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    Music As A Cultural Shorthand


    Everyone at The Music Junction firmly believe in the power of music; its ability to arouse emotions and to communicate without words.

    We think of these as mainly positive attributes but we recently listened to NPR’s Code Switch report and were intrigued by another — albeit disappointing — tool of music.

    The NPR piece focuses on a nine-note pattern whose first four notes repeat and uses the pentatonic scale. It has become a way to represent Asian culture to viewers and listeners.

    You know the pattern. It appears in the 70’s song “Kung Fu Fighting” and in the Disney cartoon the “Aristocats” among many other songs, movies and television shows. Click on the story above to hear it.

    NPR tries to find the origins of this tune we were astonished to learn that these notes can be traced centuries ago to the 1800s.

    “In the 1800s, men from China were coming to the U.S. to work in gold mines and on railroads,” NPR reports. “By 1880, there were 300,000 Chinese in the States — and there was a lot of anti-Chinese sentiment. In 1882, the U.S. banned Chinese immigration with the Chinese Exclusion Act. It took until 1968 for such restrictions to be lifted.

    “Think about it: Most people back then had limited interactions with people from China and other Asian countries. So playwrights and writers had to come up with a shorthand way of saying, ‘This is Chinese; this is Asian.’”

    It’s something to keep in mind when you’re playing music or fiddling around on the piano composing your own tunes. Music is a powerful tool and we should always strive to send positive messages.

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

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    To Walk Or Not To Walk

    We experienced a bit of guilty pleasure reading a recent New York Times article on audience members who walk out of performances.

    On the one hand, The Music Junction educators are trained professionals who have performed in front of live audiences. We also host recitals so our students can apply the concepts learned from their music lessons. We would be hurt if anyone tried to walk out of our performances.

    And yet, we’ve all wanted to do it at some point!

    “Wherever films are shown, plays are presented, operas are mounted and rock stars strut the stage, there are unhappy spectators squirming in their seats and working up the courage to bolt,” the New York Times article states.

    The New York Times polled its readers on social media and found the issues/problems that prompt a walk out.  We were not surprised to read that extreme violence was a common issue for movies and irritable, off-pitch performers were factors in musical performances.

    Generally, the etiquette is to remain seated during live performances and wait to sneak out during intermission. Sometimes, however, the thought of staying in your seat one moment longer is too much to bear.

    At least it was for Geoffrey Glick who told the New York Times what happened to him when he saw a production of “Macbeth”:

    “I stopped watching the actors and began looking at the audience. A significant portion were glancing at their watches or looking uncomfortable. As soon as I got up, another four or five did, too, and by the time I reached the lobby, there were about 20 or 30 people behind me.”

    We have to believe that’s one walk out that everyone noticed.

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

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    Music That Shakes, Rattles and Rolls

    With earthquakes in the news again, we’ve had tremblers on our mind.

    We should always be informed on the best ways to be safe during an earthquake but it’s also useful to learn about earthquakes from a different perspective.  A small group of geophysicists from the U.S. Geological Survey decided to tell the story of earthquakes not through dense scientific terms but through music.

    That’s right! Music.

    After all, when we describe earthquakes to others we talk about it in the form of sounds including comparisons to the roar of a big-rig truck or the boom of a thunderstorm.

    “It’s almost as if the earth is a musician and people, including seismologists, are the audience who must try to understand what the music means,” the USGS writes on its website.

    Earthquake Quartet #1 — originally conceived in February 2000 — features trombone, cello, voice and seismograms (recordings of the ground moving), to create a unique musical composition. The piece opens with a trombone mimicking the movement of plates, the buildup of tension and the subsequent release of that tension. The music progresses to a more upbeat tempo meant to replicate society resuming its normalcy  even as more seismic  activity takes place. It’s a useful reminder that we often live with the sounds of earthquakes in our day-to-day life, we just don’t recognize it.

    We also like that the geophysicists haven’t stopped playing music. It is another useful reminder on the connection of music education and the development of math and science skills.

    Listen to the recording and let us know what you think!

