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27 Nov 2012

Contemporary Composer: Mr. Computer

music folder

Two generations have clashed in trying to decide what the ubiquity of personal computers will bring to music composing. While younger musicians are all inspired by the vast opportunities in music creation, most of elder composers are really concerned about the possible devaluation of the human aspect in music.

When Casio synthesizer appeared on the market in the early 80-ies, no one was too worried – its easily recognizable analogue sound could not equal the powerful human composing. But computer age set in quickly and the choice of music opportunities provided by computer extended abruptly. A professor of the University of California, David Cope managed to surprise, shock and even revolt the public when he presented his Emily Howell to the world. No, she’s not his wife or student. Emily is a computer program able to compose music pieces that are no worse than what contemporary composers produce.

In its first version (EMI) ‘she’ was mostly doing historic reproductions. For example, you put a Beethoven or Mozart inside, Emmi analyzes it and gives out a new piece that sounds as if composer himself wrote it. The new Emily developed her own style on the basis of those reproductions’ database. Now it became interactive: professor could approve or disapprove of her short pieces sharing his music tastes, and Emily took into account such a feedback and worked further. Year 2010 even saw the first CD by Emily – “From Darkness, Light”.

So what’s that makes composers anxious about computer-created music? The main counter-argument is usually the superfluous perfection of the sound. Computer plays an ideal melody with the right rhythms and tempo exempting the ear from work and imagination from functioning. Musician no longer has to reproduce this or that note in mind endowing it with own shape, color, character – all work is done for him.

ensemble

On the other hand, there is broader public involvement in music. One doesn’t need to have music education and endless hours of theory to compose a short original piece without much effort. All there should be is an electronic device, proper software and itch. Sampler, sequencer, synthesizer are all on board. Brooklyn rock back Parts & Labor even released an album that was wholly composed of samples submitted by fans. Isn’t it amazing to be part of your favorite band’s album in such a way?

It’s a big virtue to be able to find balance in our attitude to things. Maybe, after all, it doesn’t make a stupendous difference how music was created if the result is worth giving a listen.

So would you accept Mr. Computer to musician’s community?

27 Nov 2012

Miracle Music Brain Cure

We‘ve often heard of relaxing music, chilling music and even healing music. But it’s doubtful that anyone has thought that music is about too close to curing serious diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Studies show it is. The truly marvelous stories of Trevor Gibbons and Rande Gedaliah are still a rare but a significant phenomenon.

Rande had been diagnosed with Parkinson and when her condition deteriorated badly and resulted in legs failing under right during showering, she knew things were getting worse fast. The 60 year old woman reached to turn on the shower radio where some good old music was on. What she feels… her leg – it moves easily, she rises to her feet and feels like dancing! From then on, the woman never parts with her music player having composed specials playlists there: rhythmic songs like those by Bruce Springsteen for a faster walk, and calmer motifs like Queen’s hits for strolling.

Trevor was a carpenter. After a bad accident resulting in two strokes and a serious spinal injury he was deemed almost incurable: unable to speak and move. However, after intensive music therapy during a few years at the rehab center (playing piano and vocal practicing), Trevor not only retrieved his speech and walking ability but since then has composed 400 own songs and released 3 CDs.

Neurologists claim that music has a certain ‘miracle effect’ that, however, can be scientifically explained. Our brain is constructed in such a way that it can respond to the rapid external rhythm provided by music. Listening to music you allow the sound pattern tap into your brain in a form of organized neurons’ movement and synchronize your body with its melody.

listening to music

Yet even more effective is playing music yourself, when your brain obtains intensified coordination. Rick Bausman, a musician himself, organized a special Drum Workshop for people with Parkinson’s. According to his words, patients acknowledge that playing rhythmic Caribbean and Cuban melodies on bongos, congas and drums alleviates their physical moves making them more flexible, controlled and with less shaking. Even those at late stages of the disease feel the changes.

Even though music therapy hasn’t been yet developed to such an extent where serious brain diseases were able to be cured in every individual case, it still does affect positively our mental state. Music’s an easy way to assuage stress, depression and pain.

Listen to music!

26 Nov 2012

Jon Bon Jovi Anniversary Facts

With fame extended far overseas and a reputation of a brilliant American rocker it’s probably quite hard to keep a lot about yourself unknown for the public. However, people who truly love an artist and are ardent fans of his/her music will always be searching for more interesting info about their adored musician.

