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    Promoting Science Through Music

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    When we imagine the people who work for NASA, we think of rocket scientists who help us understand life outside of Earth. But do you know they also put out great music videos?

    Well, their interns do.

    Interns at Johnson Space Center in Texas have a unique tradition of creating funny parody videos with versions of “Gangnam Style” and the “Harlem Shake” that had us laughing. Now, they have come up with a twist to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” with “All About That Space.”

    The video have interns dancing among some pretty cool shoots of the space center. It’s a nice inside glimpse of their “office,” which many of us will never see for ourselves.

    And what exactly do they sing about? Here’s a sample:

     

    Hey they’re working so hard, don’t you love these NASA guys?

    They will take us so far the first time that Orion flies.

    You know we’re travellin’ to deep destinations ‘fore to long,

    So if that’s what you’re into then join in and ride along.

    I’m all about that space

    ‘Bout that space, space travel

    I’m all about that space

    ‘Bout that space, space travel

    I’m all about that space

    ‘Bout that space

    Hey!

     

    The video was meant to promote the test launch of Orion on Dec. 5, which worked on us. We discovered that Orion will someday take people deep in space, hopefully as fars as Mars! The test flight successfully circled the earth twice in just over four hours.

    Also, if you need more proof on how much scientists like music, check out this blog post!

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    Have Tests Coming Up? Play Classical Music

    Even when you are not actively listening to classical music you are still benefiting from it.

    Does that make sense? Let us explain.

    The University of Southern California’s news page cited several studies that show the benefits of passively listening to classical music. One study published in Human Physiology found that children who listened to an hour of classical music a day had greater levels of relaxation, even if they were never explicitly told to pay attention to it. Another published report discovered that students scored higher on tests when their lecture included classical music playing in the background.

    “The researchers speculated that the music put students in a heightened emotional state, making
 them more receptive to information,” USC wrote.

    This information can be useful reminder to college and high school students facing finals during this time of year. If you want to be relaxed, focused and retain information, listen to classical music! It is just what your brain needs.

    Yet, not all classical music is created equal for studying.

    Alan Chapman, host and producer for KUSC (USC’s nonprofit classical music station) explains that orchestral pieces that ranges from  “whispers to booming cannons” are too distracting. Instead, choose solo piano pieces, including Mozart sonatas or French piano music by Poulenc,
 Debussy or Fauré. Chapman also recommend guitar and lute music. To jumpstart your music listening, we included one of our favorite pieces, “Claire de Lune,” which we find so soothing.

    Enjoy!

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    The Muppets Do Hip Hop

    When you think of the Muppets — from skinny-legged Kermit to the furry Fozzie — do you think hip hop?

    Well, at least one person (and, possibly, a feline) does. Using the moniker, Mylo The Cat, a young man has culled several old television clips from The Muppet Show and mashed them together to make hilarious music videos. The latest viral hit is Naughty By Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” and we were impressed with how well the video syncs the speed of the rap lyrics with shots of the Muppets talking. Mylo The Cat also has created music videos with the Muppets using the Beastie Boy’s “So What’cha Want,” House of Pain’s “Jump Around” and Dre and Snoop’s “Deep Cover,” which can all be seen on Mylo’s YouTube page.

    In an interview with the Bubble Blabber blog, Mylo The Cat admitted that making these videos is not easy.

    “This latest video took around 12 hours of editing time, but I spent months looking for the right song, and also for the right clips to use,” he says. “The process of making the Muppets videos is pretty awful actually. I do love doing it, but it’s the most tedious thing in the world, so patience is absolutely key.”

    Thanks for letting us know about the video MTV!

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    Gift Guide For Musicians and Music-Lovers

    It is never too early or too late to start thinking about your holiday shopping list. Why not give the musicians or music-lovers in your life a gift that supports their interests?

    We’ve compiled a short list of some thoughtful gifts. What kind of gifts music-centered gifts do you like to give? Let us know in the comments section!

     

    Tab Station: What we learned from our review of the Ireal Pro app is that carrying piles of sheet music will soon be a thing of the past for advanced musicians. Now that so much information can be stored on a tablet or smartphone, why not give a gift that caters to our tech-focused world? The Tab station is a music stand that is designed to fit an iPad and can also be repurposed as a podium for making presentations.

