5 Reasons Why “My Generation” Is So Awesome

(via CultureSonar) by ADAM LEADBEATER

“My Generation” by The Who is a quintessential part of British culture and an important component in the evolution of contemporary rock music.

Although recorded nearly sixty years ago, in the midst of ‘love obsessed’ pop tunes, The Who’s debut single sounds as exciting, unique, and fabulously frenzied as the day it first struck the ears of mid-60s teens.

Penned by guitarist Pete Townshend, this classic rock hit immediately became a manifesto for youths tip-toeing through a post-war social minefield whilst desperately scrambling to forge an identity they could be proud of.

“My Generation” is still considered an underclass masterpiece in many quarters. The song defines a moment, both in terms of musical craft and its embodiment of an entire subculture’s spirit. Here are five reasons why it rules…

Read more: https://www.culturesonar.com/5-reasons-why-my-generation-is-so-awesome/?mc_cid=b38df62a86&mc_eid=b43e532c6f

How Play Made the Modern World (Book Extract)-by Steven Johnson

‘Roughly forty-three thousand years ago a young cave bear died in the rolling hills on the northwest border of modern-day Slovenia. A thousand miles away and a thousand years later, a mammoth died in the forests above the river Blau near the southern edge of modern-day Germany. Within a few years of the mammoth’s demise, a griffon vulture also perished in the same vicinity. Five thousand years after that a swan and another mammoth died nearby.

We know almost nothing about how these animals met their deaths. They may have been hunted by Neanderthals or modern humans. They may have died of natural causes or been killed by other predators. Like almost every creature from the Paleolithic era the stories behind their lives and deaths are a mystery to us, lost to the un-reconstructible past. 

But these different creatures, lost across time and space, did share one remarkable posthumous fate. After their flesh had been consumed by carnivores or bacteria, a bone from each of their skeletons was meticulously crafted by human hands into a flute.

Bone flutes are among the oldest known artifacts of human technological ingenuity. The Slovenian and German flutes date back to the very origins of art. The caves where some of them were found also featured drawings of animals and human forms on their walls, suggesting the tantalizing possibility that our ancestors gathered in the fire lit caverns to watch images flicker on the stone walls, accompanied by music. 

But musical technology is likely far older than the Paleolithic. The Slovenian and German flutes survived because they were made of bone but many of the indigenous tribes in modern times construct flutes and drums out of reeds and animal skins, materials unlikely to survive tens of thousands of years. 

Many archaeologists believe that our ancestors have been building drums for at least a hundred thousand years, making musical technology almost as old as technology designed for hunting or temperature regulation. This chronology is one of the great puzzles of early human history.  

It seems to be jumping more than a few levels in the hierarchy of needs to go directly from spearheads and clothing to the invention of wind instruments. Eons before early humans started to imagine writing or agriculture they were crafting tools for making music. This seems particularly puzzling because music is the most abstract of the arts. Paintings represent the inhabitants of the world that our eyes actually perceive: animals, plants, landscapes and other people. 

Architecture gives us shelter. Stories follow the arc of events that make up a human life. But music has no obvious referent beyond a vague association with the chirps and trills of birdsong. No one likes a hit record because it sounds like the natural world. We like music because it sounds *different* from the unstructured noise of the natural world. And what sounds like music is much closer to the abstracted symmetries of math than any experience a hunter-gatherer would have had a hundred thousand years ago.

A brief lesson in the physics of sound should help underscore the strangeness of the archaeological record here. Some of the bone flutes recovered from Paleolithic cave sites are intact enough that they can be played, and in many cases researchers have found that the finger holes carved into the bones are spaced in such a way that they can produce musical intervals that we now call perfect fourths and fifths. 

In the terms of Western music, these would be F and G in the key of C. Fourths and fifths not only make up the harmonic backbone of almost every popular song in the modern canon, they are also some of the most ubiquitous intervals in the world’s many musical systems. Though some ancient tonal systems, like Balinese gamelan music, evolved without fourths and fifths, only the octave is more common. Musicologists now understand the physics behind these intervals and why they seem to trigger such an interesting response in the human ear.

An octave, two notes exactly twelve steps apart from each other on a piano keyboard, exhibits a precise 2:1 ratio in the wave forms it produces. If you play a high C on a guitar, the string will vibrate exactly two times for every single vibration the low C string generates. That synchronization, which also occurs with the harmonics or overtones that give an instrument its timbre, creates a vivid impression of consonance in the ear, the sound of those two wave forms snapping into alignment every other cycle. 

