Tag Archives: music

What Could be Worse? (06/08)

Well the day has come, I have finished reading Musicophilia by Dr. Oliver Sacks. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the inter-workings of the brain and its response to music. What I like most about Dr. Sacks’ writing style is that he teaching you, not talking at you. Which makes sense, as he is a professor. Perhaps I should save the book review for goodreads and get on with my post…

This word came up often towards the end of the book: Anhedonia

Now I provide you with a definition…

anhedonia |ˌanhēˈdōnēə; -hi-|
noun Psychiatry
inability to feel pleasure.

DERIVATIVES
anhedonic |-ˈdänik| adjective.

ORIGIN late 19th cent.: from French anhédonie, from Greek an- ‘without’ + hēdonē ‘pleasure.’

Perhaps if I realized that the root of the word was hedonic, I would have figured it out sooner.

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Blow it Out Your…(04/05)

Learned a new word today:

embouchure |ämboō sh oŏr|
noun
1 Music the way in which a player applies the mouth to the mouthpiece of a brass or wind instrument.
• the mouthpiece of a flute or a similar instrument.
2 archaic the mouth of a river or valley.

ORIGIN mid 18th cent.: French, from s’emboucher ‘discharge itself by the mouth,’ from emboucher ‘put in or to the mouth,’ from em- ‘into’ + bouche ‘mouth.’

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Earworms (03/25)

No, I am not talking about the horrible scene in Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn. If you don’t know the scene I am talking about, consider yourself lucky.

I am talking about the term used to describe when you get a song stuck in your head.

Many people are set off by the theme music of a film or television show or advertisement. This is not coincidental, for such music is designed, in the terms of the music industry, to “hook” the listener, to be “catchy or “sticky” – to bore its, like an earwig, into the ear or mind; hence the term “earworms” -though one might be inclined to call them “brainworms” instead.

from Oliver Sacks, Musicophilia, p 45

Now the next time you get a song stuck in your head you can imagine it as a worm. You can thank me later.

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Django Reinhardt (03/19)

I first heard of the musician Django Reinhart when I saw Woody Allen’s film Sweet and Lowdown. As you may recall, Sean Penn’s character Emmet Ray idolizes Django and if I recall correctly, passes out when he sees Django at a gas station.

Shortly after seeing the movie, I began listening to some of Reinhardt’s guitar solos. The music he makes is amazing and after you read what happened to him in 1928, you’ll be even more amazed.

On November 2nd, 1928 an event took place that would forever change Django’s life. At one o’clock in the morning the 18 year old Django returned from a night of playing music at a new club “La Java” to the caravan that was now the home of himself and his new wife. The caravan was filled with celluloid flowers his wife had made to sell at the market on the following day. Django upon hearing what he thought was a mouse among the flowers bent down with a candle to look. The wick from the candle fell into the highly flammable celluloid flowers and the caravan was almost instantly transformed into a raging inferno. Django wrapped himself in a blanket to shield him from the flames. Somehow he and his wife made it across the blazing room to safety outside, but his left hand, and his right side from knee to waist were badly burned.

Initially doctors wanted to amputate his leg but Django refused. He was moved to a nursing home where the care was so good his leg was saved. Django was bedridden for eighteen months. During this time he was given a guitar, and with great determination Django created a whole new fingering system built around the two fingers on his left hand that had full mobility. His fourth and fifth digits of the left hand were permanently curled towards the palm due to the tendons shrinking from the heat of the fire. He could use them on the first two strings of the guitar for chords and octaves but complete extension of these fingers was impossible. His soloing was all done with the index and middle fingers! Film clips of Django show his technique to be graceful and precise, almost defying belief.

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Blue Eyes and Boots (03/11)

Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy’s duet “Somethin’ Stupid”  remains to be the only father-daughter duet to hit No. 1 in the United States. (It hit #1 in the U.S. and the UK in April 1967 and spent nine weeks at the top of Billboard’s easy listening chart)

BE020651

Frank & Nacy Sinatra 1966

This was despite the fact that DJs in 1967 referred to the duet and the “incest song”

With these lyrics, It’s not hard to imagine why they might say that:

I know I stand in line until you think
You have the time to spend an evening with me
And if we go someplace to dance
I know that there’s a chance you won’t be leaving with me
And afterwards we drop into a quiet little place
And have a drink or two……
And then I go and spoil it all by saying
Something stupid like I love you

I can see it in your eyes that you despise
The same old lines you heard the night before……
And though it’s just a line to you for me it’s true……
And never seemed so right before
I practice everyday to find some clever lines
To say to make the meaning come true……
But then I think I’ll wait until the evening gets late
And I’m alone with you
The time is right your perfume fills my head……
The stars get red and on the nights so blue……
And then I go and spoil it all by saying
Something stupid like I love you

….

