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Posts Tagged ‘music

“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”*…

 

Decode the pictures above– and experience synesthesia– at “This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like.”

* Leopold Stokowski

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As we move to the music of the spheres, we might send tuneful birthday greetings to Louis Armstrong; he was born on this date in 1901.  A trumpeter, composer, singer (and occasional actor), he was a foundational influence in jazz, shifting the focus of the music from collective improvisation to solo performance, and helping to pioneer scat singing.  Nicknamed Satchmo or Pops, he has 11 records in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

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Written by LW

August 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I get so lonely, I could die”*…

 

Elvis, with the Gold Record he received for his first Number One single

The story has been repeated thousands of times, with minor variations, in magazines, books, blogs and documentaries. In some versions, the heartbroken man shoots himself; in others, he leaps to his death from a hotel window. There are occasional references to a failed romance and to the destruction of all traces of identification before the fatal act. There’s always a one-line suicide note: “I walk a lonely street.”

But there’s never a name. For 60 years, the true identity of the man whose death inspired “Heartbreak Hotel” has remained a mystery. Florida songwriters Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton always claimed the creative spark for Elvis Presley‘s first-ever Number One hit was a 1955 newspaper story about an anonymous man’s suicide and his cryptic note about that “lonely street.” (The paper cited is usually The Miami Herald.) And yet, no one has ever turned up the article, or even provided much clarifying detail.

This is surprising, considering that “Heartbreak Hotel” had a colossal impact – both on Elvis’ career and on rock & roll history. It was Elvis’ first nationwide hit after a string of regional successes, and it changed the lives of countless future stars – John Lennon, George Harrison, Keith Richards and Robert Plant have all proclaimed its transformative effect. Elton John, recalling the day he first heard the song, said, “That weekend, my mum came home with ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ and that changed my life. … Elvis Presley changed everyone’s life. I mean, there would be no Beatles, there would be no Hendrix. There would be no Dylan.” Paul McCartney once declared it nothing less than the most important artistic creation of the modern era…

Finally, the full story at: “Solving the Mystery of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.”

* From “Heartbreak Hotel,” written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.

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As we walk down a lonely street, we might recall that it was on this this date in 1961 that Bill Harry’s pioneering English music paper, Mersey Beat, announced that the Beat Brothers had signed a recording contract. The Beat Brothers?  They had performed with another British musician, Tony Sheridan, in Hamburg for several months earlier that year; but while the partnership worked, Sheridan chose to remain in Germany when the quartet returned to Liverpool. We know the group better by the name they soon after adopted: The Beatles.  Two years later, on this very day, they would go to No. 1 on the U.K. album chart for the first time.

The Beat Brothers in Hamburg (with Pete Best on drums); Tony Sheridan, seated

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Written by LW

July 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“In a magazine, one can get – from cover to cover – 15 to 20 different ideas about life and how to live it”*…

 

Magazine publishing is a dark art. But the world of niche publishing—people who create magazines for necrophiliacs or donkey hobbyists, or for those of us who like to ride really small trains—features its own requirements…

See for yourself: “Brief Interviews With Very Small Publishers.”

* Maya Angelou

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As we turn the pages, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981 that the first issue of The Record, Canada’s music industry magazine of record, was published.  For two decades it provided the canonical sales charts for the Canadian music business both directly and as part of Billboard‘s “Hits of the World” section.  It ceased print publication in 1999, surviving as a website for another three years before closing altogether in 2001.

The Record’s founder, David Farrell (left) announcing NewCanadianMusic.ca in 2012

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Written by LW

July 13, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Without music to decorate it, time is just a bunch of boring production deadlines or dates by which bills must be paid”*…

 

On a theme we’ve visited before, an interactive map of the influences at play in the development of the musical genres we enjoy, from the general…

… to the specific…

… with navigational aids and background, to boot.

Explore at MusicMap. (And for a complementary take, try Every Noise at Once.)

* Frank Zappa

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As we hum along, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that The Shangri-Las, Johnny Tillotson, and “Many More”– including a band called “the Castiles” (which featured vocalist Bruce Springsteen) performed at the Surf ‘n See Club in Seabright, New Jersey.

From the July 1966 issue of “Mod Magazine,” a Jersey Shore teen publication

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Written by LW

July 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Whatever is a reality today… is going to be, like the reality of yesterday, an illusion tomorrow”*…

 

Marina Apollonio. Spazio Ad Attivazione Cinetica 6B, 1966-2015. El Museo del Barrio

Artists, like neuroscientists, are masters of visual systems. Through experimentation and observation, artists have developed innovative methods for fooling the eye, enabling flat canvases to appear three-dimensional, for instance. Neuroscience—and more recently the subfield of neuroaesthetics—can help to explain the biology behind these visual tricks, many of which were first discovered by artists. “I often go to art to figure out questions to ask about science,” says Margaret Livingstone, Takeda Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School. “Artists may not study the neuroscience per se, but they’re experimentalists.”