The perfect fourth and fifth have comparably even ratios: a fourth is 4:3, while a fifth is 3:2. If you play a C and G note together, the higher G string will vibrate three times for every two vibrations of the C. By contrast, a C and F# played together create the most dissonant interval in the Western scale: the notorious tri-tone or ‘devil’s interval, with a ratio of 43:32.

The existence of these ratios has been known since the days of ancient Greece. The tuning system that features them is often called Pythagorean tuning after the Greek mathematician who, legend has it, first identified them. Today the average seventh grader knows Pythagoras for his triangles, but his ratios are the cornerstone of every pop song on Spotify. 

The study of musical ratios marked one of the very first moments in the history of knowledge where mathematical descriptions productively explained natural phenomenon. In fact, the success of these mathematical explanations of music triggered a two-thousand year pursuit of similar cosmological ratios in the movements of the sun and planets in the sky; the famous ‘music of the spheres’ that inspired Kepler and so many others.

Wave forms, integer ratios, overtones …

None of these concepts were available to our ancestors in the Upper Paleolithic. And yet, for some bizarre reason they went to great lengths to build tools that could conjure these mathematical patterns out of the simple act of exhaling. Put yourself in that Slovenian cave forty thousand years ago. You have mastered fire, built simple tools for hunting, learned how to craft garments from animal skins to keep yourself warm in the winter. 

An entire universe of further innovation lies in front of you. What would you choose to invent next? It seems preposterous that you would turn to crafting a tool that created vibrations in air molecules that synchronized at a perfect 3:2 ratio when played together. Yet that is exactly what our ancestors did.’ 

~from Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson, which comes highly recommended.

Trial, Triumph, and the Art of the Possible: The Remarkable Story Behind Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”

(via The Marginalian) by Maria Popova

“Day by day I am approaching the goal which I apprehend but cannot describe,” Ludwig van Beethoven (December 16, 1770–March 26, 1827) wrote to his boyhood friend, rallying his own resilience as he began losing his hearing. A year later, shortly after completing his Second Symphony, he sent his brothers a stunning letter about the joy of suffering overcome, in which he resolved:

Ah! how could I possibly quit the world before bringing forth all that I felt it was my vocation to produce?

That year, he began — though he did not yet know it, as we never do — the long gestation of what would become not only his greatest creative and spiritual triumph, not only a turning point in the history of music that revolutionized the symphony and planted the seed of the pop song, but an eternal masterwork of the supreme human art: making meaning out of chaos, beauty out of sorrow.

Across the epochs, “Ode to Joy” rises vast and eternal, transcending all of spacetime and at the same time compacting it into something so intimate, so immediate, that nothing seems to exist outside this singularity of all-pervading possibility. Inside its total drama, a total tranquility; inside its revolt, an oasis of refuge. The story of its making is as vitalizing as the masterpiece itself — or, rather, its story is the very reason for its vitality…

Read more: https://www.themarginalian.org/2022/05/17/beethoven-ode-to-joy/?mc_cid=1447853901&mc_eid=3d582d0f9a

Nightmares on wax: the environmental impact of the vinyl revival

Photograph: John Stillwell/PA

From toxic wastewater to greenhouse gas emissions, the boom in vinyl has dangerous effects – but streaming isn’t as clean an alternative as it looks

(via The Guardian) by Kyle Devine

Inside a US vinyl pressing plant – its owners have asked that I do not give its location – dozens of hydraulic machines run all day and night. These contraptions fill the building, as long as a city block, with hissing and clanking as well as the sweet-and-sour notes of warm grease and melted plastic. They look like relics, because they are. The basic technological principles of record pressing have not changed for a century, and the machines themselves are decades old.

While it is far exceeded by revenues from streaming, the vinyl market keeps growing – Americans now spend as much on vinyl as they do on CDs, while there were 4.3m vinyl sales in the UK last year, the 12th consecutive year of growth. So, if you’re one of the millions of people to re-embrace vinyl records, it’s worth knowing where they come from and how they’re made. There are containers called hoppers at each pressing station, brimming with the lentil-like polymer pellets that get funnelled down into the machinery, heated and fused to form larger biscuits that resemble hockey pucks, and squashed to make records…

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2020/jan/28/vinyl-record-revival-environmental-impact-music-industry-streaming

Sesame Street Brainwashed A Generation Into Psychedelia!

(via iridium) by Grand Poobah

Warning: If you were born between 1962-1978, there’s a good chance your soul was psychedelicized early on in your childhood years.