     

    USB Mix Tape: Way, way back in the ‘80s (and maybe some of the early ‘90s) making a mixtape was a thing. People labored over selecting just the right songs for a crush or best friend. Then, mix tapes disappeared. Bring back some of this nostalgia with this gift. It comes with a USB drive to create your own playlist and place it in a box with wonderful designs of a tape.

     

    Song Reader: Beck’s song reader came out two years ago but we still think it is a wonderful gift. The genre-breaking artist created a set of 20 songs that had never been released or performed.  It is a great way to get in some extra practice time. Since its initial release, people have been posting their renditions of Beck’s Song Reader on this website. We love the different interpretations and skill levels. It is a real treat!

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    A Fun New Christmas Song

    If you’re like us, you have been listening to Christmas tunes since before Thanksgiving. We can’t help it, getting our Andy Williams, Elvis Presley and Wham! fix takes more than 25 days.

    Now, there’s a new song to add to your holiday playlist and we love it for its lightheartedness and accuracy about today’s culture. Performed by “Frozen” and “Veronica Mars” actress Kristen Bell along with a cappella group Straight No Chaser, “Text Me Merry Christmas” will have you laughing.

    Samples lyrics include:

    This holiday/You’ll be far away/And I’ll be all alone/So please remember/This December To fully charge your phone/And Text me Merry Christmas/Let me know you care

    A Facebook message isn’t quite as sweet/I need more from @you than just a tweet/A snap on snapchat doesn’t last/And voicemail?/That’s from Christmas past/Text me Merry Christmas/Send a selfie too.

    Straight No Chaser member Randy Stine said: “We wanted a Christmas song that spoke to how informal communication has become. As soon as we heard the first demo it was apparent that it had to be a duet … the only voice we heard singing this was Kristen Bell and she nailed every note and delivered the lyrics with the perfect comedic tone. We were hanging on her every word … when we weren’t looking at our phones.”

    Do you want other unique holiday songs to add to your playlist? Check out these recommendations from USA Today.

    Do you like the traditional tunes? Check out this playlist from Kost 103.5.

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    For Thanksgiving, Throw Away Your Kitchen Timer and Use This App

    Happy Thanksgiving! If your morning and afternoon will be spent in the kitchen chopping vegetables and basting a turkey we found a way to have some fun.

    According to the New York Post, music streaming service Spotify has removed the need for a kitchen timer. Its Time for Turkey feature will allow you to play music while your bird cooks and when the jams stop it is time to remove the bird! You begin by entering the weight of the turkey including whether it is stuffed or stuffed (Spotify uses the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines of cooking a turkey at 325 degrees). Then, select one of five music genres that range from Americana to dance music to oldies and start dancing in your kitchen for the next few hours!

    And don’t forget to heed Spotify’s advice: “But please take care – baste, check and check again. No matter how hot the music, an undercooked party will kill the party.”

    We agree!

    If you want more music options, check out our earlier blog post that has some great curated playlists.

    Enjoy your day!

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    The Life of a Music Major Requires A Lot of Practicing

    If you think you practice music a lot, check out the life of a music major.

    An article from The Daily O’Collegian from Oklahoma State University shows the amount of commitment students need for their craft and it is an interesting read if you’re deciding on majoring in music.

    Student Corrine Bean is a music education major and says she spends 13 hours a day at the university’s performing arts complex that include taking classes and studying music. Although she is primarily a cello player, her university requires that she learn another instrument as well as take vocal lessons. She also participates in her school choral and strings group. That is a lot of work!

    Bean wants to score movies after she graduates is preparing herself with her thesis project that includes playing three cello pieces and an original composition.

    By the way, unless you are a music major it would be hard to spend 13 hours a day on your instrument.  If you would like to know a how much a practice, it is hard for us to give universal advice. Although generally the youngest musicians should practice 15 minutes a day and older, more advanced musicians should devote an hour a day, the truth is that quality is more important than quantity. If you lose interest or concentration, take a break. If, after the break, you still cannot focus, move on.  And do not try to make up for lost time with a marathon session on the weekend.

