Timeline

Mondays at 5:30 p.m., Wednesdays at 10 a.m., and Fridays at 7 a.m.

Timeline is a journey into the events, characters and concepts that shaped our Western musical tradition. Hosted by VPR Classical's James Stewart.

Listen to the series, Timeline: Elements, a four-part educational series based on the elements of antiquity: FIRE, WATER, EARTH and AIR.

If you'd like to go deeper, please see our suggested reading list.

Timeline is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Ida and William Rosenthal Foundation.

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Timeline: Pareidolia

Feb 11, 2019
U.S. Public Domain

In the past couple of episodes we’ve looked at quite a few audio experiments or illusions, exploring the limitations and wonderful abilities of our ears and mind. I’ve been joined by some friends from VPR, Brendan Kinney, Leslie Blount and Joe Tymecki. They volunteered to take part in these experiments and share their experiences with us.

tomazl / ISTOCK

Our ears and minds are amazing. Not only can they hear and experience the world around us, they are also filling in the gaps in our perception. We don’t even realize all the ways that our hearing is constructing the world around us, helping to keep us safe and understand our surroundings.

U.S. Public Domain

We are wired to respond to sound in a thousandth of a second. With that kind of visceral, automatic response we sometimes get it wrong. I’ve been looking at the research of perceptual and cognitive psychologist Diana Deutsch. She has spent her career exploring and assembling audio illusions and curiosities. We’ll look at a few of them together and ask “can you trust your ears?”

Timeline: Earworms

Jan 7, 2019
Bobboz / ISTOCK

Have you ever had a song that you just couldn’t get out of your head? You’re not alone. 98% of people have reportedly experienced this phenomenon. Scientists call it "Involuntary Musical Imagery" but the more catchy title is "earworm."

U.S. Public Domain

Music has always been used as a tool in political campaigns.

U.S. Public Domain - collage by James Stewart

Music surrounds us all the time. It’s everywhere. Whether you’re at a restaurant, the grocery store, doctor’s office, hotel lobby or even some manufacturing facilities there always seems to be background music playing. Why? Why is it there? Where did this practice come from?

U.S. Public Domain

Thanks to the 1940 film Fantasia the music of The Sorcerer's Apprentice will always be tied to the image of Mickey Mouse in that droopy wizard’s cap. However, that story doesn’t come from Disney. Paul Dukas’ music, written over 40 years before, tells the tale beat for beat of a young apprentice using magic to get out his chores. But it wasn’t even Dukas’ story to begin with; the music is based on a poem by Goethe written in 1797.

U.S. Public Domain

Art is everywhere and always has been. It lines the walls of museums, buildings and caves. It fills our halls and ears with sound and music. It captures the eye with beautiful movement and imagery. Art doesn’t just express our passions and history; it defines, influences and shapes culture and civilization.

U.S. Public Domain - collage by James Stewart

When my kids were infants I remember being told to be sure and play music for them during the day, at naptime and while they were asleep. The music had to be Mozart. Mozart was the key to making them smarter. Maybe you’ve heard of this before, the so-called “Mozart Effect.”

Created by Emily Alfin Johnson and James Stewart

Dive into the four elements of antiquity: Fire, Water, Earth and Air in this multimedia presentation of Timeline:Elements, featuring lecture and live musical performances.

Timeline: Elements

Jun 23, 2018
Emily Alfin Johnson/James Stewart / VPR

From VPR Classical comes a four-part educational series of podcasts based on the elements of antiquity: FIRE, WATER, EARTH and AIR.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Created by Emily Alfin Johnson and James Stewart

In our final episode of Timeline: Elements, host James Stewart explores the history and cultural significance of the element air.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Emily Alfin Johnson/James Stewart / VPR

Our third episode of Timeline: Elements focuses on our home, the ground beneath our feet: Earth.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Created by Emily Alfin Johnson and James Stewart

Our series, Timeline: Elementscontinues as we explore the source of life: water.

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

Emily Alfin Johnson/James Stewart
VPR

Join host James Stewart for the first part of a new series, Timeline: Elementsexploring the elements of antiquity: fire, water, earth and air. 

Enjoy the podcast and experience the video of Timeline: Elements Live recorded in VPR's Stetson Studio One.

U.S. Public Domain

When I was in middle school my class put together a time capsule and I remember caring so much that music be included that I put together a mixed tape, with popular songs recorded haphazardly off the radio.

U.S. Public Domain

On Timeline we’ve asked a lot of questions; what is music? How was music created? Why is music written? Here’s another interesting question I’d love for us to ponder, where is music?

U.S. Public Domain

It was her first piano lesson with me, but she wasn’t new to the instrument. She had learned from YouTube tutorials and her own explorations to play some of her favorite songs. After a good first lesson her mother came over and said, “She is very talented”. I smiled and agreed. Then her mother said, “It’s surprising to me because I’m not musical at all.”

Timeline: Soundwaves

Dec 11, 2017
U.S. Public Domain

Picture yourself at the beach watching the waves rise and break over the sand. You can see the water gather and rise as each waves comes in. Once a wave breaks the water level drops again. You watch the peaks and valleys rolls onto the beach. These waves transfer huge amounts of energy from one place to another traveling through the water and displacing it. We call this a mechanical wave because it needs to travel through a medium, in this case water. The number of waves that crash during a specific period of time is called the frequency.

mattabbe / iStock

Why do humans sing? Why do we make music at all?

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