Evidence points to this 1969 Sesame Street clip that helped children learn to count to 10. Seems pretty innocent, but there is something much more sinister here in order to brainwash a generation of kids into being “groovy”. After being fed bowls of Honeycombs and plopped in front of the television on a massive sugar high, kids across America were bouncing off the walls in their footie-pajamas to this segment called “Jazzy-Spies”, which included free jazz, Yellow Submarine-style surrealistic animation, and vocals by Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane! And then your family wondered why you went on tour with the Grateful Dead… (yes, you do want to click on that link!)

“Slick got involved through her first husband, Jerry Slick, who produced the segments for San Francisco-based animation studio Imagination, Inc. Headed by animator Jeff Hale, the company also produced the Pinball segments, as well as the famous anamorphic Typewriter Guy, The Ringmaster, and the Detective Man. (Hale, by the way, has a cameo as Augie “Ben” Doggie in the well-loved Lucas parody Hardware Wars.)

Read more: https://www.theiridium.com/post/sesame-street-brainwashed-a-generation-into-psychedelia

Roy Smeck: An Appreciation

Born in 1900 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Roy Smeck was a star of 1920’s and 30’s stage, screen and studio, and musical godfather to Eddie Van Halen.

From vaudeville to radio to theater appearances across the country to appearing in Hollywood films to inventing musical instruments to publishing music instruction books, this genius of the ukulele and lap steel guitar has literally done it all.

I’ll let the following videos further elucidate:

Why Do We Love the Music We Love?

(via Gizmodo) by Isaac Schultz

If you’ve ever made a playlist — for yourself or someone else — you’ve done the delicate dance of music curation. By what logic did you order the songs? What nearly made it on, but got left out, and why?

In This Is What It Sounds Like: What the Music You Love Says About You, storied sound engineer and cognitive psychologist Susan Rogers and mathematical neuroscientist Ogi Ogas explore the fundamental experience of music listening.

With surgical care, they walk the reader through the components of music, from technical aspects of music theory to abstract elements like intention and performativity, to get at the heart of where our music taste comes from.

When music gives us that special feeling — the “oh yes, THAT’S what I’m talking about” — it can be difficult to describe exactly why it spurs that emotion. We may lack the vocabulary to explain which elements of the music really worked for us. Sometimes, when music does its job perfectly, it transcends explanation entirely…

Read more: https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2022/11/why-do-we-love-the-music-we-love/

Don Randi of The Wrecking Crew

(via CultureSonar) by Mark Daponte

In 1974, the Righteous Brothers sang about a rock ‘n’ roll heaven reserved for rock stars. Peter Tork landed there in 2019 and let’s hope he actually gets to play guitar, unlike his Monkee days when the Wrecking Crew played on their albums instead of him.  These masters included Glen Campbell (“Mary, Mary,” and “The Kind of Girl I Could Love”), Al Casey (“Papa Gene’s Blues,” “Laugh”), and Bill Pitman (“The Monkees Theme Song”).  But Crew member Don Randi recalled: “Peter Tork was a great musician. He was the only one that could have held his own, as far as I’m concerned, with any of us.  And he wondered, “’Why the hell am I not on these records?’ He always came ready to play.”

At the age of 88, pianist Don Randi still comes ready to play the occasional club date with his two children, Leah and Justin, and to share anecdotes from his 2015 book You’ve Heard these Hands: From the Wall of Sound to the Wrecking Crew and Other Incredible Stories.  The book tells of his days of backing up the bigwigs like his good friend, Nancy Sinatra ( “These Boots Were Made for Walking”), Buffalo Springfield, the Association, Frank Zappa, Frank Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood, and many more…

Read more: https://www.culturesonar.com/don-randi-of-the-wrecking-crew/?mc_cid=9d3e9f81eb&mc_eid=b43e532c6f

Video of the Week: The Perfectionism of Steely Dan’s Genius Engineer Roger Nichols

Roberta Flack has ALS, now ‘impossible to sing,’ rep says

 (Photo by Matt Licari/Invision/AP, File)

(via ABC News and Associated Press)

NEW YORK — A representative for Roberta Flack announced Monday that the Grammy-winning musician has ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and can no longer sing.

The progressive disease “has made it impossible to sing and not easy to speak,” Flack’s manager Suzanne Koga said in a release. “But it will take a lot more than ALS to silence this icon.”

The announcement of the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis diagnosis comes just ahead of the premiere of “Roberta,” a feature-length documentary debuting Thursday at the DOCNYC film festival…

Read more: https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/roberta-flack-als-now-impossible-sing-rep-93340391

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