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Season 14 | Episode 1

Music Lab

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At Radiolab, we’re obsessed with music. In this episode, we embrace that obsession for its own sake. First, we showcase two musicians who have inspired our work. Then, the story of a woman preoccupied with one particular song, and how that song reveals an unexpected connection between her, an early 20th century composer, and a deadly neurological disorder.

Juana Molina

Sometimes on the podcast, we like to talk about musicians and the music they make. Today we introduce you to Juana Molina.

Comments [8]

John Luther Adams

What's the soundtrack for the end of the world? We go looking for an answer.

Comments [2]

Unraveling Bolero

In this segment, a story about obsession, creativity, and a strange symmetry between a biologist and a composer that revolves around one famously repetitive piece of music.

Comments [2]

Comments [16]


I really loved this episode. I just happened to be working with a composer on an animated film about a songbird, so it was perfect inspiration. The bolero story was incredible too.

Feb. 07 2017 01:46 PM
Loved Un Dia remix! from Wyoming

Jad, where do I find your wonderful remix of Un Dia?? I would love to hear it in its entirety! Where can I find it?

Feb. 06 2017 08:37 PM
Jet Clinton from NYC

Juana Molina needs to find a new job. I had to turn it off. What's the value in insects buzzing endlessly about the ears?? Yikes. I'd rather be bored than listen to such noise.

Feb. 05 2017 06:21 PM
Tim from Chicago

Just wanted to shout out to Stuart DEMPTSTER who was sampled for the remix

Feb. 05 2017 01:23 PM
Disappointed Supporter from St. Louis, MO

If the goal was to listen to various music podcasts, then listeners could find their own music podcasts. This seems to be the l o n g e s t Radiolab episode -- and it is only 35 minutes in when typing this.

As a reminder, from Radiolab's webpage: "Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience."

This collection of podcasts meets none of this. Please remove all evidence of this podcast and never air it again.

Feb. 04 2017 04:41 PM
Donna from Paradise California

Seriously? Horrid. I look forward to your show every week and felt sucker punched with your choice this week. Please, don't ever do that again.

Feb. 04 2017 03:09 PM


Feb. 04 2017 02:19 PM
Ole from Denmark

Okay, so now I'm a big fan of Juana Molina. Thank you!

Aug. 02 2016 04:34 PM
Davíð from Reykjavik

This show was not for me. I'm more for the story telling radiolab episodes (for the first time around, not recycled material), and less a fan of... whatever it was that I just listened to.

Feb. 13 2016 07:38 PM
Dan Karpinski from Pittsburgh

I couldn't make it through this episode. I love this show and I won't hold it against you, however, this is the very first fan letter I have ever wrote and only. please, don't do this again. If I accidentally hear it again when I re listen to your show it will hurt my ears!!

Dec. 30 2015 02:42 PM
Mikie from Bonita Springs, FL

Could not walk away from this episode! Paused my daily routine! Thanks a lot ... really!

Dec. 28 2015 09:23 PM
Paul Grimm from Kanab, UT

I absolutely LOVED this RLab episode and endorse all of Roman's prior positive remarks. 👍🎼😊

I'm fascinated with the interplay between brain science and art. This last episode reminds me of another awesome show you did: "Musical Language" (Season 2/Episode 2 at

Thank you and keep up the good work challenging our brains! ("The purpose of the artist is to challenge the brain.") 😊

Dec. 27 2015 02:53 PM
gottacook from Maryland

The argument made in the segment concerning Ravel's music takes a wide detour around the two piano concertos, which were written at the same time (1929-31), AFTER the Bolero. Perhaps this was done to simplify the presentation; perhaps Professor Orenstein discussed the concertos but his comments were edited out.

In any case, the concertos are great compositions, and although parts of the middle section of the single-movement Concerto for the Left Hand feature the obsessive repetition discussed in the program - and although Ravel himself had mentioned to friends his difficulty in writing the long supple melody that begins the second movement of the G major concerto - there is great inventiveness in these works, which also incorporate the jazz influences Ravel picked up (sought out, really) during his 1928 tour of America mentioned in the program.

Considering that the soundtrack quotes both of the concertos (the piano solo under the closing credits is the opening of the 2nd movement of the G major concerto), the fact they weren't mentioned at all is even more puzzling. Ravel was still an astonishing composer even though his difficulties were beginning. Just listen to the piano solo (cadenza) near the end of the left-hand concerto; he was able to write such that one hand seems like two or even three.

Hence, it is misleading to say "…called her piece 'Unraveling Bolero' having no idea that that's exactly what would happen to Ravel right after he wrote Bolero." Nor should the host (and the professor) have implied that until Bolero, all Ravel wrote was "flowery" (or in one case, "super flowery") impressionism. Just listen to, for instance, the original six-movement 1917 piano version of Le tombeau de Couperin.

Dec. 27 2015 02:30 PM
Reverb from San Francisco

I wait all week for Radiolab. Today was a first that I wanted to turn it off! I couldn't tolerate the first segment...The annoying repetitive music, made me crazy....all those precious minutes wasted on that horrible, horrible noise. It literally hurt my ears. PLEASE don't do that to us again!!!! What could you have possible been thinking to include that? Nothing informative, nothing learned....unless you want to study how long it takes to make someone crazy with annoying noise. UGH!

Dec. 27 2015 11:23 AM
Roman from Vancouver, WA

I respectfully disagree with the above comment about Juana Molina's music. I'm transfixed by her style; especially the trancelike, meditative quality of her pieces. Jad's remix of Un Dia is moving in a way I haven't encountered in a long time. Thank you for that. As for the rest of the episode, I'm definitely going to look into Meet The Composer, and I found digging into Ravel's Bolero particularly fascinating and sobering. Thank you for making me think in a new way about repetition and the mathematics of music. This episode is a beautiful example of the marriage of art, math, and science.

Dec. 26 2015 07:56 PM

Normally, I like Radio Lab. Not today.

14 minutes into the show my only thought was "please make it stop!" Then I turned the radio off to stop the torture of that horrible song you played on repeat. It really was torture, over and over and over: drip drip drip. Then I couldn't get it out of my head and it continued to torture me as an ear worm. It's as bad as "It's a small world afterall."

Seriously what was the point?

Dec. 26 2015 04:24 PM

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