performance on the serpent.Challenges of playing traditional brass instruments (00:40:49)Frustrations faced by modern brass players with traditional instruments.Exploring the nature of sound through synths (00:42:28)Jeff's journey into sound manipulation through electronic instruments.Passing down heritage through sea shanties (00:58:06)The importance of passing down heritage through sea shanties.Singing Shanties (00:58:59)Discussion on the tradition and history of singing shanties.Diversity of Shanties (01:00:12)Exploration of the diverse origins of shanties and their global influence.Performance and Audience Interaction (01:01:51)Reflection on shanty performances and audience engagement.
  • 17. Sound balancers, Bowie's favourite studio and Debussy

    Episode SummaryIn this episode, Steve Pretty embarks on a sonic journey with Martin Appleby, a seasoned sound engineer with over nearly four decades of experience at BBC's Maida Vale studios. They delve into Martin's illustrious career, exploring his role in capturing live music for prestigious BBC programs and his the challenges and opportunities of live recording. The episode further explores the philosophical dimensions of recording live ensembles and the unique challenges of live studio recording.Key Topics DiscussedIntroduction to Martin Appleby- Overview of Martin's 40-year career at the BBC.- Martin's background as a musician and sound engineer.- His studies on the Appalachian dulcimer and its connections to West African music traditions.- The rich history and significance of Maida Vale studios.Live Studio Recording- The art and pressure of recording live music in a studio setting.- The benefits of musicians performing together in the same room without headphones.- Highlighting a memorable session with singer Jamie Cullum.- The role of sound engineers in capturing authentic, dynamic performances.Technical Aspects of Recording- Use of omni and stereo cardioid microphones.- Shaping the sound with artistic precision, akin to photography.- The importance of perspective in music recording.Exploration of Arabesque Music and Debussy- The influence of Islamic art on Debussy's compositions.- Debussy's revolutionary approach to music, seeking to establish a distinct French identity.- Insights from pianist Benjamin Steinhardt on Debussy's inspirations.Debussy's Musical Legacy- Debussy's use of older modes and Eastern pentatonic scales.- The impact of his relationship with his patron Nadja and admiration for Chopin.- Steve's own attempts at composing in Debussy's style and its analysis.Evolving Music Industry- Discussion on AI-generated music and its potential limitations.- Updates on the music industry landscape, including genre explorations and the transformation of the Jazz Bar in Edinburgh into a community-owned arts hub.- The closure of the Towersley Festival and the challenges faced by live music events today.Notable Quotes- "Capturing the performance is the one thing you really can't fake." - Martin Appleby- "The great thing we can do that nobody else can is we've got the space. The musicians can all come in, be in one place, do their thing, go away, and we just mix it." - Martin ApplebyAdditional Information- **Patreon:** Listeners can support the show and access exclusive content on Steve Pretty's Patreon page.- **Previous Episode:** Exploration of the double bass with Charlie Pine.Next Episode Teasers- Upcoming explorations of genres like Tona and Corrido.- Further discussions on the evolving landscape of the music industry.Listeners are encouraged to tune in for a deep dive into the world of sound engineering, the legacy of Debussy, and the vibrant history of Maida Vale studios.
  • 15. Spirited Away, modular expression and mild despair

    In a specially-extended episode, Steve has a detailed conversation with some of the creative team behind the smash hit stage version of the Oscar-winning Studio Ghibli film Spirited Away. Director John Caird, co-adaptor Maoko Imai and Musical Supervisor/Orchestrator Brad Haak tell Steve how the show came to be, and give some absolutely fascinating insights into composer Joe Hisaichi's work, including Brad demonstrating some beautiful examples on John and Maoko's gorgeous grand piano.But first, Steve chats with Jay Chakravorty, composer, producer and promoter of brilliant London crossover classical music night Counter Chamber. Jay demonstrates his incredible modular synthesiser setup, and he and Steve discuss how expressive and emotional these wobbly, warbly voltage controllers can be, before Jay jams on his amazing machines.And before that, Steve shares his mild despair at the state of the music industry at the moment, prompted both by off-mic chats with his guests and musician colleagues, and also by a recent article in the Guardian about the plight of musicians in 2024.Sign up for the Patreon, mailing list and everything else here: http://www.originofthepieces.comGuardian article: Chakravorty: Away:
  • 14. Eliza, a cello made of U boats and Igbo flow

    In another varied episode, Steve talks to soul singer Eliza about revealing her pregnancy live on stage, cellist Verity Simmons demonstrates her beautiful cello (and explains how it's partly made from a German U boat), and then Steve breaks down the fascinating genre of Igbo Rap in the Genre Tombola, including an in-depth transcription of some of the brilliantly complex rhythms.Sign up for the Patreon, mailing list and everything else here: http://www.originofthepieces.comEliza's website:'s instagram, including the pregnancy reveal: Simmons: in a Bar podcast: Mataz (Episode 8) by Chucky P, Khenyzee, Space, Chumzy (Igbo Rap track): Igbo Rap tracks to check out:
  • 13. Worldwide Washboard Registry, autistic art, rockets and zydeco

    To celebrate Autism Acceptance Week, Steve has two brilliant autistic artists on the show - poet Maddi Crease and musician Robyn Rocket. They talk autistic art, inclusive gigs, autistic joy, space trumpet and much more.And in between Steve takes us back to New Orleans for an interview with one of the world's leading exponents of the musical washboard! Alex Macdonald has made his living from playing the washboard for over 20 years, and here takes Steve on a quick tour through zydeco and cajun music, as well as demonstrating some techniques on this unique percussion instrument. He even agrees to let Steve have a go...Full, unedited interviews with Alex, Maddi and Robyn are available, along with much more (including the full, professionally-recorded live show from Wilton's Music Hall) on the show Patreon. Sign up for exclusive bonus content, special offers, chat and much more:'s website:
  • 12. Frank Turner, Trumpet Mafiosi and not talking about Jimmy

    A bit of an interview special this time, with TWO incredible guests - Grammy-winning trumpet player Ashlin Parker and number 1 UK singer/songwriter Frank Turner.Steve asks these brilliant guests about the point of music, the history of hardcore punk in the UK, the challenges and opportunities of working as a musician in New Orleans, and how angry hippies and neo nazis can sometimes find themselves liking the same music...Ashlin Parker: Turner:
  • 11. Lofi hip hop, Zigaboo grooves and New Orleans explorations

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