Category Archives: Music

And now for something completely different. . .


There’s a month left before New Year’s, but the past 11 months have already been too much for Canadian comedian/singers Flo & Joan [sisters Nicola and Rosie Dempsey] to compose a [NSFW] maledictory valedictory for 2016, a year that’s already earned its placed in the Gregorian Calendar Hall of Shame.

From Flo & Joan:

The 2016 Song

Program note:

Flo & Joan’s 2016 song

DISCLAIMER: We got our facts wrong and it wasn’t a bombing in Nice. We’re sorry for any offence this may have caused.

H/T to Metafilter.

Mr. Fish: This Party Enables Fascists


From Clowncrack, his blog of incisive iconomania, an image about those who did more than any others to ensure the election of the despicable:

blog-fish
The image is an ironic homage to perhaps the most famous image of America’s preeminent balladeer, Woody Guthrie:

blog-woody-2

Guthrie was the poet laureate of the American worker and farmer, writing songs about the labor movement, the plight of the working class, and need to protest inequities wherever they are found.

No post about Guthrie is complete without his most famous song, a ballad which, in any reasonable world, would replace our bellicose, unsingable  national national anthem:

Woody Guthrie: This Land Is Your Land

People are growing unhappy with the boob tube


In part, because they have to spend a growing amount of their time simply skimming through the onscreen channel guides to find a program that grabs their attention, and at the current rate, they’ll be spending more than a year of their lives doing just that.

From the Hollywood Reporter:

There’s more TV available and consumers are paying more for the privilege, but 44 percent of viewers in the U.S. complain that there is nothing worth watching, according to a massive study released Thursday.

The average person spends 23 minutes per day trying to find something good to watch on broadcast TV and will dedicate 1.3 years of their lives changing channels and studying their on-screen guides, according to Ericsson ConsumerLab’s TV and Media 2016.

Ericsson surveyed 30,000 people in 24 countries and says its study represents the TV habits of more than 1 billion people worldwide.

The 44 percent of Americans who say they have trouble finding worthy shows to watch represents a big uptick over last year, when 36 percent had a similar complaint.

However, more people are watching online streaming services, and they’re watching them on the phone, iPads and other mobile devices, the study reports, with mobile views up 86 percent since 2010, while views on the tube have dropped by 14 percent.

We leave the last word to The Boss, singing about something that’s even truer today than when he recorded the song in 1992:

Bruce Springsteen — 57 Channels [And Nothin’ On]

It’s a red letter day for American pop culture icons


Dy;lsn wins the Big One

Three stories from BBC News, starting with the big one:

US singer Bob Dylan has been awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, becoming the first songwriter to win the prestigious award.

The 75-year-old rock legend received the prize “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.

The balladeer, artist and actor is the first American to win since novelist Toni Morrison in 1993.

His songs include Blowin’ in the Wind and The Times They are A-Changin’.

Sara Danius, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, said Dylan had been chosen because he was “a great poet in the English speaking tradition”.

And what’s a Dylan piece without a song?:

Bob Dylan The Times They Are A Changin’ 1964

Wonder Woman lassos a United Nations honor

Yep, this time the nod goes to a comic book character and comes with corporate sponsorship.

From BBC News:

The United Nations (UN) is to name comic book character Wonder Woman as its new Honorary Ambassador for the Empowerment of Woman and Girls.

The UN said the character will be formally sworn in at a ceremony on 21 October at its New York headquarters. DC Entertainment president Diane Nelson will accept the role for her company’s comic book, TV and film character.

The event will also launch the UN’s campaign for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

It is being sponsored by Warner Bros and DC Entertainment who are supporting the UN and Unicef’s year-long campaign.

The United nations honor comes just two weeks after the fictional character came out of her equally fictional closet.

From BBC News again:

DC Comic writer Greg Rucka says Wonder Woman “must be queer” and has had relationships with other women.

In an interview with Comicosity he defined queer as “involving, although not necessarily exclusively, romantic and/or sexual interest toward persons of the same gender”.

In the comic books, Wonder Woman is known as Diana, a warrior princess of the Amazons.

Studies reveal music’s big impacts on growing brain


We’ve always been passionate believers in the value of music and art ecducation starting at the earliest years.