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It’s gonna be that kind of mornin’ (02/28)

Remember when there was more to look forward to Saturday than a day off of work? Remember when they meant something? Do kids today even know what they are missing?  Well I have been trying to bring some of the magic back on Saturday mornings by watching season one of Pee Wee’s Playhouse –  & it’s just like 1987 all over again.

Oh the memories…and that voice. We all know that voice. It’s Cyndi Lauper, right?

Let me double check the credits to be sure…

see circled credit

see circled credit

Ellen Shaw?  Seems confusing but she and Cyndi Lauper are one in the same. The strange part is, Cyndi Lauper doesn’t use the “Ellen Shaw” pen name for anything else and I haven’t found out why she used it here. I will keep digging and keep you posted on what I find.

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The Real McCoy (02/27)

I learned (thanks to public radio) about another lesser known talent in the music business…

Rose McCoy

Rose McCoy

May I introduce, Rose Marie McCoy, one of the most prolific songwriters you’ve never heard of.

Rose McCoy grew up on a farm in Arkansas. But at the age of 19, she left home and moved to New York City to try to become a singer.

While she was waiting for her break as a singer, McCoy started to write songs, discovering that it came naturally to her. In the pop music world of the time, most performers relied on professional songwriters for their hits, and the entire songwriting industry was centered on one square block in New York City: 1619 Broadway. Better known as the Brill Building, the block housed a 10-story hit factory stuffed with songwriters, producers and music publishers.

After work, the Brill Building employees would hang out at Beefsteak Charlie’s. Many songwriters pitched there songs there and that is exactly the spot where Rose McCoy and her songwriting partner Charlie Singleton, set up their office (or should I say booth).

In 1954, McCoy and Singleton wrote a song called “Trying to Get to You,” which was first recorded by a black vocal group called The Eagles. Elvis Presley heard their version in a record store in Memphis, and he decided to record the song on his debut album for RCA Records in 1955.

Presley’s album spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the pop charts.

Eventually she had a house, agreen Cadillac and her own office in the Brill Building, but she still worked for herself. She liked her independence and wanted to keep control of her music.

“I mean, she realized at some point in time that her power was in the pen,” Al Bell says. “And she was just one of those rare persons that wanted to be free to write her own songs and do what she wanted to do.”

Now 86 years, although retired, she is still writing songs.

Read full story: Lady Writes the Blues

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The Bible and the The Byrds (02/25)

I can’t believe that after 12 years of Catholic school, that I didn’t already know this…

The song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (a favorite of mine as a kid) is adapted entirely from the the Book of Ecclesiastes. (specifically Ecclesiastes 3:1.)

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Who knew? I didn’t.

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The Funk Brothers (02/24)

Have you ever heard of these fellows:

The Funk Brothers

The Funk Brothers

Chances are you haven’t heard their name, but you definitely have heard them play.

They are Motown’s unsung heroes. Known as The Funk Brothers, the studio band put the backbeat into hits for Diana Ross & The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, etc. They played on more #1 records than The Beatles, Beach Boys, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley combined, but no one knew their names.
Here are some notable members’ names:

bandleader Joe Hunter

and Earl Van Dyke (piano);

James Jamerson (bass guitar);

Benny “Papa Zita” Benjamin and Richard “Pistol” Allen (drums);

Robert White, Eddie Willis, and Joe Messina (guitar);

Jack Ashford (tambourine, percussion, vibraphone, marimba);

Jack Brokensha (vibraphone, marimba);

Eddie “Bongo” Brown (percussion).

Hunter left in 1964, replaced on keyboards by Johnny Griffith and as bandleader by Van Dyke. Uriel Jones joined the band as a third drummer.

In 1967, guitarists Dennis Coffey and Melvin “Wah-Wah Watson” Ragin, who introduced the wah-wah pedal that defined Motown’s psychedelic soul records, joined the band. Benny Benjamin died the next year, and Bob Babbitt began to replace James Jamerson on many recordings.

To learn more check out his documentary: Standing in the Shadows of Motown

Or read more here, here and here.

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The Clanking of Pots & Pans (02/17)

Amusia: The inability to recognize musical tones or to reproduce them. Amusia can be congenital (present at birth) or be acquired sometime later in life (as from brain damage).

It isn’t a problem of the ears – they can understand other sounds perfectly well – but when it comes to music, all tunes sound the same. While most of us are sensitive to small changes in pitch, amusic people need two notes to be very far apart before they hear them as different. It’s no surprise, then, that music, which tends to move in small steps, is literally “lost” on them.

Test yourself.

Read more.

Or just listen to the expert, Dr. Oliver Sacks…





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