Jon Francis Bongiovi, Jr. or simply known to everyone as Jon Bon Jovi – a singer, musician, actor, songwriter and, of course, the father of “Bon Jovi” rock band – has hit 50 years this year, which once again drew additional occasion to put him in the public spotlight. Below is a curious bunch of facts about Jon, some better known, others not so commonly-heard. Have an easy read!

Jon Bon Jovi
  • Jon’s got a very supportive music family, everyone’s involved, two of his brothers work with him – as a bodyguard (Matt) and video director (Tony). And, imagine, Jon’s mom used to be his fanclub’s leader.
  • Jon’s spotted in the White House: Obama named him to the Council for community solutions.
  • Jon loves eating sushi backstage, performs with only a white mic when on tour and enjoys comparing himself to Elvis and Frank Sinatra.
  • To date, he has sold over 130 mln albums, toured in over 50 countries and staged over 2500 shows.
  • Jon appears in various Halls of Fame (Songwriters’, New Jersey), was 9 times nominated for Grammy but got only one of them.
  • Bon Jovi acted in 14 films.
  • He owns a private club in New Jersey and a whole football league (“Philadelphia Soul”), football being one of the passions.
  • If you ever hear the name of “Bongiovi” brand – it has nothing to do with either music or even football, it’s the name of a food company that belongs to his family. The most sold product is pasta sauce, by the way.
  • Jon’s quite sentimental: all crew members that spend 5 years in the band receive tiny pendants with a diamond from him. The pendant shape – a little Superman.
  • As a true musician Jon keeps self-improving: he still takes guitar lessons. There’s also a valuable present in his collection – a guitar signed by Bob Dylan.
  • There is a car named after Jon, one of Volkswagen Golfs.

Here they are, well, some of them. Hope you enjoyed reading! Maybe there is something extraordinary you know about Bon Jovi too?

23 Oct 2012

Piano Practicing Hints

All pianists were beginners at some point and it took them some time to grow into more professional performers. While playing the Flea Waltz does not require too much concentration, Bach’s pieces will need a good deal of work to be performed brightly – and if those are to be performed on the piano – even more. Why? Because among numerous instruments piano is the one playing which one has to coordinate their body most of all – simultaneous performing with both hands and feet.

To help make piano practicing more efficient and enjoyable there are a couple of techniques that can be used both by beginners and pianists with experience. Here are some of them:

piano

“Pre-practicing self-tuning”. One does not simply sit down at the instrument and start emitting beautiful sounds. If you have embarked on a complicated music piece, make sure you conquer it step by step, setting priorities and scheduling your work. Try to set a realistic objective for each of your training sessions. Also, study well the material beforehand, the score itself, the harmonies, the difficult parts – it will affect your coordination in a good way.

“Morning exercises”. Have you ever seen a volleyball or football player run straight into the game field without preliminary exercising? You need your muscles work good for you, so give your arms and fingers good stretching and warming up. Likewise, after you are done playing, cooling them down is also a must. FYI, these muscles are no less vulnerable as those in professional football players’ legs!

"Independent hand". To achieve best body coordination you must first be fully-coordinated in its parts. That’s why switching hands is an amazing technique to help you focus on what each involved part should do. Spend some time playing with each hand separately, make sure you switch the motions and experiment with different fingering. You will be pretty surprised how much easier two-hand playing will seem after that.

“Tick-tock”. As for rhythm controlling, preferences have divided. Some prefer to stick to the traditional metronome while others choose to set their own internal rhythm and count aloud themselves, which allows being a bit more flexible on pieces that are no regular rhythm. Whichever method you prefer, it will help to preserve the tempo.

“Pizza slice”. There is no universal ‘piece slice’ that has to be mastered at a time, so do the splitting yourself depending on what your skills, desire and mood are. No need to rush. You can break the composition into pages, sections, lines and even bars – if you stumble upon a really difficult part. The major hint here would be: Mind the Prime Time, i.e. the first 10 minutes of your practicing – that’s the time where you’d better do the most difficult work.

When your piece already ‘looks good’, don’t go limp on it – keep in shape playing it as often as you can. And remember, practicing should bring joy, don’t force yourself to train through aversion.

Your personal piano practicing suggestions are a huge welcome!

 
   
 
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