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Did You Know the Standard-Bearers For Audio Technical Excellence Were … Steely Dan?

It turns out your pot-smoking uncle was right: Steely Dan songs are a technical marvel and this video explains why and how they’re composed.

WHAT: “How Steely Dan Composes A Song,” an explainer on the technical brilliance of your bong-toting uncle’s favorite band.

WHO: YouTube-based weekly video series, The Nerdwriter.

WHY WE CARE: Anyone younger than, say, 47, may have developed an urge to roll their eyes upon hearing yet again the gospel of Steely Dan. This is the band, after all, who upset Beck’s Midnite Vultures, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP, and Radiohead’s Kid A with a 2001 Grammy for Album of the Year. But what sounds at first blush to millennial ears like dentist chair music is actually one of the more sonically complex bands of all time. So much so, in fact, that audio techs regularly use the music of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen to test out equipment. “How Steely Dan Composes A Song” takes an in-depth look at what goes into making these songs so technically brilliant. You might want to start composing an apology to your uncle after watching, though.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. He has also written for The Awl, Rolling Stone, McSweeney's, and Salon.