During the 1960s, Op Art—short for “Optical art”—combined the two disciplines by challenging the role of illusion in art. While earlier painters had created the illusion of depth where there was none, Op artists developed visual effects that called attention to the distortions at play. Abstract and geometric, their works relied upon the mechanics of the spectator’s eye to warp their compositions into shimmering and shifting displays of line and color. The Museum of Modern Art announced this international artistic trend in 1965 in a seminal exhibition titled “The Responsive Eye.” Since then, neuroscientists have continued to probe the mechanisms by which the human eye responds to these mind-bending works…

More on this intersection of art and science at “The Neuroscience of Op Art.” (And click here for a re-visit to Victor Vasarely, one of the fathers of Op Art.)

* Luigi Pirandello

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As we cross our eyes, we might spare a thought for Leon Botha; he died on this date in 2011, at the age of 26.  An important South African painter and DJ, Botha was one of the world’s oldest survivors of progeria.

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Written by LW

June 5, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Everything we do is Music”*…

 

It was… difficult to put a modern day figure on [the earnings of] the likes of Mozart, Beethoven and Wagner… for a few reasons. For a start, a lot of the musicians we took a look at were paid in long dead currencies such as thalers, ducats and florins – then there’s the fact that composers were also more likely to have made supplemental income from compositions and tutoring. Nevertheless, even with the usual caveats (there are admittedly a few problems with comparing 18th century incomes with 21st century incomes) we still thought you’d want to know if you’re out-earning the musical superstars of their day. So without further ado, why not take a look at the modern day salaries of famous composers…

Play the pay scales at “Do you Make More Money than Mozart?

[via Slipped Disc, thanks to friend MK]

* John Cage

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As we struggle to keep up with the Johanns, we might spare a thought for (the moderately-remunerated) Joseph Haydn; he died on this date in 1809.  An accomplished composer who was, effectively, the architect of the Classical style, Haydn wrote 106 symphonies, and was instrumental in the development of chamber music. His influence on later composers was immense: he mentored Mozart and taught Beethoven; his contributions to musical form have earned him the epithets “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet.”

Thomas Hardy‘s portrait of Haydn

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Written by LW

May 31, 2016 at 1:01 am

“I certainly was one of the originators, but I don’t think you can blame me for everything”*…

 

In advance of an appearance at London’s ICA (which, in the event, didn’t happen),  a conversation with Mark Smith, musician (The Fall) and founder of the legendary punk fanzine Sniffin’ Glue— which quickly became a vital outlet for punk in the 70s.

It’s different today because you’ve got the internet. If we want to have our say on anything we can go straight online to our blog, our Facebook page, our Twitter. But remember, in the 70s there wasn’t any of that. If you wanted to get your voice out there, you had to actually do something. When you started a fanzine in the old days, you had to actually cut and paste. You used felt-tip pen and cow gum to physically cut and paste it together. And then you’d go down the local photocopying shop. In those days, nobody had their own photocopiers. I mean, nowadays most printers can photocopy and in those days, you had to get up off your bum and go down the photocopying shop. It was more of a hands-on process. I don’t think there’s any need for fanzines, in the same way, these days because people can just start blogs and that, can’t they? You can put it all on YouTube. There are more ways of getting your voice out there nowadays and in the 70s there wasn’t, so you had to go and start a fanzine…

More first-hand history– and more cover art– at “Tracing the beginnings of the punk fanzine.”

* Mark Smith

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As we we give ourselves over to Submission, we might spare a thought for Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington; he died on this date in 1974.  A composer, pianist, and bandleader, Ellington is generally credited with elevating the perception of jazz to an art form on a par with other more traditional musical genres.  In a career that spanned 60 years (he wrote his first song,”Poodle Dog Rag,” in 1914, at the age of 15 while working as a soda jerk in the Poodle Dog Cafe in Washington, D.C.), Ellington wrote more than one thousand compositions– the largest recorded personal jazz legacy– many, many of which become standards (“Mood Indigo,” “It Don’t Mean A Thing [If You Ain’t Got That Swing],” “Take the A Train,” and many, many others).   As a performer, his career spanned continents, and ran from The Cotton Club to Carnegie Hall.  As a recording artist he sold millions of records and won 12 Grammy Awards, plus the Grammy for Lifetime Achievement and membership in the Grammy Hall of Fame (among many other Hall of Fame memberships and musical laurels).  He won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969, was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize in 1999.

And, as regular readers may recall, he had something to teach us all about the fine art of eating.

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Written by LW

May 24, 2016 at 1:01 am

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