Writing Tunes to Tune In To
IRA FLATOW, HOST:
That music has never been played publically before today. It's our brand new SCIENCE FRIDAY theme song. And joining me now to talk about - a little more about the tune, how to make music that sounds like science is the man who created it, BJ Leiderman, a composer, producer. I'm sure you know him, because he did the theme songs for MORNING EDITION, MARKETPLACE and I think WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Right, BJ?
BJ LEIDERMAN, BYLINE: Yeah, boy, that sounds familiar. How you doing, Ira? It's good to be back. And I do mean it's good to be back.
FLATOW: Do you consider our theme song your return to what? When you say be back?
LEIDERMAN: Yeah. My problem is, is that you know, my music has got what they call legs. And so they've just kept the stuff on for years and decades and decades. Meanwhile, you know, I'm growing old, over here. And you know, suddenly I was working on my first album, and you called.
FLATOW: I called.
LEIDERMAN: So, you know, I had to drop that and do this. And I was pleased to. I loved it.
FLATOW: Okay. So I called you. You got my call and I said we want a theme song for SCIENCE FRIDAY. What goes through your head? Do you have to change gears and think, gee, it's a science show? What do I have to put in here? How does that work?
LEIDERMAN: Well, you know, the main thing that we try to do as composers is just to write something that, first of all, doesn't get people tuning out and going somewhere else. But this interesting. I actually thought science. I actually - you know, you make science fun and bring it to the people. And so I was thinking, OK, let's see. Some big, you know, big thematic ideas in science are particles, you know, atoms or quarks or whatever. So I think you actually have some samples there of one of the tracks in this piece that represents the, you know, the particle and atom, teeny-tiny side of things. Let's hear that.
FLATOW: Let me remind everybody first that this is SCIENCE FRIDAY, from NPR. I'm here with BJ Leiderman, talking - and we're going to listen to the atoms and particles part of the track.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
FLATOW: That's cool.
LEIDERMAN: Yeah, that was done on, you know, a Moog Synthesizer. You know, Moog is right here in Asheville, North Carolina, where I'm living right now.
FLATOW: Ah-ha. And so then you started that, and then what did you add to that?
LEIDERMAN: Well, the other side of the picture is, you know, the waves - long, or the unification theory or the - something legato. And so we had Tom Leiner(ph) do some guitar chords that sound something like this.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LEIDERMAN: Nice and smooth.
LEIDERMAN: So they can hear all that in the piece.
FLATOW: Mm-hmm. And then you had the main riff, right? The tune itself.
LEIDERMAN: Yeah, that's the thing that came - that came to me first Ira. I was on vacation in Virginia Beach, and I was sitting at a piano at a neighbor's house. And the back-and-forth tug of the different theories and the different forces. I was still thinking science at the time, but this thing came out and it sounded beautiful. So I got my iPhone out and recorded it. And this is what the piano sounds like by itself.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
LEIDERMAN: Back and forth, and back and forth, and back. Yeah.
FLATOW: But then that was electronic music. Then you said, hey, you know, let's give it a different sound. And you actually went to a piano, a big piano. You got a real piano.
LEIDERMAN: Every now and then, we go to a real, live grand piano. And I was at Sound Temple Studio and I overlaid a real grand piano on top of the whole thing.
FLATOW: And what would you call - what would be the style of this piece? Does it fit into any style of music?
LEIDERMAN: Yeah. It's called the Leiderman style. Look, you created this monster, you guys over there, you know. I'm looking at this little index card of shows, there's like 11 shows I've done here. And so, I don't know, people hear me in it now, I guess. It's contemporary. You're going to hear it in an elevator one day, I'm sure. I hope I'm long gone before then.
FLATOW: And let's give credit to the folks who were playing with you. Who else is - mm-hmm.
LEIDERMAN: Yeah. I'd like to actually thank Tom Leiner, who did that guitar, Daniel Barber(ph) in Ashville. You'll hear some piano buttons from him along the way. Juan Benevides(ph) did some classic guitar. And Dan Latt(ph). And his name is very familiar. He did some jazz piano buttons that you'll roll in sometime. He was the guy who did the opening jazz intro for the very first MORNING EDITION jazz version, all those 30-some years ago.
LEIDERMAN: Carbon dating ourselves here.
FLATOW: Really. And you're coming out with an album?
LEIDERMAN: Yeah. I figure, you know, it's been a few decades, and I forgot to put an album out. And so you all can be on the lookout for "Natural Public Leiderman." You hear that sound? It's the sound of the legal department at NPR reaching for their phones. And I'm going to take it out on tour. I'm going across the country to help Public Radio Member Stations, you know, during their fund drives and playing with the orchestras and doing my music and doing some Beatles and Steely Dan, Elton John. It's going to be a lot of fun.
FLATOW: And it'll have your theme songs on the album?
LEIDERMAN: No, this album is going to introduce my singer/songwriter persona. But, you know, I was raised by the Beatles and then Elton John and Billy Joel and John Lennon and all those guys. So if you like that kind of stuff, I think you're going to like this.
FLATOW: Well, there's one last thing I want to mention to our listeners. And I don't want you to give it away, BJ.
LEIDERMAN: I'm not. I'm not. I promise.
FLATOW: Don't give it away. There is, you know, they say in the computer business, whatever, there's an Easter egg in the music.
LEIDERMAN: Always, always.
FLATOW: There is something delightfully surprising in the music. And when - and you put it in...
LEIDERMAN: Yeah, definitely. But there's something you don't know, Ira. I also put in another Easter egg. We put in an Easter egg that Ira wanted. I put in an Easter egg that you don't even know about, Ira.
FLATOW: Are you kidding?
LEIDERMAN: Let's see if we can get everybody playing the theme backwards, you know, searching for Paul is dead. I (unintelligible) Paul.
FLATOW: Number 9.
LEIDERMAN: Yeah, number 9. Number 9.
FLATOW: All right. We'll have to...
LEIDERMAN: I let you know sometime.
FLATOW: I will. I'll have to look for it. There's an Easter egg, one that I know about, and one that I don't know about it. So as you listen over the weeks and the years that we're going to be on SCIENCE FRIDAY, listen to BJ's music, this theme song. We'll play as much as we can on the way out, and see if you can find it for us. Thank you, BJ.
LEIDERMAN: Thank you. I would like to thank WCQS for hosting me here. And let's hangout online sometime. BJleiderman.com, or Facebook or Twitter. Thank you, Ira.
FLATOW: There you have it. Thank you very much. And we'll bring up some of that music. And...
LEIDERMAN: Let's - everybody get up and dance now. Everybody dance now. Sci-Fi boogie.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
FLATOW: That's about all the time we have for today. So listen to our music. See if you can guess what the Easter egg is. And send your guess to - you can email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, and give us an idea of what you think that Easter egg is in there, in the music. You can also talk about it on our Facebook page. And we'll be tweeting all week. I'm Ira Flatow, in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.