Gowing up in Kansas in the 1950s, we were the beneficiary of musical education that started in elementary school, where we participated in both singing and band programs, acquiring a love of music that has lasted throughout these last seven decades.

Our paternal grandmother was an elementary school teacher in Abilene, Kansas, and music was a critical part of her daily teaching. After her death in 1959, we received a letter from one her colleagues, telling us that one of her students had written that he still found inspiration in songs he had learned in her first and second grade classes.

The pupil was Dwight David Eisenhower, then serving as President of the United States.

Music and fine arts programs slashed as testing rises

But today, in classrooms across the country, education is music and the fine arts has fallen prey to a combination of budget cuts and the relentless imperative of the standardized test, a regime designed to turn out cogs in the machine rather than well-rounded, independent-minded individuals.

As the journal of the National Education Association reported in 2014:

Across the nation, the testing obsession has nudged aside visual arts, music, physical education, social studies, and science, not to mention world languages, financial literacy, and that old standby, penmanship. Our schools, once vigorous and dynamic centers for learning, have been reduced to mere test prep factories, where teachers and students act out a script written by someone who has never visited their classroom and where “achievement” means nothing more than scoring well on a bubble test.

“NCLB [No Child Left Behind] has corrupted what it means to teach and what it means to learn,” explains NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “Teachers have to teach in secret and hope they don’t get into trouble for teaching to the Whole Child instead of teaching to the test.”

A Google search for the words “music education elementary schools eliminated” turns up more than a million hits, a tragic litany of stories reporting slashed programs across the nation and throughout much of the Western world.

Musical training improves standardized testing scores

Ironically, music education actually improves children’s test scores, as the Children’s Music Workshop notes:

Music education programs increase children’s cognitive development. Also, research shows that “preschoolers who took daily 30 minute group singing lessons and a weekly 10-15 minute private keyboard lesson scored 80 percent higher in object assembly skills than students who did not have the music lessons,” as reported in a 1994 study by Frances Rauscher and Gordon Shaw at the University of California, Irvine (Harvey, 1997). It is clear that music education programs dramatically stimulate a child’s learning capacity, as shown in drastic increases in the scores of children who participated in music programs. Music education programs can begin as early as preschool and should continue for the greatest results.

When music education is sustained throughout the elementary years, children continue to learn better through the clear connections between music and other areas of study. For instance, a 1999 study presented in Neurological Research reveals that when second and third-grade students were taught fractions through basic music rhythm notation, they “scored a full 100% higher on fractions tests than those who learned in the conventional manner.” This study shows that the students who learned about the mathematical concept of fractions related their music knowledge of the relationships between eighth, quarter, half and whole notes in order to fully understand the material.

Students in music programs consistently score better on tests, as also exemplified in the 2001 study compiled by Music Educators National Conference, which exhibits that “SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 41 points higher on the math portion than students with no coursework/experience in the arts.” It is obvious that when students have experience in music education in both the elementary and high school level, they perform considerably better in other important subjects as well. Music education programs in the elementary school level are necessary for the future success of students in all subject areas.

Musical training reshapes the brain

A major study by scientists from Harvard and McGill University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience [open access] used brain imaging to map changes in children’s brains resulting from musical study concluded with this summary:

M]usical training over only 15 months in early childhood leads to structural brain changes that diverge from typical brain development. Regional training-induced structural brain changes were found in musically relevant regions that were driven by musically relevant behavioral tests. The fact there were no structural brain differences found between groups before the onset of musical training indicates that the differential development of these brain regions is induced by instrumental practice rather by than preexisting biological predictors of musicality. These results provide new evidence for training-induced structural brain plasticity in early childhood. These findings of structural plasticity in the young brain suggest that long-term intervention programs can facilitate neuroplasticity in children. Such an intervention could be of particular relevance to children with developmental disorders and to adults with neurological diseases.

And yet another study proves the power of music. . .and dance

And now comes yet another study revealing the direct impact of education in music and dance on the brains of growing children.

From Concordia University in Montreal:

Endless hours at the barre. Long afternoons practising scales. All that time you spent in piano lessons and dance classes as a youngster may have seemed like a pain, but new research now confirms what your parents claimed: it’s good for mind and body.