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    Signing and Singing To Music

    When Tina Cleveland became engaged to Paul Sirimarco it was important for the American Sign Language interpreter to perform a song using ASL at her wedding. She quickly taught Sirimarco some basic elements and the Los Angeles-area couple began practicing while embarking on long road trips.

    The rest is Internet history.

    The couple has amassed more than a million views for signing the song “You’re The One That I Want” from the movie “Grease” and Beyonce recently posted their interpretation of the tune “Halo” on her Facebook page. The couple continue to work on interpretations of popular songs such as “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” and “Let It Go.”

    “We feel like we’re bridging a little bit of the gap between the hearing and the deaf community,” Sirimarco said to ABC News. “They get to enjoy music, just like hearing people do.”

    We are thrilled that Cleveland and Sirimarco are helping to spread the love of music to those who are deaf or experiencing hearing loss. Try putting their YouTube videos on mute and you can see Cleveland and Sirimarco’s infectious enthusiasm.

    Famed author Victor Hugo once said: “Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent,” and we absolutely agree.

    The melancholy  mood you feel when you hear an alto sax playing the blues or the chill of excitement you get when you hear a singer hit the whistle register is undeniable. We’re glad people like Cleveland and Sirimarco wants everyone to experience, in some way, those emotions.

    While we don’t — but wish we could — offer ASL lessons, the Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call today to learn more.

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    Humans: 1, Robots: 0

    Is there anything a robot cannot do? They beat us at “Jeopardy!”, write newspaper stories and defuse bombs.

    They are perfect humans. Or, perhaps not.

    A Harvard University researcher recently discovered that when it comes to music, robots play second fiddle to humans.

    According to a Music.Mic story, research indicates that human error makes music interesting. Harvard physicist Holger Hennig specializes in the union of math and music composition and recently examined a duet performance in a recording studio.

    “He discovered that the duos reacted and compensated for rhythmic deviations in the other’s performance; when one played slightly faster, their partner would keep up, and vice versa,” Music.Mic reported. “The two players thus struggle to remain in sync with each other, making every performance unique.”

    What makes computer-generated music less compelling is its consistency, it’s perfection. Those in the music industry have known this fact for a while and the latest software randomly inserts beat deviations to sound more authentic. Hennig’s research will better assist software developers in creating musical deviations as he learned that errors are anything but random.

    Hennig, however, believes nothing can compare to a human’s musical performance.

    “It actually shows part of the beauty and richness that is in humans, which is based on their imperfections,” Hennig told Science magazine.

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

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    Bee Alert: Middle C is the World’s Pollinator!

    Every spring bees make their way around to all the blossoming flowers to pollinate nature for us – but did you know the key to doing it is by making music?

    The wings of bumblebees cause flowers to release their pollen by beating at a frequency that causes the part of the flower that produces pollen – the “anther” – to vibrate.   This is necessary to successfully pollinate in some flowers – like those of tomatoes, peppers, cranberries & blueberries.  They must be vibrated or shaken, similar to the action of a salt shaker.

    To do this, the bumblebee arrives at it’s flower making a high-pitched buzzing noise with its wings.   As it gets closer to the pollen, the bee continues beating its wings BUT lowers the frequency so that the note of it’s buzz suddenly falls to approximately Middle C. This causes the “anther” part of the flower to vibrate at just the right frequency needed for the flower to release the pollen, and for the grains to spout out of the hole at the top, like a yellow fountain.

    To a musician, this means the sound wave for Middle C vibrates at just the right frequency to release pollen from flowers!  That makes Middle C nature’s best friend.

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    Voice & Piano Lessons Increase Kids’ IQ!

    As reported by PBS.org

    “A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

    Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.”

    “With music lessons, because there are so many different facets involved–such as memorizing, expressing emotion, learning about musical interval and chords–the multidimensional nature of the experience may be motivating the [IQ] effect,” said study author E. Glenn Schellenberg. – Forbes Magazine

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    6-Year-Old Revived from illness by Music

    SEATTLE Reports “Kids are resilient, but sometimes they need a little nudge. For a Seattle boy who recently became very sick, that extra push came from the unlikeliest of places.  If there`s one thing A.J. Hwangbo knows for sure, it`s the power of music.  That`s because when this 6-year-old was knocking on death`s door, music brought him back.”

