Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Cree songwriter Tara Williamson reflects on the heartache of losing her infant son as she creates a song in his honour in Amplify.

APTN

How does a song come into being? You know, that song or piece of music that sticks in your head so firmly that it’s rather like it becomes part of your DNA? Or that song you heard years ago that still makes you stop and think, arousing something in your soul from the long ago?

Two current series take slightly different approaches to chronicling the creation of a song. One documents the creation, as it happens. The other looks back and asks the creators to remember everything and tell good anecdotes about it all.

Amplify (Fridays on APTN and on-demand on APTN lumi) is a beautifully made, sensitive and often piquant experience to watch. The idea behind the 13-episode series is to invite an Indigenous songwriter to find a piece of Indigenous inspiration and write a song about it. It can be a personal or family experience, something in nature or someone else’s art. The songwriter explains the process, composes and the episode ends with a music video of the piece created.

Story continues below advertisement

Binge-watching guide: The recent shows you need to catch up on, all available to stream

Two coming episodes are especially striking. Nick Sherman (Oct. 9 episode), an Oji-Cree songwriter, decides to write about living in Thunder Bay and to somehow reflect the long history of anti-Indigenous racism there. What’s startling is the visual presentation of the location done by using local youths to enact stories or experiences. The result is a gorgeous but disturbing series of visual motifs. Directed by Michelle Derosier, the half-hour program is a stunning blend of music, silent performance and politics.

A later episode (Oct. 16), featuring Cree songwriter Tara Williamson, is lighter in tone but no less powerful. Williamson is rueful about her history of performing since she was a child, but the meat of the episode is her finding inspiration in a painting by Anishinaabe artist Daphne Odjig. That takes the viewer into the Winnipeg Art Gallery and a close encounter with the painting. What emerges eventually is an arresting song by Williamson about losing a child. The series is highly recommended for the visual dazzle it adds to each act of creating a song.

Bill Berry, Michael Stipe, Mike Mills and Peter Buck of REM in Song Exploder.

COURTESY OF NETFLIX/NETFLIX/Netflix

Song Exploder (new on Netflix) is more pop-focused, and based on a long-running podcast. It’s like an up-market version of that old thing, Pop-Up Video. Each episode examines a hit song and where it came from. A good example is the one devoted to REM’s Losing My Religion. As Michael Stipe of the band says, “The song was a mistake.” He means it wasn’t seen as a possible radio hit, or any kind of big hit. It has no discernible chorus and the instrument that’s prominent is a mandolin.

Guitarist Pete Buck explains that after a decade of being in the band and touring and recording, he was tired. He was especially tired of being “the guitar guy,” so he decided to teach himself to play mandolin and, in fiddling with the instrument he came up, by accident, with the core riff of the song. The drum beat came next. Then Stipe operated in his usual way – separately, with a Dictaphone and a typewriter, absorbing the music as he composed the lyrics.

Stipe says the song is about “deep insecurity” and features a vulnerable person calling out to someone who might not even exist. Other episodes of the series include Alicia Keys explaining 3 Hour Drive and Lin-Manuel Miranda going deep into the creation of Wait for It from Hamilton. There isn’t a dud in that batch of episodes.

Airing Monday

Rachelle Lefevre as Maggie in The Sounds.

CBC

The Sounds (CBC, 8 p.m.) kicks off a big week for CBC TV. The mystery series (it also streams on Acorn TV) is far from being original or startling, but it’s puzzle-drama without apology or ambition; a good time-waster. A Canada-New Zealand production, it’s about Maggie Cabbott (Rachelle Lefevre), who goes to New Zealand from Vancouver to meet up with her husband Tom (Matt Whelan). A rich businessman, he’s been finalizing a deal to build a sustainable fishery there. After a day or so, he disappears into the water. Or does he, really? We’re told often here that New Zealand is beautiful, and Tom’s dark side is telegraphed almost as often. Uncomplicated and cozy – the lead actors could have used sterner direction – it amounts to nicely made escapist drama.

Plan your screen time with the weekly What to Watch newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies