Posts Tagged ‘music’
* Marisha Pessl,
As we characterize ourselves, we might send rhythmic birthday greetings to Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley; he was born on this date in 1945. A singer, songwriter, and guitarist, he helped pioneer and popularize (first with his band The Wailers, then on his own) the musical genre we know and love as Reggae.
One love, one heart,
Let’s get together and feel alright
– from “One Love” (cowritten with Curtis Mayfield)
“I’m not offended by all the dumb blonde jokes because I know I’m not dumb… and I also know that I’m not blonde”*…
– Dolly Parton helped bring the seminal and beloved TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer into existence. Her production company, Sandollar Productions, will be familiar to you from the end credits.
– The Ku Klux Klan sent Dolly Parton death threats in the mid-2000’s because Dollywood hosted an annual “Gay Day.” Dolly: “God tells us not to judge one another, no matter what anyone’s sexual preferences are or if they’re black, brown or purple. And if someone doesn’t believe what I believe, tough shit.”
– Dolly Parton once lost a Dolly Parton drag contest.
“I just over-exaggerated—made my beauty mark bigger, the eyes bigger, the hair bigger, everything. All these beautiful drag queens had worked for weeks and months getting their clothes. So I got in the line and I walked across, and they just thought I was some little short gay guy. I got the least applause.”
* Dolly Parton
As we swear our undying love, we might also remark on Emmylou Harris. A solo artist, bandleader, interpreter of other composers’ works, singer-songwriter, backing vocalist, and duet partner, she has collaborated with artists including Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Linda Ronstadt, Roy Orbison, the Band, Patty Griffin, Mark Knopfler, Delbert McClinton, Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Bright Eyes, Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Neil Young, Steve Earle, Ryan Adams…. and of course, Dolly Parton. Harris became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on this date in 1992.
“A sandwich and a cup of coffee, and then off to violin-land, where all is sweetness and delicacy and harmony”*…
Before electronic amplification, instrument makers and musicians had to find newer and better ways to make themselves heard among ensembles and orchestras and above the din of crowds. Many of the acoustic instruments we’re familiar with today—guitars, cellos, violas, etc.—are the result of hundreds of years of experimentation into solving just that problem. These hollow wooden resonance chambers amplify the sound of the strings, but that sound must escape, hence the circular sound hole under the strings of an acoustic guitar and the f-holes on either side of a violin…
While it’s true f-holes date from the Renaissance, they are much more than ornamental; their design—whether arrived at by accident or by conscious intent—has had remarkable staying power for very good reason.
As acoustician Nicholas Makris and his colleagues at MIT recently announced in a study published by the Royal Society, a violin’s f-holes serve as the perfect means of delivering its powerful acoustic sound. F-holes have “twice the sonic power,” The Economist reports, “of the circular holes of the fithele” (the violin’s 10th century ancestor and origin of the word “fiddle”). The evolutionary path of this elegant innovation—Clive Thompson at Boing Boing demonstrates with a color-coded chart—takes us from those original round holes, to a half-moon, then to variously-elaborated c-shapes, and finally to the f-hole…
More musical history at “Why Violins Have F-Holes: The Science & History of a Remarkable Renaissance Design.”
* Arthur Conan Doyle,
As we draw our bows boldly, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to Ernst Theodor Amadeus (“E.T.A.”) Hoffmann; he was born on this date in 1776. A key figure in the German Romantic period, Hoffmann was an author of fantasy and horror, a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist. While some of his compositions survive in the canon, he is probably better remembered for his stories: they form the basis of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based. The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann’s Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann’s character Johannes Kreisler.
Hoffmann also influenced 19th century musical opinion through his music criticism. His reviews of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (1808) and other important works set new literary standards for writing about music, and encouraged later writers to consider music as “the most Romantic of all the arts.”
Flyting is a stylized battle of insults and wits that was practiced most actively between the fifth and 16th centuries in England and Scotland. Participants employed the timeless tools of provocation and perversion as well as satire, rhetoric, and early bathroom humor to publicly trounce opponents. The term “flyting” comes from Old English and Old Norse words for “quarrel” and “provocation.” [Indeed, the image above is of Norse god Loki trading insults with his divine brother, Bragi.] ‘Tis a form of highly poetic abuse, or highly abusive poetry—a very early precursor to MTV’s Yo Mama and Eminem’s 8 Mile…
More of the history of insult as a form of battle– and a discussion of the actual ancestry of rap-as-we-know-it– at “Flyting was medieval England’s version of an insult-trading rap battle.”
Rap has been a path between cultures in the best tradition of popular music.
* Snoop Dog
As we yoyo “yo mamas,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1956 that Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley & the Comets became the first rock and roll album to enter the chart. The single had become the first rock single to top the pop charts six months earlier.
“When Johnson started singing, he seemed like a guy who could have sprung from the head of Zeus in full armor”*…
Eric Clapton once described Robert Johnson as, “the most important blues singer that ever lived”. The recordings that Johnson made between 1936 and 1937, collected in two volumes entitled King of the Delta Blues Singers, not only mark the apogee of the blues form, they stand among the most influential recordings of all time…
And now, nearly 50 years after Columbia first packaged his work as King of the Delta Blues, we discover that we’ve been listening to these immortal songs at the wrong speed all along. Either the recordings were accidentally speeded up when first committed to 78, or else they were deliberately speeded up to make them sound more exciting. Whatever, the common consensus among musicologists is that we’ve been listening to Johnson at least 20% too fast. Numerous bloggers have helpfully slowed down Johnson’s best-known work and provided samples so that, for the first time, we can hear Johnson as he intended to be heard…
* Bob Dylan
As we make our deals with the Devil, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that Billboard magazine published the first pop music chart– the “Music Popularity Chart”– based on record sales. A listing of the ten most popular records, it became a weekly feature in 1940. It fluctuated in size from ten to 30 records until 1955, when Billboard introduced its first Top 100 chart. The “Hot 100” chart, now recognized as the definitive singles chart in the US, was first published on August 4th, 1958.
Indian food is categorically delicious: its flavors are complex, oscillating between sweet, savory, and spicy; its textures meld creamy sauces with doughy breads and tender meat and vegetables to make the slop of dreams. It’s a divine synthesis that is aromatic and sophisticated without being bougie. Hell, you can get a better-than-decent plate of it for nary more than the cost of a deli sandwich.
But what is it that makes Indian food so endlessly rich and tasty? Scientists were wondering, too, and recently performed an analysis of 2,500 recipes to find out…
Find illumination (and a timely life lesson) at “There’s a Scientific Reason Why Indian Food Is So Delicious.”
As we dive into the dal, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that Arlo Guthrie’s anthemic “Alice’s Restaurant was released. In 1965 (then 18-year-old) Arlo Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins were arrested by Stockbridge, MA police officer William “Obie” Obanhein for illegally dumping a bag a garbage after eating Thanksgiving dinner at Alice’s Restaurant. Guthrie and Robbins pled guilty, were fined $50 dollars each, and sentenced to pick up their garbage. Guthrie memorialized the incident in “The Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” which he first performed live on WBAI radio (a listener-supported station in New York); the song was so popular that the station would play it only after a listener made a substantial donation. Since then, as some readers will know, it’s become traditional for many classic rock radio stations to play the song each Thanksgiving.
The drum machine is one of the most effective musical inventions of our time. It’s affordable, easy to use, and ruthless in its precision, able to do exactly what it’s been told for as long as required (so long as you’ve got an AC adaptor). Of course, not everybody warms to the drum machine’s big plastic buttons and bright LED screen…
Starting from the Italian Futurists, “A Brief History of the Drum Machine in Rock Music.”
* The Go-Gos
As we lay in the loop, we might recall that it was on this date in 1990 that NARAS stripped Milli Vanilli of the Grammy that they had won earlier that year. One of the most popular pop acts in the late 1980s, their album debut album Girl You Know It’s True achieved international success and earned them the Grammy for Best New Artist. But when it was revealed that neither of the duo (Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus) had actually sung lead vocals on the albums songs, the award was withdrawn. The group recorded a comeback album, Back and in Attack, in 1998, but Rob Pilatus died before the album was released.