He will discuss music and art and reminisce about the legendary artists he has worked with in eight one-hour radio programs. The series includes an episode featuring the conductor in conversation with James Brown, in one of the soul singer's final interviews before his death.
The "house band" for the program is the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and the music in each episode is drawn from live recordings made during MTT's 12-year tenure as the orchestra's music director.
The MTT Files — which will be available to public radio stations nationwide beginning April 1 (check local listings) — is part of the SFS's Keeping Score project, which includes a PBS television series, other public radio broadcasts, interactive websites, and education and community programs.
The first program in the The MTT Files is "You Call That Music?", during which the conductor will demonstrate, with the help of composer Steven Mackey, that noise is in the mind of the listener. Two later programs under the title "What Does America Sound Like?" will discuss American classical music in the early 20th century, with a focus on Aaron Copland.
"Igor Stravinsky's Copyright Blues" will explore the history of copyright law and the titular composer's efforts to collect royalty payments. In "The Last Virtuoso," MTT explains why Jascha Heifetz was the last real violin virtuoso and discusses whether any living violinist will ever match his technical and musical gifts.
In "Freud and the Ballet", Tilson Thomas interviews former prima ballerina Natalia Makarova, who he calls the greatest Giselle of our time, about dancing that "heart on the sleeve" role. "We Were Playing Boulez, But We Were Listening To James Brown!" features an extensive interview with the now-deceased Hardest-Working Man in Show Business, recorded at his home in Georgia.
And finally, in "Five Degrees of Separation"," Tilson Thomas will explore, with pianist Garrick Ohlsson, how teachers pass on technique and musicianship.