Melodious Mornings - New Theme Music!

May 3, 2019

For many public radio listeners, Morning Edition is a staple part of their days. As they prepare for the workday, the school day or their daily commute, the long running program may be the first encounter they have each day with the latest news and stories from their communities, across the nation and around the world. For 40 years, the signature musical sound of Morning Edition was an iconic theme first composed by BJ Leiderman and later arranged by musician Jim Pugh.

Beginning Monday, May 6, Morning Edition’s theme will be a fresh new update – a new musical take that NPR believes will better reflect the contemporary version of its popular morning news program.

New Hampshire Public Radio had the great pleasure of discussing the new theme with our colleagues at NPR in Washington – Chief Marketing Officer Meg Goldthwaite and Morning Edition Executive Producer Kenya Young.

Tricia McLaughlin, Director of Communications & Marketing at NHPR: For 40 years, Morning Edition listeners have heard this iconic theme music. Why did NPR decide to make this change now?

From Meg Goldthwaite: After 40 years, it was time to create fresh music that was engaging, energetic, and holistically complimented the Morning Edition program as it lives today. As someone who loves our iconic Morning Edition music, I felt it was important that the new piece honor what came before while introducing fresh notes that render an iconic theme that accompanies Morning Edition for its next 40 years.

From Kenya Young: Morning Edition has changed a lot over the past 40 years, even just within the last few years. We’re more present, we are where the news is and we are abundantly  live with guests, sources and reporters to capture moving and breaking news. We wanted theme music that reflects our delivery and pace as well as the distinct, in-depth analysis and storytelling that makes us NPR. This new music is a refreshing way to reflect what Morning Edition is today and attract listeners who have not yet discovered us.    

Can you share with us the process you went through in selecting the final music choice? Did it involve many different artists and potential themes

From Meg Goldthwaite: It was a collaborative and fun process in which we assembled a small group of creative stakeholders and worked with our partners at Man Made Music to create the new sound. We listened to over ten potential musical themes in our first round of reviews and over time, we narrowed the list and combined favorite aspects to get to the music you will hear starting May 6. We concentrated on the unique attributes of Morning Edition that make it a daily, must-listen-to show and sought to translate those sentiments into music. So while our creative stakeholders may have different musical tastes, we shared a collective guiding light. As such, we gravitated towards the same pieces and surprisingly came up with similar feedback as we tweaked and edited the compositions to get them just right. Once composed, we turned to audience research and tested the music to ensure it landed well with our listeners. So far, response has been extremely positive, and we cannot wait to share the new music with NPR fans nationwide.

From Kenya Young: It really was such a cool process, from initial meetings in boardrooms with key players at NPR to the Man Made studios in New York City with award winning musicians and composers. It took a while to get where we are; we knew we had to get it right…the right sound, the right mood, the right feel. After many proposed themes, several listening sessions and months of playing with and fine tuning variations, we got there. I’m really excited about the new music. There’s something about it that truly gets you ready for the day and ready for Morning Edition. When the last note hits, it’s like the curtains open.  

What were you striving for with this new theme and how does the final creation meet that goal?  

From Meg Goldthwaite: The goal of this refresh was to elevate the listener experience of Morning Edition through the creation and implementation of a consistent and cohesive sonic palette that is smart, modern, and energetic. While we have spent a lot of time discussing the theme - which is arguably the most recognizable piece of music for any show – this process resulted in the creation of twenty-eight pieces of music to be used throughout the show and in promotions. When used together, all of these pieces give Morning Edition a sound that is undeniably on-brand with the program’s dynamic mix of engaging, informative, and often surprising stories about today’s world.

For those of us who geek out on these things – music actually serves a very functional role in the broadcast each morning. Can you explain a bit about that?

From Kenya Young: The great thing about this project is we ordered a whole new suite of music. It not only includes anew refreshed theme, but several other pieces of music that we will be able to use throughout the two hours of programming. We use music to help guide the listeners through segments, offering  them a chance to breathe from time to time and take in what they have just heard. We carefully select music moments in the show to add and even elevated the listening experience; even a few seconds makes a difference.    

Throwing back to the 1980s – there’s a really funny scene in the movie “Broadcast News” that shows two composers coming into a fictitious broadcast network to debut their new music, and “selling it” to management. Any similar scenes for the real-life NPR scenario?  

From Meg Goldthwaite  Well, I do get chills when listening to the new music, so there’s a similarity, but any other comparisons thankfully stop at those mullets.

From Kenya Young: Classic scene, and Man Made Music did pretty much make a big splash when they first walked through the doors of NPR.  We were sold from the start, luckily without the cheesiness factor.

And now we have our own scenes to show for it (see all our ME hosts dancing to the music!): https://twitter.com/NPRextra/status/1122908768948215809