    After A.J. receives a short outing from the hospital to see his favorite artist, Macklemore, in concert, he experiences a dramatic turnaround with his illness.

    “He seemed a lot more himself that evening,” his mom said. “I didn’t have to wipe his mouth the whole concert.”

    The next day, A.J. spoke for the first time in weeks.

    “I’ve seen kids become withdrawn and sad, and depressed because of a traumatic experience they`ve been through – that is definitely common,” Van Cleave said. “What I haven`t seen before is the incredible transformation in such a short time with one really amazing event in the way it happened for A.J.”

    read full article

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    Jenny Lind – Americas first “Rock Star”

    Some refer to the 19th Century Opera star, Jenny Lind, as the world’s first Rock Star.  This recording from Nate DiMeo’s podcast, The Memory Palace, is a beautiful story about a beautiful singer, and what it was like to be a music fan in the 1800’s.  Before recordings could be obtained of your favorite artists, enjoying music was constrained to once-in-a-lifetime live performances.  I (Charissa) found it captivating to listen to how the music industry functioned during that time period, and the differences and surprising similarities compared to today.

    Looking at the past, it’s easy to see how universal the love of music and musicians is during all time periods.  We can’t deny the fascination we have with artists and their art.

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    Why Voice Lessons?

    If you’ve thought about taking lessons, you probably fall into one of three categories. It may seem strange that something that comes as naturally to most people as singing requires tutoring. People often make excuses, or don’t have all the facts in front of them to make a decision as to whether or not to embark on a series of classes. Here I have answered some of the questions that people ask when considering vocal coaching.

    • 1. Why even great singers can benefit from lessons
    • 2. What to expect from singing lessons
    • 3. What to look for in a vocals tutor
    • 4. How much will singing lessons cost

    ‘Singing just comes naturally to me- I sound good anyway. If it ain’t broke…’

    This is, unfortunately, the attitude of most budding singers around. People think that a natural ability in something is enough.

    We learn to do most things by imitating what we see or hear others do. However with singing, imitating can be a dangerous thing.  Without truly understanding what happens when you use your voice, trying to replicate Christina’s runs or Alicia’s chesty high notes will cause you damage. So even if you are lucky enough to be happy with the sound of your voice, it’s still a good idea to go to someone who can help point out your bad habits, and give you tips that could help keep your voice in good shape for longer. Plus, you’d be surprised,  your voice will become stronger, and you’ll be able to sing more easily and sound even better than you do now!

    ‘I think I’m quite good, but sometimes I can’t do the things that I want to and I want to get better.’

    Wanting to improve is the perfect attitude for success at any skill. Singing lessons can help you to explore and understand your own voice, and help you to figure out how to do the things that you want to do in a comfortable way, without harming your voice. A teacher’s job is to guide you in the discovery of your full potential. Often I’ve seen people within a few sessions of coaching discovering they can do things they’d never thought they could, simply by putting into place the basic rules of good singing technique. When you’ve got a good strong foundation, all it takes is practice and you’ll find that that your voice will start to blossom and grow.

    ‘I’m not very good, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be any better.’

    If you’ve found your way to this article, it’s quite obvious that a part of you desires to be a strong and confident singer. Anyone can improve on what they have. We don’t all sound like Kelly Clarkson or Whitney Houston, but we each have our own unique voice, that is just ours. Making the most of what we have is part of what the singing coaching process is about. Understanding our own limits, and learning to love our own voices is vital, and confidence is 90% of the battle to making you a better performer. Taking the plunge and getting some lessons is the starting point to your vocal journey of discovery.  And who knows where that will lead!

    Singing lessons can help anyone, no matter what their skill or confidence level. Someone with a natural ability to dance will still spend hour after hour slaving away at dance class, even once they reach a professional standard. Dance studios everywhere are filled with professional dancers pushing themselves further, learning new skills and keeping their bodies in top condition.

    Why should singers be any less committed?

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