This web site does only one thing, but does it incredibly well: It offers a nuanced, track-by-track analysis of the Doctor Who theme music originally composed in 1963.
The writers here — Danny Stewart, Ian Stewart, and Josef Kenny — break down the musical score of each track, pointing out cool details I'd never noticed (like the fact that there are two separate bass tracks that form a nifty counterpoint with each other). They' include clips of all the individual tracks isolated so you can hear exactly what they're describing.
They even closely analyze the musical role of the hissing white-noise deployed by Delia Derbyshire (above) and Dick Mills, the BBC tech-music geniuses that coaxed all those amazing sounds into existence. In the original composition of the music — written on a single sheet of paper — composer Ron Grainer had asked for occasional atmospheric noises like a "wind bubble" and "cloud":
Throughout the theme, bursts of white noise are used to add the "clouds" called for in the original notes and in the visuals of the title sequence. The first hiss in the theme is a fairly long, loud pulse of white noise. This single hiss comes in and goes out softly over the third and fourth bar in the bassline intro, just before the rhythmic hissing begins. It serves as an "intro hiss," designed to accompany the titles graphics and also setting up for the presence of white noise hissing throughout the remainder of the theme. It fades in with a series of quick volume fluctuations, peaks, then trails away again.
The rhythmic hissing consists of a series of short bursts of filtered white noise at varying pitches. These bursts, or notes, fade in softly but end abruptly. This is due to the fact that the noise bursts were generated as percussive sounds and then reversed (with additional echo applied afterward). The flowing hiss pattern used in the original theme consists of eight repeating notes, forming a pattern that repeats continuously. The relative pitch of each note is represented by the following numbers, with "1" being the highest in pitch:
1, 3, 2, 4, 1, 3, 4, 2
This pattern begins halfway through the bassline intro with a slightly different (later) alignment relative to the rest of the theme. Approaching the first Melody 1, the alignment shifts into its standard rhythm, and continues to loop this way throughout the rest of the theme. The only minor deviation from this pattern is a temporary increase in the volume of the hissing over the second repeat of the bassline solo. The flowing hiss pattern ends when the wind bubble begins at the end of the theme.
Go read the whole site — it's amazing.
I wish I had an analysis like this for more and more pop songs. The specific, nuanced decisions of musicians, producers and sound engineers are incredibly interesting, but can be really hard to tease apart just by listening to the mixed song.
The closest I've come to this are some of the better episodes of Song Exploder, but I find those episodes — terrific as they often are — tend to gloss over too many production decisions, focusing on only a few high points. In my dreams, though, I'd like to hear about every last gnarled and hair-pulled decision in the production of a song: Every tweak of every knob, every decision made about audio processing, every exhausted redoing of every vocal track. I've done just enough studio recording of music with my bands to know there's a crazily fascinating amount of decision-making that goes into every second of a gorgeously-produced song.