The project is unique among studio albums because, in a reversal of the typical recording process, the band decided to compose and then develop the songs through a series of tours before recording the music in the studio.
In early 2008 the band announced on their official website: "Medeski Martin & Wood are planning three tours, plus three albums in 2008. Each tour and subsequent album will consist of all NEW MUSIC. The plan: Write > Tour > Record > Repeat."
"The problem with us," keyboardist John Medeski explains, "is that when we record an album, by the time a record company gets it out, we’ve already been playing the music for six or eight months, and we’re ready to move on.
The three volumes of The Radiolarian Series will be released as three separate albums. The band has suggested that the series may also be made available as a packaged set.
The Radiolarian Series takes its name from radiolarians (also radiolaria), amoeboid protozoa that produce intricate mineral skeletons, typically with a central capsule dividing the cell into inner and outer portions, called endoplasm and ectoplasm.
Radiolaria grow their intricately beautiful patterned skeleton around their soft core in defiance of normal biological process. This is, according to the band, "similar to Medeski Martin and Wood's latest creative cycle."
The Radiolarian Series consists of music composed and developed over the course of the band's three-part 2008 "Viva la Evolution" Tour: