Soundbreaking: Stories From the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music Premieres November 14–23 on KQED

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Courtesy of © The Bob Bonis Archive /

Produced in association with the late Beatles’ producer Sir George Martin, the eight-episode series features interviews with over 150 artists, including Paul McCartney, Bonnie Raitt, RZA and many more; offers a behind-the-board glimpse at several of the most iconic recordings in modern music history.

Copyright 2012 Warren Paul Harris
Copyright 2012 Warren Paul Harris

An eight-episode PBS series that explores the extraordinary impact of recorded music on the modern world, Soundbreaking: Stories From the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music, will premiere locally on KQED 9, weeknights at 10pm from November 1423. Soundbreaking is the last project produced by legendary music producer Sir George Martin, who passed away on March 8, 2016. The series combines unprecedented access to some of the most celebrated artists, producers and innovators from across the music spectrum, with rare archival studio footage and an extensive soundtrack, to deliver one of the most 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 new sounds. From the invention of the microphone to the Moog synthesizer, from the phonograph to digital streaming, Soundbreaking moves between the past and present to tell the stories behind the sounds. Through the stories it reveals how innovation redefined not only what we listen to and how we listen to it, but also our very sense of what music is and can be. Viewers of all ages will hear the songs they love in a whole new way.

Soundbreaking features more than 150 exclusive and original interviews with such luminaries as 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 others.

Organized thematically, each episode of Soundbreaking tells stories of pop music icons using their determination, ingenuity and guts to create works of art that have touched us all. Stories within the episodes include:

  • George Martin and the Beatles’ groundbreaking work in the studio creates a new paradigm for pop music.
  • Phil Spector rises as the first “rock star producer.”
  • Paul Epworth collaborates with Adele on “Rolling in the Deep.”
  • Stevie Wonder embraces the synthesizer and makes a break with Motown.
  • Giorgio Moroder fuses R&B with electronica and the dance floor explodes.
  • The art of sampling gives rise to hip-hop.
  • Michael Jackson and Madonna take the art of the music video to new heights.
  • Miles Davis and Marvin Gaye use the long-playing record for new kinds of expression.

To accompany the Bay Area broadcast of Soundbreaking, KQED Arts is publishing a series of online editorial and multimedia pieces about the Bay Area recording studios scene and its unique contributions to the modern history of recorded music. The ongoing series, “Into the Mix,” will explore stories behind local studios including Wally Heider Studios and the Record Plant, and newer facilities such as Women’s Audio Mission in San Francisco and Greaseland Studios in San Jose. It will also document notable moments in music history, including KQED footage from a 1973 Pink Floyd performance at the Bill Graham Auditorium. Expect the first stories in late October and early November.


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 (Half the Sky, A Path Appears, Carrier, Circus, Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present).

The local broadcast of Soundbreaking is proudly supported by Sutter Health CPMC 2020, Xfinity, Blue Bear School of Music, Berkeley Stereo and Berkeley Research Group, LLC.

Join KQED on Wednesday, November 2, at The Independent in San Francisco for the KQED Soundbreaking Showcase — a sneak preview and panel discussion with the filmmaker, plus live music. For tickets and more info, visit

Soundbreaking airs at 10pm, November 14
18 and 21–23 on KQED 9. Watch all episodes back-to-back on Thursday, November 24, from noon to 8pm, on KQED Plus.

KQED serves the people of Northern California with a public-supported alternative to commercial media. An NPR and PBS affiliate based in San Francisco, KQED is home to one of the most listened-to public radio stations in the nation, one of the highest-rated public television services and an award-winning education program helping students and educators thrive in 21st-century classrooms. A trusted news source and leader and innovator in interactive technology, KQED takes people of all ages on journeys of exploration — exposing them to new people, places and ideas.