In fact, a recent study published in NeuroImage ($35.95 to access] by a team* of researchers from the the International Laboratory for Brain, Music and Sound Research, proves that dance and music training have even stronger effects on the brain than previously understood — but in markedly different ways.

The researchers used high-tech imaging techniques to compare the effects of dance and music training on the white matter structure of experts in these two disciplines. They then examined the relationship between training-induced brain changes and dance and music abilities.

Continue reading

Legal marijuana leads in cross-country polling


From the Los Angeles Times:

In California, a post-debate SurveyUSA poll of 751 likely voters found that Proposition 64, which would legalize, tax and regulate the sale of recreational marijuana, is supported by 52 percent of the electorate and opposed by 41 percent, with 6 percent undecided. This is a lower margin than some other recent polls there, which have pegged support at 60 percent or more.

Across the country in Massachusetts, the marijuana legalization measure there enjoys 53 percent support among likely voters, according to a recent WBZ-UMASS Amherst poll of 700 likely voters. Forty percent oppose it, while another 7 percent are unsure. That’s also a turnaround from an earlier poll of 900 registered voters, which found only 41 percent supported the measure.

Up the coast in Maine, a late September poll of 505 likely voters found 53 percent support for the legalization measure, 38 percent opposed to it and 10 percent undecided. This number has been fairly stable since the spring.

A poll fielded last week of 500 likely voters in Nevada found the legalization measure there leading with 57 percent support, compared to 33 percent opposing it. That number is sharply at odds with a Review-Journal survey of 800 likely voters, fielded at the exact same time, which found the legalization measure leading by just 1 percentage point, well within the margin of error.

What more to say?

We’ll leave the last word to the Rainy Daze and their 49-year-old hit:

That Acapulco Gold

Graphic Representation: Politics, with art & music


Today’s graphic offerings look at American politics from the other side of the pond.

Our first offering, from the Guardian, translates an Olympic phenomenon and takes it to the political arena:

Ben Jennings: The cupping of Uncle Sam

BLOG Eurotoon Jennings Trump

And the Independent watches The Donald’s transformation:

Dave Brown: Lighter than air

BLOG Eurotoon Bronw Trump

Finally, from the Guardian once again:

Martin Rowson: Celebrating Syrian airstrikes

BLOG Eurotoon Rowson Syria

We love European cartoonists, in part because their works so often reference great artists of the past.

In this last case, Rowson is playing on a remarkable image created by a German artist in the wake of a succession of continent-wide sieges of bubonic plague the century before which had killed about 80 percent of the population of his country. Smaller outbreaks were still continuing at the time a German artist created one of the most memorable images in the history of art:

Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, from folio CCLXI recto of Hartman Schedel’s Historia mundi, printed in Nuremberg in 1493.

Danse macabre by Michael Wolgemut, teacher of Albrecht Dürer, from folio CCLXI recto of Hartman Schedel’s Historia mundi, printed in Nuremberg in 1493.

The Danse macabre was a frequent motif in Medieval art, with the earliest known instance appearing in a Paris cemetery in 1424, and it has stopped fascinating artists since.

One artist inspired by the dance of death was French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, and his work is one you’re already familiar with, because you’ve heard it on the soundtrack of countless movies.

Saint-Saëns took his inspiration from the poem by Henri Cazalis [1840-1909], translated thusly by Wikipedia:

Zig, zig, zig, Death in cadence,
Striking with his heel a tomb,
Death at midnight plays a dance-tune,
Zig, zig, zig, on his violin.
The winter wind blows and the night is dark;
Moans are heard in the linden-trees.
Through the gloom, white skeletons pass,
Running and leaping in their shrouds.
Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking.
The bones of the dancers are heard to crack-
But hist! of a sudden they quit the round,
They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

Forthwith, and from the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, Euege Ormandy conducting:

Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse Macabre


You can also hear it played by a classical guitar trio, a Finnish accordion maestro, a bass clarinet quartet [and damn, those clarinets are YUGE], and a Korean viola quartet, all all-saxophone orchestra, and a 1930’s Argentine jazz band [grooovy].

Finally, the Danse Macabre itself [not the Saint-Saëns version] also attracted the attention of Walt Disney’s animators way back in 1929.

Enjoy [via Geoffroy Biencourt]:

Silly Symphonies – La Danse Macabre