24 Facts

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Mozart sold more CDs in 2016 than Beyonce.

The most expensive musical instrument in the world is a Stradivarius violin that sold for $15.9 million.

The harmonica is the world’s best selling instrument.

People prefer the original versions of songs because it’s the first version they heard, not because it’s better.

A 2007 study found that music, especially classical music, helps plants grow faster.

In 1981 David Bowie and Queen wrote and recorded “Under Pressure” during a 24 hour wine and cocaine binge.

Prince played every instrument on his first album.

The song “One Horse Open Sleigh” was written as a Thanksgiving tune to honour sleigh races happening in Massachusetts. People liked it so much they altered the lyrics to create the popular Christmas song “Jingle Bells”.

According to Paul McCartney, the “you” in “Got To Get You Into My Life” was marijuana.

During the 1989 US invasion of Panama, the US military blasted AC/DC at General Noriega’s compound for two days straight until the dictator surrendered.

Music was an Olympic event from 1912 to 1948.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail was funded almost entirely by members of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

Warner Music Group collects approximately $2 million/year in licensing fees for the song “Happy Birthday To You”. Rapper NoClue set the world record in 2005 for fastest rapper by rapping 723 syllables in 51.27 seconds. Leo Fender, who developed the first solid-body electric guitar and electric bass guitar, never learned to play either instrument. Sex, eating, and music all release dopamine, the “pleasure chemical” in the brain.
 None of the Beatles could read or write music.
For every $1000 in music sold, the average musician makes $23.40. Metallica is the first and only band to perform on all seven continents after playing a concert in Antarctica called “Freeze ‘Em All”. Eminem’s “The Real Slim Shady” was written 3 hours before the final cut of the album was due to the record company. Your heartbeat mimics the beat of the music you’re listening to. A 2015 study revealed that babies remain calm twice as long when listening to a song than when listening to talking.
1 in 10,000 people have perfect pitch, the ability to recognize a pitch without any reference.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield released an album of songs entirely recorded in space.
        Photo by Didgeridoo_street_player.jpg: Noel Feans derivative work: Tomer T [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Sonic Spiderwebs

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In the Journal of the Royal Society Interface published in September 2016, researchers from Oxford University and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid discussed spiders’ extraordinary ability to shape the physical properties of their webs. They discovered that spiders fine-tune their silk strings exactly like the strings of a musical instrument.

The arachnids gather information about the web tension by plucking the string and sensing the vibratory information in their legs. The string is then tuned — loosened or tightened — based on vibration (pitch), to allow the creatures to detect the transverse waves (waves that vibrate at right angles to the direction of its spread), and longitudinal waves (waves that vibrate in the direction of propagation) emanating from the source of whatever is affecting the web. This gives them direct information about the conditions and integrity of their creation, as well as whether it is prey or a potential mate that is present.

It is essential that the web is finely tuned in order for the spider to know exactly where on the web something has landed. Once an object is in the web, the spider can also “play” the strings to interpret vibrational responses and more accurately locate the newcomer, through a sort of arachnid triangulation method. The researchers agreed that spider silk, which has been evolving for over 350 million years, has developed its properties for the very purpose of these high fine-tuning and data transmission abilities. Wow! Little magical musical monsters!

Music and Health

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Here is an Rx for your anxiety, depression, learning difficulties, and immune system issues: MUSIC

In a 2009 study at the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and Center for Health Care Sciences in Sweden, researchers found that patients receiving surgery for hernia repair who listened to music after surgery experienced decreased plasma cortisol levels and required significantly less morphine to manage their pain. In another study at the Department of Surgery, Södertälje Hospital in Sweden, the stress reducing effects of music of surgery patients were more powerful than the effect of an orally-administered anxiolytic drug.

In a 2013 study led by Maria Dolores Onieya Zafra PhD and published in the American medical journal Pain Management Nursing, sixty people diagnosed with the painful musculoskeletal disorder fibromyalgia were randomly assigned to listen to music once a day over a four-week period. In comparison to a control group, the group that listened to music experienced significant pain reduction and fewer depressive symptoms.

