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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: “Song Exploder” podcast reveals musicians’ true creativity, one song at a time

    Song Exploder

    Song Exploder

    The farther away a mountain is, the easier climbing it appears. Up close, staring at a 14,000-foot increase would cause anyone to reconsider. From a place outside true understanding, things always look easier. Unconscious incompetence is the first stage of competence — we don’t know how much we don’t know.

    As a result of this idea, I have always found talented people fascinating. People who have reached the final stage of competence, unconscious competence, always have a plan of attack when it comes to their craft. This is the idea that powers the “Song Exploder” podcast. Despite the somewhat hokey name, “Song Exploder” does just what its name implies; it explores songs at the hands of their creators.

    Creativity sets humans apart. Civilizations rise and fall on the merits of the left-brain logic, but the experience of life thrives on right-brain creativity. “Song Exploder” provides a vision of society’s best and brightest right-brains. Each episode, host Hrishikesh Hirway introduces a musician and one of their songs to fulfill the “song” half of the “Song Exploder.” The exploding half? Hirway deconstructs the song, partnered by the commentary of the tune’s creator.

    “Song Exploder” is fascinating because it focuses on process over product. Much of life, and especially media consumption, focuses on a steady stream of finished products. In modern times, consuming is far more common than creating. The rare production aspect of life comes almost exclusively in personal form; a first-hand experience of starting with components (time, skill, materials) and ending with a finished product (lunch, homework, a finished to-do list). “Song Exploder” provides the rare secondary viewpoint of production, and from the perspective of a highly skilled craftsmen to boot.

    Every episode of “Song Exploder” is unique; every artist possesses an individual, personal creative process. Some create under a by-the-seat-of-their-pants philosophy, while others have a routine that adds scaffolding to their creative process; all artists search for inspiration. No song comes from a random assortment of sounds, but from an idea that lights a fire in the soul of the artist. “Song Exploder” explores the fanning of that initial, inspirational spark until it grows into a full song.

    Each dissection centers around a specific component of the song, whether it be a bass line, sound effect or recording technique, and progressively builds to the finished good. The process of breaking down a complete product into separate ingredients is strange at first — hearing components devoid of context sounds unnatural. However, seeing the puzzle pieces isolated adds a great deal of appreciation for the finished puzzle. The end of the podcast always culminates in the finished song playing, as Hirway puts it, “in its entirety.” It’s this entirety which truly makes “Song Exploder” exceptional. Under that entirety lies the creative process, the search for inspiration and the painstaking detail of fitting together song components.

    Listen to “Song Exploder.” It gives a snapshot of the mountaintop experience while maintaining an appreciation of the rigorous ascent.

    Follow Alex Furrier on Twitter.

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