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    Listen To The Music of San Francisco’s Wave Organ

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    If your plans for 2015 include some road trips, consider visiting San Francisco’s wave organ to experience that music is truly everywhere if you’re willing to listen.

     

    Located on a man-made jetty off the city’s marina, this piece of art uses the movement of the waves to make music. Put your ear to one of the “organ pipes” and you can hear the low notes that make a wonderful contrast to the light splashing of the waves. What is a special treat is that the sounds are always altering based on the strength of the tide and the movement of the water once inside the pipes. It is almost as if every day brings a new concert! To get a sense of the sound, we’ve included a YouTube video from a visitor. We hear the music is wonderfully strong and vibrant at high tide.

     

    The wave organ was created in 1986 by artists  Peter Richards and George Gonzalez for science museum Exploratorium. The pipes are made from PVC pipes and concrete while the structure and seating are made from remaining parts from a demolished cemetery as well as recycled curbstones from the city, which give visitors a sense of being among ancient ruins.

     

    In 2010, Richards told Exploratorium TV about how he visits his artwork: “If I give myself five minutes, I find that my blood pressure drops and my hearing becomes more acute and I become a part of the soundscape … Your body and your psyche relaxes and fits in to what’s there.”

     

    To learn more about experience the wave organ, visit the SF Weekly, Exploratorium TV and Atlas Obscura.

     

    Happy travels!

     

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    Imagine Charlie Brown Without Vince Guaraldi’s Music

    There are few cartoons that have as strong a musical component as the Peanuts. You may not know the name Vince Guarladi or the song’s title “Linus and Lucy” but chances are you know the song. It is upbeat and perhaps in your mind’s eye you can see The Peanuts gang dancing to it, jumping and moving their head side from side to side.

     

    In so many ways it is difficult to separate the song from the animated characters, especially this time of the year when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is watched in so many households.

     

    Did you know that this song happened simply because of a drive near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco?

     

    According to a PRI story, writer and producer Lee Mendelson was working on a Charles Schulz documentary when he heard Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Face to the Wind.” Try listening to the song and you’ll see how it influenced Guaraldi’s later work.

     

    “Something in my mind said, ‘That’s the kind of music that I’m looking for,’” Mendelson told PRI, “It’s adult-like, but also child-like. It seemed to fit our characters.”

     

    Mendelson and Guaraldi met and the musician agreed to write a score for the Christmas special that aired in 1965. It was one of the first times that mainstream American audiences were exposed to jazz music and both the cartoon and music became an instant hit. At the time, half of American households watched the special.

     

    So, the next time you watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” enjoy the music, its importance in jazz history and know that this great collaboration of art and music is due to a car drive.

     

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    Mix Up Your Christmas Playlist With These Songs

    What is wonderful about this time of year is all thegreat wintry, timeless, melodic music we don’t usually hear 11 months of the year. However, we know that the same limited selection of songs are played over nad over on the radio and at the mall. If you would like to mix up your holiday playlist at home, we have some wonderful suggestions for you.

     

    Idina Menzel & Michael Bublé – Baby It’s Cold Outside

    Menzel of “Frozen” fame and crooner Bublé’s voices are perfectly suited for this classic song. It’s a beautiful rendition and this video is just oozing with cuteness by having children star in this video. Not to worry, the singers make a cameo appearance in their own video.

     

    Elizabeth Chan – “Fa La La”

    According to the Los Angeles Times, Chan is a former marketing executive for Conde Nast and Self magazine who left her job to pursue holiday music. She released third album this year we like how that it’s upbeat and happy. You just want to join everyone in the video and start dancing.

    Liz Phair, “Ho, Ho, Ho”


    If you are tired of the saccharine lyrics of classic Christmas songs, Liz Phair is for you. In her “Ho, ho, ho” she sings: All I wanted was one perfect Christmas / All I got was some coal and some switches / That’s ain’t no sleigh bell jingling on the rooftop / The landlord is here and he’s changing the locks. Still the music is fun and poppy and she has a knack for making Santa’s classic laugh — Ho, ho, ho — sound new and fresh.

     

    Kristen Bell and Straight No Chaser – Text Me Merry Christmas

    We wrote about this song a month ago in a blog post. We still think it is a fun holiday song with on-target lyrics about technology in our lives. It’s worth seeing the video again!

     

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    How Music Affects The Way You Taste Food

    As you prepare your special holiday meal this season and seek to create the perfect sonic background for you and your guests, consider integrating some science into your music selection.

     

    National Public Radio reports that research is being done on “sonic seasoning,” or how music affects the way people taste food. Yes, this is a field of study! As a general rule, higher-pitched music, such as flutes and pianos, brings out the flavor of sweet or sour foods. On the other end of the spectrum, lower-pitched sounds, including tubas and cellos, enhance bitter flavors.