In a 2011 study at the Taipei Medical University, Taipei, Taiwan, patients undergoing spine surgery were instructed to listen to self-selected music on the evening before their surgery and until the second day after their surgery. When measured on pain levels post surgery, the group had significantly less pain than a control group who didn’t listen to music.

A 2007 study from Massachusetts General Hospital found that listening to Mozart’s piano sonatas helped relax critically ill patients by lowering stress hormone levels coritsol and adrenaline, and also decreased blood levels of interleukin-6 — a protein that has been implicated in higher mortality rates, diabetes and heart problems.

In a 2013 study ran by Professor Daniel J. Levitin of McGill University’s Psychology Department, researchers explored immune system improvements due to listening to and/or performing music. ”We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” says Dr. Levitin. “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity, and as an aid to social bonding.” Here is what some of their research concluded:

  • Listening to music was better than prescription medications in reducing stress before surgery.
  • People who listened to music had an increase in their levels of Immunoglobulin A, a type of antibody that helps to prevent infections.
  • Music listeners had higher numbers of an immune cell whose job it is to attack bacteria, infected cells, and cancerous cells.
  • Listening to music reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.  
Research by Tenovus Cancer Care and the Royal College of Music confirmed that singing for an hour can increase levels of immune proteins, reduce stress hormones, and improve mood. Nearly 200 singers were tested for levels of immune-system “messenger” compounds known as cytokines, and they all found a drastic decrease after engaging in singing. In another part of the study, people suffering with depression took part in a ten-week drumming program and saw on average a forty percent improvement in their illness.

Music has also been shown to improve learning and memory through its release of dopamine, a hormone which has been tied to motivation. In a 2014 report in the psychonomic journal Memory and Cognition, adult students studying Hungarian were asked to a) speak casually, b) speak in a rhythmic fashion, or c) sing phrases in the unfamiliar language. Afterwards, when asked to recall the foreign phrases, the singing group fared significantly better than the other two groups in recall accuracy. Studies like these have encouraged a movement to incorporate music into patient care for dementia patients.

Have you had your medicine today?   Photo By RayNata (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)]

Philip Glass on Musical Buddhism

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Musicians and artists of all kinds — in fact, all humans no matter the method by which they express themselves — each develop over time their own unique way to get into a creative energetic space. How to connect with ones heart, ones body, ones multidimensional energies, ones “muses” — this comes naturally for a child, and as we grow into adulthood we learn to adapt to adult responsibilities while also maintaining our sacred connection with our creative inner child, which knows no judgments or limitations.

In Dimitri Ehrlich’s book “Inside the Music”, he interviews the legendary composer Philip Glass: “I start the day with a program of Buddhist meditative practice, which can take a little bit of time, and along with it a very thorough exercise program. People always say, ‘Wouldn’t it be better to sit down and just start working?’ But at the end of that preparation, when I sit down to work, I feel extremely focused. My body is prepared to sit comfortably for a fairly extended time, and I’m not distracted. This kind of preparation makes it possible to work with a very high degree of concentration in a fairly effortless way. In order to work for ten or twelve hours at a stretch, you have to be relaxed about it. You can be concentrated, but the effort can’t prevent you from working.”

Where Glass sees a clearer relationship is between the tenets of Buddhism and his motivation as a musician. Buddhist doctrine stresses the value of decreasing others’ suffering, so to the degree that music offers people relief from their pain and stress, from a Buddhist point of view, the life of a musician is a noble pursuit. “What the Dalai Lama emphasizes is kindness, compassion, and overcoming negativity … And I can’t think of anything negative about music. People love music. It is very nourishing because it takes people out of their everyday mentality and brings them to another level. Making people happy becomes the motivation for the music.”

