The idea of constructing a musical instrument from stone came when Lars Widenfalk was working on big diabase blocks destined to form part of the artistic embellishment of the Norwegian TV building in Oslo. These blocks gave off a strikingly beautiful and strong sound during the work with hammer and chisel – it sang like an iron bell. It is also well-known among sculptors and geologists that different rock types have different sounds when being worked. Continue reading
MUSIC THANATOLOGIST PLAYS HARP FOR THE DYING
The Abode Home is a unique place where terminally ill patients are embraced and taken care of. It’s not a hospice, says the brochure, “but rather a home with a simple, welcoming, peaceful ambience for guests entering the last three months of life.”
The sprawling house is indeed peaceful, almost serene, as caregivers and volunteers go about their work with dedication and compassion. The reason I am visiting on this particular day is to witness a vigil by music thanatologist Deborah Marshall, the only such professional in the entire state of Texas. Joined by Abode’s director, Martha Jo Atkins, the two of us tiptoe into a room where Carla, a lung cancer patient, is lying in bed in a rather agitated state, with her grieving father watching tenderly over her. Marshall sets up her portable harp, introduces herself to Carla, who is not fully conscious, and after a few quiet moments, starts plucking the strings with a gentle touch. It takes a little while, but Carla eventually relaxes and her nervous movements subside. “It’s magical,” whispers Atkins. The sound of the harp in the darkened room ends up casting a spell over all of us. Continue reading
Music and primate cognition
Yesterday, Koko the gorilla had a visit from her friend Flea, the bassist from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who brought along his Fender bass and Galean Kruger to play some music with the old girl. After watching him intently for a few moments, she tentatively reached for the instrument and began imitating Flea’s movements. Its pretty obvious that she’s instinctively entranced by the ability to produce sound with her hands, but how much of this is merely a primate “aping” observed behavior and how much is actual nonverbal communication or cognition? Continue reading
A world of pure imagination
After hearing of Gene Wilder’s passing, like most of my peers my imagination was instantly swept along on a whirlwind ride of memories from the countless roles the monumental actor had who shaped my childhood. Perhaps one of the most iconic was his portrayal of the great Willy Wonka in the 1971 film adaptation of the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. In the film, Wilder performs an enchanting song, “Pure Imagination” specially written for the movie by songwriting legends Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley.. Out of force of habit, I have notated a violin arrangement of the tune for students who may wish to honor the late actor with a bit of musical adoration.Willy_Wonka_Pure_Imagination
Practicing a breach of the peace
One of my violin students, who lives in an apartment complex, has been confiding with me about her difficulties practicing due to an overbearing downstairs neighbor named Earle. She’s a beginning adult player, an engineer who lives with her husband, 3 year old child, and a small dog, and like most of us she struggles to find time to devote to her hobbies and pastimes. She usually takes out the fiddle on her lunch breaks, and spends most of her lunchtime working on her lessons during the week. Continue reading
Your New Robot Overlord Turns Out To Be A Pretty Good Marimba Player
Animaniacs Theme arranged for easy Ukulele
This month, with Netflix releasing the great 90’s animated classic Animaniacs, i’ve had a number of students acquire an interest in the show. Some adults, waxing nostalgic remembering watching the series when it first aired, as well as many younger students watching it for the first time, frequently accompanied by those self-same sentimental grown-ups!
The theme was composed by the great Richard Stone , an American composer who was instrumental (hah) in the revival of animation in the 1990s, composing music and songs for The Simpsons with Danny Elfman, Tiny Toon Adventures, Taz-Mania, The Plucky Duck Show, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Histeria, The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, and Freakazoid.
Richard Stone also composed for various feature films and television series including the Bruce Campbell western Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat, Pumpkinhead, North Shore, and the miniseries In a Child’s Name. Stone worked on John Hughes films including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles (both scored by Ira Newborn). Stone also composed the music for the William Shatner series, “Rescue 911”. Stone also scored the PBS Documentary “Medal of Honor” along with Mark Watters. He later wrote compositions for various films including, Summers heat, Never on Tuesday, Tripwire, Vietnam Texas, and Victim of love.
Stone has won several Emmy Awards for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for Animaniacs and Histeria, as well as Outstanding Original Song, shared with lyricist, writer, creator and senior producer Tom Ruegger, for the main titles of Animaniacs and Freakazoid. Stone shared many of his music direction/composing awards with his team of composers, who included Steve Bernstein, Carl Johnson, Julie Bernstein, Gordon Goodwin and Tim Kelly.
According to Animaniacs writer/producer Paul Rugg, crew members fondly referred to Richard as “The Great Stonini,” a sort of musical magician whose compositions and orchestrations often raised the quality of the cartoons to unexpected musical and artistic heights.
I’ve transcribed a simplified version of the Animaniacs theme for one of my young ukulele students, so I thought i’d share for educational purposes. Of course, i’m not the copyright holder, yadda yadda yadda. Enjoy, and HELLO NURSE!
Animaniacs Theme Ukulele
New scientific study confirms the obvious: Freddie Mercury had an unparalleled singing voice
A group of Austrian, Czech, and Swedish researchers sought out to examine the Queen singer’s incredible vocals
How Music Helps Us Grieve
“The springs of our reaction to music lie deeper than thought.”
By Maria Popova
Scientists now believe that language and music co-evolved to simulate the most abiding truths of nature. Indeed, for as long as we’ve been able to articulate the human experience, we’ve made music about the most inarticulable parts of it and then used language to extol music’s power — nowhere more beautifully than in Aldous Huxley’s 1931 meditation on how music stirs the soul, in which he asserted that music’s greatest potency lies in expressing the inexpressible.
This, perhaps, is why music is so sublime a solace when it comes to the most inexpressible of human emotions: grief. Continue reading
Johnny Cash’s “Million Dollar Songwriter Circle”
You’ve all heard about the “Million Dollar Quartet”—the recording session at Memphis’s legendary Sun Studios on December 4th, 1956 that compiled the talent of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash. Well if there was an equivalent to the Million Dollar Quartet in the songwriting world, it would be the one night in January of 1969 when Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Graham Nash, and Shel Silverstein all spent an evening at Johnny Cash’s home in Hendersonville, TN on the banks of Old Hickory Lake, swapping songs and stories from their respective spheres of the music world. The music that was showcased for the first time ever at the intimate songwriter circle became the soundtrack for a generation, and the gathering would go down in history as one of the most potent assemblages of songs showcased for the first time in one place. Continue reading