     

    Charles Spence, of the University of Oxford who is one of the leading thinkers on the sensory perception of food, told NPR:

     

    “Flavor is probably one of the most multi-sensory of our experiences … because it does involve taste and more smell than we realize. But all of the senses come together to give us that one unified experience of flavor.”

     

    In his study, Spence found that pairing drinks and food with the right music can positively alter the taste of the food by as much as 5 to 10 percent.

     

    Of course, what makes great music so enjoyable is the complexity of sounds. For the most part, it is difficult to find a dinner song that is all high notes or all low notes, usually songs incorporate both elements. Still, this is interesting something to consider the next time you host a meal!

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    Celebrating The Holidays With Music and Jammies

    You know it is the holiday season when local radio stations play Christmas music 24 hours a day and the malls are filled with Santas ready to hear what’s on children’s wish lists. A new tradition has spring for those who follow YouTube viral videos.  You know it’s Christmas when the Holderness family creates their holiday video.

     

    And what a treat it is this year!

     

    The North Carolina family, which includes a mom, dad and two children, became Internet famous last year with their holiday video “XMAS Jammies.” In a video they intended for family and friends, the Holderness family donned matching pajamas, sang and danced together and generated more than 15 million views on YouTube. This year, their holiday video “card” is  “#JammieTime” and is set to the tune of REM’s “It’s the End of the World”

     

    While throwing fake snowballs and jumping on trampolines with guitars and cowbells, they sing “It’s the end of the year and we love it.”

     

    We wrote a blog post about their back-to-school video “Baby Got Class,” which we thought was hilarious and spot on about what it is really like to get children ready for school. Again, we cannot help but like this family who likes making music together and having fun.

     

    Watch the video and enjoy the holiday season!

     

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    A Shocking Statement on Music Education

    Most of us bemoan the state of music instruction at public schools and some of us are compelled to write a letter to the editor or speak at a school board meeting.

     

    Arizona artist Julie Comnick shows her distaste another way. She burns musical instruments.

     

    Her latest work, “Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra,” displayed at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum shows the destruction of 100 old violins that could no longer be played. She recorded their burning, which lasted from sunrise to sunset. Then, Comnick painted and drew their destruction and saved some of the burnt violins and showcased them together.

     

    It certainly is a shocking piece of art from what we can see in the photographs. Despite the fact that we knew the violins were beyond repair, we could not help but cringe at their destruction and the story that each one had, of a child or adult devoting hours to playing it as perfectly as possible.

     

    Comnick said her art is a statement against reduced funding for the arts in public school and a technology-infused culture where everything is on demand and lasts a second. With the current culture as a backdrop, how can children learn a skill that takes years to develop and requires quiet and prolonged practice?

     

    Yet, we think the real story is in Comnick’s personal relationship with music.

     

    In describing her latest artwork, Comnick writes: “As the only child of a piano teacher, I was instructed at an early age to choose an instrument and stick with it.  At age eight I selected the violin, and at eighteen I put it down.  The years between were fraught with accomplishment and ambivalence as I excelled at an instrument that in my adolescence I didn’t feel particularly passionate about.  To re-familiarize myself with the instrument after an eighteen-year hiatus, I resumed violin lessons and incorporated music practice into my studio practice.”

     

    Call us crazy, but this art and Comnick’s backstory makes us feel hopeful. After so many years of leaving behind the violin and violently destroying it in her artwork, Comnick chose to resume instruction and performed music as part of her artwork. There is this unspoken strong connection that makes us feel good.

     

    What do you think?

     

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    At 82, Woman Still Plays The Pipe Organ For Her Church

    You are never too old to learn how to sing or play the piano and, at The Music Junction, we have students of all ages. Taking on music as a hobby as you grow older can bring significant benefits to your brain including improvement in memory, verbal fluency and processing information, according to researchers. It also can be a great way to meet new people.

     

    If you need further motivation, read about Virginia Knapp, from North Platte, Nebraska. At 82 years old, she plays the pipe organ for her Lutheran church and she is even more demand this time of year playing for Advent, Christmas Eve and Christmas services.

     

    As a child, Virginia grew up taking piano lessons but stopped as life commitments — namely, education, marriage and children — left her with little free time. While in her 30s, a friend wondered if she would be interested in learning to play the organ and she agreed. She has immersed herself by taking lessons, attending workshops and meeting other church organists.

     

    “I’m always happy when someone tells me they enjoy my music,” Knapp told her local newspaper, The North Platte Telegraph.

     

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    Malawi Mouse Boys

     

     

    Those of us at The Music Junction believe talent is everywhere and inside all of us. You do not have to be born with music ability to be a great singer nor do you have to be rich to create beautiful music.

