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PBS Series ‘Soundbreaking’ Premieres at SXSW

New Eight-Hour Television Series 'Soundbreaking: Stories From The Cutting Edge of Recorded Music' Debuts in November 2016 on PBS

Soundbreaking: Stories From The Cutting Edge of Recorded Music was the last project produced by legendary music producer Sir George Martin, who passed away on March 8, 2016. Comprised of eight episodes, the documentary will debut on PBS in November 2016 and made its premiere at South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, with screenings of its first two episodes on March 14, 16 and 17 as part of the Festival’s “24 Beats Per Second” line-up.

Soundbreaking is presented by Higher Ground in association with the late Sir George Martin, and produced and directed by Emmy and Peabody Award–winning filmmakers Maro Chermayeff and Jeff Dupre of Show of Force.

The series comprises eight episodes and combines unprecedented access to some of the most celebrated music artists, producers and innovators with rare archival studio footage and an extensive musical soundtrack, to deliver a wide-ranging series on the art of music recording.

Charting a century’s worth of innovation and experimentation in the creation of music, Soundbreaking offers a behind-the-scenes look at the birth of brand new sounds. From the invention of the microphone to the Moog synthesizer, from the phonograph to digital streaming, Soundbreaking moves between past and present to tell the stories behind the sounds, and reveals how innovation redefined not only what we listen to and how we listen to it, but our very sense of what music is and can be. Fast-paced and music-driven, PBS states that viewers of all ages will hear the songs they love in a whole new way.

The series features more than 150 exclusive and original interviews, including: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Joni Mitchell, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, Linda Perry, Barry Gibb, Elton John, Debbie Harry, Quincy Jones, B.B. King, Annie Lennox, Dave Stewart, Mark Knopfler, Tom Petty, Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, Lindsey Buckingham, Rosanne Cash, Don Was, Steven Van Zandt, Sheila E, Questlove, Ben Harper, Billy Idol, Beck, Imogen Heap, Darryl McDaniels, RZA, Bon Iver, Nile Rodgers, Nigel Godrich, Q-tip, Brian Eno, Mark Ronson, Rick Rubin, Tony Visconti and more.

“Music is the only common thread and universal language that binds us together regardless of race, nationality, age or income—and recorded music is how we experience it and what makes it accessible,” Sir George Martin said of the project prior to his passing. “Soundbreaking afforded me the opportunity to tell the story of the creative process of so many of the artists I have worked with throughout my life.” Martin is a six-time Grammy Award winner, recipient of the Recording Academy Trustees Award, and producer of more than 50 Number One hit records.

Adele is one of more than 150 artists featured in the Soundbreaking series airing on PBS in November.

Photo: © Courtesy of Sony Music Archives.

Stories within the episodes include George Martin and The Beatles’ groundbreaking work in the studio; Phil Spector’s rise as the first “rock star producer”; Paul Epworth’s collaboration with Adele on “Rolling in the Deep”; Stevie Wonder’s embrace of the synthesizer and his break with Motown; Giorgio Moroder fusing R&B with electronica for the dance floor; the art of sampling giving rise to hip-hop; Michael Jackson and Madonna taking the art of the music video to new heights; Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye using the long-playing record as a form of artistic expression.

The television series is the centerpiece of a multi-platform project that includes an extensive educational outreach initiative in partnership with PBS, the Grammy Museum at L.A. Live and the Rock and Roll Forever Foundation. An interactive Website, companion DVD/home video series, soundtrack CD, and companion book with stunning photographs and unique interviews, will accompany the Soundbreaking series.

Soundbreaking gives viewers a backstage pass with full access to some of the most ground-breaking moments in recorded music,” said Beth Hoppe, Chief Programming Executive and General Manager, General Audience Programming at PBS. “It is a natural fit for our diverse, music-loving PBS audience. We look forward to sharing it with viewers in November, and we’re excited to give the SXSW community a first glimpse.”

“It took a wonderful team of highly seasoned producers many years to create this special and utterly unique series that we know the PBS audience will love,” says Chermayeff, partner at Show of Force. “With access to rare material from the vast music archives of major and independent record labels as well as special archival sources and collections, including some never publicly seen behind-the-scenes footage, this series breaks new ground and is frankly just incredibly fun to watch.” 

“As a co-creator, Sir George Martin was the inspiration and intellectual force behind the Soundbreaking project,” said Higher Ground founder David Langstaff.  “He was involved with all phases of the project and was immensely proud of the way these great stories were being told. The fact that so many extraordinary singers, songwriters, producers, and other artists came together to tell their stories is a testament to the respect and love they hold for Sir George, and the widespread recognition of his impact on the evolution of recorded music.”

Soundbreaking will broadcast on PBS stations weekdays from November 14-23, 2016 at 10 p.m. Eastern (check local listings).

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Watch the Soundbreaking trailer on YouTube.

Find information about the SXSW Film Festival lineup.