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Music Podcast Review: Song Exploder

An inside look at a movie staple.

Editor’s note: As part of CMN’s ongoing music journalism program, we asked our team of music writers to choose a single episode of a podcast about music to review . The choices were electric and interesting. Check out all the podcast reviews by browsing our music section

I chose Song Exploder as the music podcast I was going to review because it has a lot of good, diversified content. I chose the episode about Black Panther because it is one of my recent favorites. The podcast is about the composer for the movie, Ludwig Goransson, and his work on the song “Killmonger.”

The first bit of the podcast is about Ludwig describing his relationship with the director, Ryan Coogler, and his trip to Africa to experience the music to make the best movie. I am really interested in composing music for films, especially Marvel movies. Listening to this podcast was invigorating for me because it described the process in making songs for specific types of themes for movies. Finding new types of instruments, new people, new music is my dream. 

One of my favorite parts of the 20 minute podcast is when Ludwig is describing, with the original recording behind him, of when he first met a master Fula flute. He then translated a summary of the movie and who Killmonger is, and then he left the player, Amadou, to his devices. In my opinion, Amadou represented who Killmonger is to a T, very mysterious but proud, getting prouder by the second. Ludwig said that this is his third movie with Michael B. Jordan, who played Killmonger, and that Killmonger was one of the hardest characters to write a piece for because his character was “very complex.”

When I watched Black Panther, I can very much agree with this statement. Killmonger was fueled with anger because he was lied to almost his whole life, and finally discovered that he was an heir to the throne of Wakanda, the country in which Black Panther is mostly set in. Killmonger wanted to make the world a better place by letting the world know what Wakanda was, because they had all of this very high tech and could help save so many people and end wars. Wakanda’s people didn’t want to be ousted, and wanted to stay in secret and out of the world’s affairs to keep the rest of Africa secure.

Ludwig continues to explain the layers of Killmonger’s theme. All of the instruments in the piece represent who Killmonger is, struggling yet working to become the best. I really enjoyed listening to Ludwig explain the piece and what was used to create it. The host of the show, Hrishikesh Hirway, allowed Ludwig to take full advantage of describing Killmonger’s theme and creation of it, which I liked because it let someone like me, who is interested in the creation of songs, to fully understand what it takes to do so.

Another great part of the podcast is when Ludwig describes intertwining the king of Wakanda, T’challa’s theme with Killmonger’s to show their battle. The show ends with the host playing the entire Killmonger theme to show the audience what the full piece sounds like after it was broken down by the composer.

The podcast made me realize how much I enjoy music and how I want to work with it for the rest of my life, and Ludwig did a great job at explaining what it’s like to make a piece, even if that means traveling the world to do it.

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