     

    We came across an NPR story that is a wonderful reminder about talent. Also, you’ll quickly become enchanted with this music!

     

    The Malawi Mouse Boys spend several hours every Sunday singing for their church. The rest of the week, they hunt mice to sell as snacks to travelers along a stretch of highway.

     

    And that’s how they met Ian Brennan, a San Francisco-based music producer who has worked with artists such as Corin Tucker of Sleater Kinney, Lucinda Williams and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. A few years ago, he happened to be traveling in Malawi and came across these young men selling mice and asked one of them to sing.

     

    “And he played it so quietly it was almost inaudible,” Brennan remembers. “But when he came to the chorus, this group of 20 kids that was pressing in, from age 2, to age 18 or so, all kicked in on the chorus in multi-part harmony. And the sun was literally going down, with surround sound and one of the most musical moments I’d ever had in my life.”

     

    Using only their voice and handmade instruments —  guitars are built with sheet metal and tree limbs while plastic water coolers and bicycle spokes serve as percussion instruments — Brennan recorded an album that was published in the United Kingdom. In fact Songlines magazine named it the best gospel album of 2014.

     

    “Their voices are really the core,” Brennan says. “They have such a unity that I think it’s very similar to the Carter Family or The Jackson 5, where it’s familial. They’ve been singing together their whole lives, people that have developed their voices literally together, that have learned to listen together, have opened their ears to each other and with each other.”

     

    The Malawi Mouse Boys recently performed in California and will appear at the WOMAD festival next year in Australia. You can also buy their music here.

     

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    Get Submerged in John Luther Adams’ Music

    If there is anyone that may be sad to see the end of 2014 it may be John Luther Adams.

     

    He had a wonderful year in which he won the Pulitzer Prize for music, was named on many critics “Best of” list for his “Become Ocean” with the Seattle Symphony and continued to receive praise for his newest work “Sila: The Breath of The World” that is performed outdoors without any barrier betweens musicians and the audience and, in which, performers play apart in groups without a conductor.

     

    So, if you’re still looking for holiday gifts or want to widen your musical interests in 2015, check out Adams’ work.

     

    You can buy, stream or download “Become Ocean” now and you don’t have to be a music expert to get the distinct feeling of being submerged in water.  On a deeper level, the piece is about climate change and Adams made an apocalyptic reference in his program notes:

     

    “Life on this earth first emerged in the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again, we might quite literally ‘become ocean.’”

     

    In describing his work, Northern Public Radio noted: “‘Become Ocean’ ushers you in and swallows you up. It’s gorgeous, darkly beautiful and ultimately unsettling.”

     

    How is that for praise?

     

    If you would like to hear more of Adams’ work try listening to the more upbeat “songbirdsong.”

     

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    The Algorithms Behind Christmas Music

    If you’re like us, you love holiday music. And, since we know that Music Junction musicians are great students, we thought we’d offer the science behind holiday playlists for today’s blog.

    Online news site FiveThirtyEight — the team that has been known to accurately predict presidential elections — dissected the holiday playlist for us. As you can imagine, there is nothing spontaneous about playing Christmas music or selecting songs. Everything is a well-calculated occurrence designed to make listeners happy.

    Here are some interesting nuggets we discovered:

     

    • Creating the playlist. The holiday playlist is created as early as July. Although the playlist — what FiveThirtyEight likes to call a “December cocktail” — is pretty much the same year to year, radio programmers are always looking for a few new tunes to put into the set. After the cocktail is created, they wait and tentatively plan to transition to the holiday format after Thanksgiving. But they are always ready to “flip the switch” earlier if circumstances warrant it.

    “That could be a sudden cold snap coming in, and it starts snowing one afternoon. It could be some big thing going on in the world where everybody’s in a bad mood, and they need a little pick-me-up,” says Darren Davis, iHeartMedia’s president of networks.

     

    • Song Repetition. If you’re like us and listen to KOST 103.5 during the holidays you’ll notice a lot of the same songs play over and over! That’s not a mistake and lot of other stations do it too. In fact, the top 15 songs make up half of the music played on the radio. See the top 20 list that includes “Sleigh Ride” (1), “Winter Wonderland” (2) and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (3) here.

     

    • Popular Singers. Of course, radio stations play different versions of the top 15 songs. For instance, the most popular song, “Sleigh Ride” is performed by Harry Connick Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and Andy Williams, along with many others. Yet, there are some songs that are so associated with the singer that radio stations only play his or her song. Think of Burt Ives singing “Frosty the Snowman” and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” Who is the most played artist? Jose Feliciano and his version of “Feliz Navidad”! Is it just us or does it seem like some aspiring musicians could get noticed doing their rendition of “Feliz Navidad”?

     

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