  References: “Inside The Music”; Dimitri Ehrlich; Shambhala Publications; 1998 Photograph By Aleksandr Rain – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35334974

El Duende & Organized Insanity

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A Brief History of Latin American and American Folk/Pop Music Fusion

^^”MOSQUITO” – Written and Performed by Julia^^

“Mosquito” is a synthesis of thousands of years of global musical, cultural, and political history. The first idea I would like to discuss is “el duende”, which is a Latin American folkloric concept of the dark spiritual passion and inspiration that an artist — musician, dancer, painter, poet… — may reach in his or her moment of pure insane creation. It is the state of creativity in which the artist surrenders his or her life to the expression itself. It is quite beautifully morbid and transcendent.

Federico Garcia Lorca described duende in his essay Theory and Play of The Duende* as “the magic power”; “since with duende it is easier to love, to understand, and be certain of being loved, and being understood, and this struggle for expression and the communication of that expression in poetry sometimes acquires a fatal character.” He ends his essay with this thought: “Where is the duende? Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odor of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.”

When I first read this essay years ago, it resonated deeply in me and I recognized that as a creator, I have always felt this duende; as Lorca says “the duende never repeats itself, any more than the waves of the sea do in a storm” — I myself have never strived for perfection, but only to exist in the deeply present moment of pure creation, which taps into the abyss of beautiful sadness within me. As I learned more about Latin American culture and music, I was able to see how duende has been present and has evolved throughout time in Latin American history.

In 16th century Mexico, it was apparent that the Spanish colonists and the indigenous population of the land shared a common emotional tone of music. Spanish chroniclers of that time specifically noted that both musical expressions exhibited “sadness”, and this may in part explain the ease with which the indigenous peoples assimilated the European musical system during the time of colonization. European missionaries brought a non-secular musical system from the Iberian peninsula, which included Sephardic folk music, Gregorian chants, church modes (scales), and Catholic religious music. By introducing European music and dance to the native populations as a method of religious and cultural conversion, the sound of the lands evolved into a deeply rich, beautifully sad, yet energizing and uplifting — mestizo (“mixed”) folk music. This happened not only in Mexico, but all throughout the Latin American and Caribbean “New World”.

Fast forward to the 20th century, and we can hear how the popular music of the United States impacted the sound of Latin American folk music. This influence produced genres such as Latin pop, jazz, rock, and later Latin hip hop and reggaeton. The “Post-Expressionist” movement of Latin America, most notably in Argentina, was described by contemporary compositional techniques, and the use of secular, sexually and emotionally charged themes. The ballads which emerged tend to have a lyrical, romantic character. I believe that my song “Mosquito” can be described as having these characteristics.

The one Latin American artist who has influenced my song the most is the Argentinian heroine Mercedes Sosa**, who used her powerful voice and presence to promote leftist causes throughout her life, and was even exiled from her own country for her revolutionary political stance. The duende of Sosa’s expression has deeply impacted the passion with which I express my own music, and I owe the evolution of my creativity to her, and to the entire Latin American cultural history which supports us.

Another song which influenced the creation of “Mosquito” comes from an entirely different world of music — American folk/pop. The rhythm I use on the guitar of this song was inspired by the rhythm of a Simon and Garfunkel song called “April Come She Will”***, which was written by Paul Simon in England in 1964.

In the latter portion of my song, I shift to the English language, and the feel of the vocal line is more American folk/country/blues/pop. These genres originate in Great Britain and Africa, two distinct musical cultures which fused on North American soil throughout the 20th century, radically shifting the entire global soundscape. This “roots” music is an incredible blend of bluegrass, gospel, Appalachian folk, African blues, Cajun, Latino and Native American music — all which certainly contains their own form and expression of duende. We can hear how the pentatonic melodies and rhythmic formulas of both sections of my song tie all of these genres and global cultural influences together.

As we are discovering, music is an ever-evolving demonstration of our native connection to earth and humanity’s journey of inter-cultural blending, throughout space and time. I am deeply grateful to be a music lover and artist expressing and growing to understand the rich history of cultural fusion and musical evolution on Earth.

 

*Federico Garcia Lorca’s Theory and Play of The Duende

**Mercedes Sosa’s “Gracias a La Vida”

***Simon and Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will”

  Photo By Affinity (Vatra Spinning Fire) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]