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    Seeing the Colors of Sound

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    When most of us describe color we talk about the green hue of the grass and the bright blue tint of the sky. But for a small portion of the population, they see color in letters of the alphabet, numbers and music. For some, the number seven will always be green and for others Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” will always be seen as yellow with accents of mustard and orange sherbet.

    The condition is known as synesthesia, which loosely translates in Greek to the “mingling of the senses,” and often provides multi-sensory experiences for people who live with this condition. Chromesthesia is specific type of synesthesia that is known as color hearing. For example, each octave has its own color and a fast chord progressions looks like an explosion of fireworks. The closest comparison we can think of is seeing multi-colored toy xylophone and associating each sound with the color on the panel.

    Some people who have synesthesia complain their multi-sensory perceptions become so intense that they lose their train of thought. Others find they have a hard time determining their left hand from their right and struggle with numbers. Still, they are many benefits including superior memory skills and the ability to be more creative and original that those who do not have synesthesia.

    It’s not surprising that many successful musicians have chromesthesia and synesthesia. You can discover some of the artists who have it here.

    Singer and producer Williams is another artist living with chromesthesia and cannot imagine creating music without this condition. He told Psychology Today:  “The ability to see and feel (this way) was a gift given to me that I did not have to have. And if it was taken from me suddenly I’m not sure that I could make music. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with it. I wouldn’t have a measure to understand.”

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    An Increase in Music Prodigies

    It doesn’t seem possible to refer to musical prodigies as commonplace or 14-year-old virtuosos as over the hill but Newsweek provides some interesting insight about the increase in talented young musicians.

    In its article, “Musical Prodigies Find Plenty of Youthful Company,” Newsweek writes: “Conservatories in Europe and North America report an increasing number of pre-teens who turn up for auditions flawlessly performing repertoire previously considered the domain of 25 year olds.”

    The reason for this increase is uncertain. One person attributed the trend to the Olympic syndrome of wanting to break records and attain fame. Another mentioned the growing Chinese population that typically tends to value music education. It is estimated that there are 30 million young pianists in China.

    Music, however, is not just technical perfection — hitting the right notes and executing difficult passages. It’s also about artistry and creating an emotional connection with the music and to the audience.

    Just ask Gabriela Montero, a Venezuelan pianist and a former a child prodigy who made her musical debut when she was just 8 years old.  She stopped playing piano at 18 years old and lived life outside of the piano. She returned two years later and says the break added meaning to her work.

    “The danger is that we’re creating machines that can play any piece at any speed,” Montero told Newsweek. “As an artist you have to say something to say, but you don’t have anything to say if you’ve spent your life in a practice room.”

    What do you think? Is the increase in young music prodigies good or bad?

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    Using sound waves to levitate objects

    Think levitation is only a magician’s trick?

    Although you may not have learned this in your high school science class, the ability to make tiny particles float in the air is possible.

    The ability to rise in the air through the power of sound, also known as acoustic levitation, is not new. Scientists have been performing this act since the 1940s. However, a group of Japanese researchers have recently mastered three-dimensional levitation, making it possible to float an object up and down and side to side. You can see the levitation in action in the video above, which also provides a great tutorial on the science behind it.

    Scientists discovered that if they perfectly align ultrasonic sound speakers they can create sound waves that exert pressure. This pressure cancels out the effects of gravity. They can make the particles move in different directions by changing the strength of the sound waves. Fortunately for scientists, the sounds waves are slightly above the normal human hearing range, which is beneficial in applying this discovery to the real world. Unfortunately for musicians, we are unlikely to replicate levitation through our own music making.

    The advancement of 3D acoustic levitation provides many benefits beyond creating an intriguing YouTube video. Acoustic levitation could help scientists keep chemical mixtures pure in stem cell research and advance antigravity experiments in space.

     

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    50 Years of Batman Music

    The Batman franchise has entertained audiences over the years from the campy television show of the 1960s to the dark cinematic thrillers that garner Oscar nominations. Yet, the one element that remains constant is the iconic music.

    A new YouTube video condenses 50 years of Batman music into an entertaining 4-minute track, sampling “Batman Theme” by Neal Hefti, “The Batman Theme” by Danny Elfman, and “Like a Dog Chasing Cars” by Hans Zimmer. Each sample is performed on sets — or in one case, a rooftop — that mimics the look and feel of each movie. As an added bonus for movie fans, they include replica Batmobiles for each rendition.

