Song Exploder is a podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.
This is an impeccably produced podcast. And its genre could be described as deconstructive: each episode isolates the varied and distinct tracks that make up a multi-track song (the drums, the various samples, the vocals). Listeners are able to listen to each specific track and, at the same time, hear commentary by musicians about the genealogy of the various tracks, sounds and sound-decisions. Each episode culminates with the song in its entirety.
Its craft is what makes this a highly teachable podcast. As Hrishikesh Hirway, the podcast’s creator, explains, each episode reflects a kind of design puzzle. By cutting away unnecessary tape and by making judicious choices about editing (in what order to place bits of conversation, for example), Hrishikesh presents “what people mean, not what they say.” In this way, the podcast has a kind of double pedagogical value: its impeccable sound design is instructive for students who are interested in the craft of audio, and its content also opens up invaluable aesthetic insights about art, artistry, engineering, commerce and the genealogy of art-creation.
Especially teachable episode
Episode 105 Perfume Genius, “Slip Away” What’s at stake in the composition of a queer love song? This episode lends itself to conversations about the relations between affect and form, especially when those relations are inflected with existential and political struggle. Around 8:30 (in this 14-minute episode), musician Mike Hadreas muses about the import of his own sound-design choices: “I think if something is too beautiful or too kind and gentle or sweet, it becomes background music, and I feel like if there’s a little bit of dissonance, it makes everything more lasting and even enhances the joy.” He goes on to make a fascinating distinction between songs that try to convince one’s oppressor of the nature of injustice and songs that express truths about existence. “It’s definitely a love song,” he concludes about the song “Slip Away.