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    Keep A Journal Of Your Music Lessons

    Do you keep a journal of your music lessons?

    Chances are a teacher from The Music Junction has recommended it because chronicling your practice can inspire you about the progress you’ve made. It can also help you figure out how long it takes to master a piece of music, which can be useful when preparing for recitals.

    Any notebook will work or, if you want something more specific, you can download a music log here.

    If you need some additional inspiration for keeping a journal, read this New Yorker story by Jeremy Denk, a professional pianist who has played with Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and London. It is cutely titled “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and discusses how Denk rediscovered his music journal that dates back as far as 1981. Each page is filled with suggestions for improvement by various instructors as well as his insecurities. It also serves as a diary of his life and the important role instructors have played in his life.

    Denk wrote: “There’s a labyrinth of voices inside your head, a counterpoint of self-awareness and the remembered sayings of your guides and mentors, who don’t always agree. Sometimes you wish you could go back and ask your teachers again to guide you; but up there onstage, exactly where they always wanted you to be, you must simply find your way. They have given all the help they can; the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”

    We agree.

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    Fusing Two Cultures Through Music

    It’s no surprise that we love music and we especially love hearing new sounds and a fusion of cultures.

    When we read about a unique collaboration between an Israeli pianist and a Malian guitarist, we had to search for samples of their music, which you can find here. If you have time, check it out. Their music does not disappoint!

    The birth of this musical pairing began in 2008 when Idan Raichel ran into Vieux Farka Touré at a Berlin airport. Raichel was a big fan of Touré’s father, Ali Farka Touré, and struck up a conversation with the younger Touré. Two years later, Raichel brought Touré to perform at the Tel Aviv Opera House and, after the performance, they recorded an impromptu jam session that was sold as “The Tel Aviv Session” under the name The Touré-Raichel Collective. It became a big hit for world music fans so the duo collaborated again. In October, they released “The Paris Session.”

    What makes this combo interesting is that piano is not used in traditional West African music. And Raichel performs more pop music than world music. Both had to test their skills and think creatively when performing.

    And they succeeded in their efforts.

    In describing the unique collaboration to the New York Times, Raichel said:

    “Both of us are coming from a deep heritage. It’s like you have two chefs, one from Taiwan and the other from Mexico. If they are cooking traditional dishes, they will end up finding common ground, because some of the ingredients, like sugar and salt, will be the same.”

    Not only are Touré and Raichel providing the world with new and interesting sounds they are also sending a message about tolerance. Touré is Muslim and Raichel is Jewish but their personal beliefs do not matter when they are together.

    “People ask me all the time why I am doing this, and I tell them that for me it’s not about religion,” Touré told the New York Times. “Your religion is for you, mine is for me, and it’s not because I am a Muslim and he is something else that we did something together. I am open to all music coming from everywhere in the world. We should not say, ‘O.K. I am a Jew, so I will not play with Muslims,’ or ‘I am a Muslim, so I will not play with Christians.’ That’s why we have problems in this world.”

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    Life Lessons From a Blind Musician

    Chad Erickson lives several thousand miles from California but his spirit of determination can inspire us all.

    Erickson is a talented high school senior who can play eight musical instruments — from the accordion to the alto saxophone — by ear. Last school year, Erickson decided he wanted to perform in Florida’s Fletcher High School marching band including its field shows that require musicians to not only play music but march into different formations. It is an artform where accuracy and precision are tantamount.

    Erickson is also blind.

    Yet, Erickson was determined to succeed. With the support of his mother, band director and classmates he has successfully performed with the marching band, which has won several honors this season. Erickson receives assistance from a guide, another student who holds on to Erickson and physically guides him and offers verbal instructions. Succeeding with or without a guide can be a challenge as students sometimes march 180 beats per minute. Yet, Erickson has found a way to perform just as well as his peers.

    Erickson, who was born at only 23 weeks and weighed just under 2 lbs., told The Florida Times-Union that he enjoys the experience.

    “‘I wasn’t sure I was going to like it at first,’” he said candidly. But the more rewarding part, he said, comes from ‘playing in a musical ensemble, and being part of a group that has an interest in common with mine — and that is music.’”

    Next time you think a challenge is insurmountable, think of Erickson.

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