    The video was created by The Piano Guys — a Utah-based group that oddly has only one piano player. It has become an Internet sensation and if you look at the video you’ll see why!

    The Piano guys have created several popular YouTube videos over the years including a classical version of Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” and a pop version of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony thanks to a little help from OneRepublic.

    We also love how this video captures how much fun the musicians are having. They love playing music, which is something that can be inspiring for the young musician in your life.

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    4 Tips To Conquering Nerves At A Recital

    Anyone who has studied at The Music Junction for some length of time has performed at a recital. We think it’s a great way to apply skills learned in class and help our students realize that music-making should be a fun, social act.

    We also know that recitals can make some students — from the young to the old — nervous. We’re here to help!

    Here are 4 Ways to conquer nerves at a recital:

    1. Accept the Fear: The body manifests fear in very specific ways that can affect a musician’s performance. Increased air pressure under the vocal cords can pose a challenge for a singer and stiffening of the body can make a pianist’s fingers less agile. If the fear sets in just before a performance the worst thing to do is ignore the feelings, says Voice Council Magazine:

    “One has to accept the nerves and the physical repercussions, and work within this state rather than trying to push it away. The more you try to block the nerves, the more they will affect you.”

    2. Practice, Practice, Practice: Accepting nerves does not mean they cannot be overcome. Knowing the music goes a long way to feeling confident performing in front of others. In addition to consistent practicing at home, work with your instructor to ensure that the assigned piece is at an appropriate level — something that is challenging but not overly difficult.

    3. Dress Rehearsals are Key: Turn the living room into a performance space and invite mom, dad, sister and brother, even the beloved family pet, to a special performance.  Make the performance as real as possible, including walking on stage and bowing, even wearing the performance outfit, advises NPR.

    4. Wishing you Success: The Music Junction community, and many other music schools, offers a positive community. Realize that everyone in the room wants the best possible performance from every musician and everyone is rooting for each other.

    What do you think of our suggestions? Do you have any tips or routines that work for you?

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Artist Nick Pitera -The Popularity of Countertenors

    Nick Pitera belts out high notes that would make Adele proud and Lady Gaga drool.

    He has been a YouTube sensation for several years, singing both the male and female roles for Broadway musicals and Disney cartoons and, in the process, has amassed fans without being a signed artists. His ability to reach the C5 octave has even caused chatter online with people wondering if his videos are altered.

    His singing is real and he’s not alone. Pitera is part of a small group of male singers whose vocal folds open and close while singing and whose voice sounds full and natural in high registers. They are known as countertenors and many others have reached career success, especially in the classical world, including Philippe Jaroussky, Bejun Mehta and Andreas Scholl.

    Very few male singers are able to reach such high octaves. Although the pop landscape is full of talented men singing high notes including Smokey Robinson, Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine, they sing in falsetto and are not countertenors. Falsetto singers typically have a breathy voice and their vocal folds remain open while they’re hitting high notes.

    Vocal instructors offer several breathing exercises and techniques to help singers extend their octave range in a way that’s safe and doesn’t hurt the vocal folds or cords. Call us today to learn more.

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    Think You’re Not A Good Singer? Science Offers Good News For Those Who Are Out Of Tune

    There is something about using the body’s own musical instrument — your voice — that evokes fears in so many people.

     How many times have you seen people at church or a baseball games mouth the words to a song instead of singing it out loud? How many times have people avoided singing publicly by calling themselves a “shower singer”?

    Here at The Music Junction,  we firmly believe that a mixture of training and confidence can make any person a good singer. It just take times and practice.

    Still, if you’re in need of an extra confidence boost, we have some news to inspire you. It’s called the vocal generosity effect.

    According to a scientific study, people are more forgiving of singing errors compared to other musical instruments including the violin. Researcher Sean Hutchins asked test subjects to listen to a melody from a violin and one from a singer. They were then asked to determine if the last note was in tune or out of tune. When a singer was a semitone off — in other words, singing the wrong note — less than 50 percent of the subjects noticed. When a violin player was a semitone off nearly 75 percent of the people noticed. The laxness in judging the human voice also applies to those with music training. Although people with musical training were more apt to notice a note out of tune, the study found that they also favored the singer over the violinist.

