When “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered on CBS in 1965, it introduced a generation of viewers to the iconic piano music of Vince Guaraldi. His contributions to the special’s score included the timeless holiday standard “Christmas Time is Here,” and the whimsical “Linus and Lucy” — a song now widely viewed as the signature tune of the “Peanuts” franchise.

“Vince Guaraldi’s piano on Charlie Brown is not only completely tied to it, it’s possible that it’s many people’s idea of piano,” celebrated singer-songwriter and pianist Ben Folds told Variety. “It’s pretty important stuff, the piano in Charlie Brown.”

Folds spoke to Variety deputy editor Meredith Woerner for an episode of Variety Artisans presented by HBO about his work as the composer for the latest “Peanuts” special, “It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown.” Folds discussed stepping into Guaraldi’s shoes to write the music for the special, including the titular theme song performed during the special.

Folds said he believes the special was named after the song he composed, though he admitted he wasn’t sure. When he signed on to write the song, he was unsure if he was allowed to say Charlie Brown’s name in the song, and had to ask for clearance from the creators to make sure it was okay.

As he set about composing the song, which is song in the special from the perspective of Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally, Folds said he wanted to capture a childlike sense of wonder about the world.

“Most songwriters from a childish place a lot. When I say ‘childish,’ I mean childlike. Because when you’re writing a song you have to suspend everything else,” Folds said. “The mind-meld with Peanuts a little bit. And I had to think about my kids, and I had to think about my childhood and I had to think about what children are inheriting. And also, very importantly, I knew I was in a channel. I knew I was in a safe space channel created by decades of ‘Peanuts’ that allowed me to make something that wasn’t dumbed down, something that was nuanced and actually had humanity into it rather than be an utterly absurd or one-sided or agitating thing. I was allowed to put nuance into it, and so that was what was exciting to me about it.”

Reflecting on the role that music serves in the special, Folds said that music works in Charlie Brown, and television in general, as a way of imparting meaning quickly to viewers in a way that dialogue can’t.

“I’ve already been talking way longer than the song is, and the song did a better job,” Folds said. “And that’s why you put a song into something like this, the essence of why a musical breaks into song. Why does it? Why do you have a song there? And you have a song there because you want to do something economically and mainline something into people’s souls so they can get through that impasse, that roadblock.”

“It’s the Small Things, Charlie Brown” is streaming on Apple TV+. Watch the complete Variety Artisans video above.