    What is the reasoning behind this? No one, including researchers, are quite sure.

    However, PsychCentral reported that the researchers had one theory: “One possibility is that when we hear a human voice, our perceptual system moves in to a ‘vocal mode’ that pays less attention to pitch.”

    You can listen to some samples of violin and vocal melodies that are in tune and out of tune. Go ahead and test yourself!

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    The Ultimate YouTube Mashup Video

    The artist who gained fame by composing original works of music using YouTube videos is back at it again and promising more tunes soon.

    The latest song from Israel-based artist Kutiman is called “Give It Up” and includes more than 20 different clips from amateur artists playing the bassoon, piano and cello as well as featuring an acapella singer.  In his official YouTube page, Kutiman cites his sources and it’s worth clicking on the original works just to see the how much effort goes into creating an original piece of music. The music is also a worthwhile listen!

    Kutiman first became famous of pioneering this type of YouTube mashup five years ago with “ThruYou” and another song in the “ThruYou Too” series is set to be released Oct. 1.

    Apparently, making this type of music is painfully time consuming.

    According to a Billboard article: “In the past year, Kutiman decided to start working on ThruYou Too, which he estimates took him about three or four months to put together. ‘I open 20 tabs of bass players and see if something sounds like it works,’ he says. ‘It’s just searching for improvisation or whatever. If I have free time I just sit and watch YouTube. if I’m looking for a guitar player, eventually I’ll find myself watching people playing guitars for the rest of the night.’”

    Check out the video and let us know what you think!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    Celebrating Fall With Vivaldi

    Happy first day of autumn!

    For us, autumn makes us think of the smells of baked pumpkin and warm apple cider and the sights of dark nights and wind blowing through trees.

    But what does fall sound like?

    There are no shortage of online playlists focused on this season. You can listen to some here, here and here.

    We think, however, that autumn belongs to Antonio Vivaldi, the Italian baroque composer who penned the wildly successful “The Four Seasons.” The violin concertos are so deeply embedded in modern culture that all of us are familiar with the song even if we don’t regularly listen to classical music.

    To celebrate the first day of fall, we are shedding some light into the Autumn portion of “The Four Seasons.” Next time you’re listening to this music consider these interesting facts:

    1. Vivaldi published  “The Four Seasons” in 1725.

    2. “The Four Seasons” title was not the original name. Instead is was simply referred to as “Op. 8” and belonged to a larger set of 12 concertos known in English as “The Contest Between Harmony and Invention.”

    3. It was immediately disliked by the public who thought it was too modern and gimmicky.

    4. A sonnet — most likely penned by Vivaldi — accompanies each concerto, to help listeners understand the meaning of the music. The autumn sonnet begins with peasants celebrating a bountiful harvest. The celebration then turns into drunkenness and a long slumber. The final stanza centers on wild animals unsuccessfully evading hunters. You can read the full text of the sonnet here.

    5. Each season follows the same pattern: fast-slow-fast. Or, in more musical terms allegro-adagio molto-allegro.

     

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    A Garden Orchestra

    We like when science and music collide, especially when it makes us re-think the meaning of sound.

    News site Vice published a video story on an artist who ditches the violin and piano and finds her instruments in nature. She also proudly proclaims: “I want to make a mouth for plants.”

    For this artist, her garden is her symphony!

    Mileece, a Los Angeles-based artist and environmental designer who goes by one name, attaches electrodes to hearty plant leaves and conducts their bio-emissions into a special software program she created. The data collected in the software is then turned into musical notes. She creates her own unique compositions based on each plant’s different sound. She has performed her unique creations — what she calls “organic electronic music” — at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, London’s Kew Gardens and has been an artist-in-resident at Los Angeles’ Lycee International school.

    In the video, you can see Mileece pressing gently on a leaf and a light sound akin to the ringing of a small bell emerging. It’s very interesting to witness. You can listen to more of Mileece’s music here, here and here. As a whole, her tracks are very soothing and calming, as a garden orchestra should be!

    Mileece’s art is part of a larger movement to recognize that plants are sentient — or capable of feeling, hearing and smelling — and should be  treated with the utmost care and respect. While we don’t know enough about botany to even assert an opinion, it’s intriguing to think of a landscape in which every plant and flower is capable of producing music.

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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