The Importance of Incidental Music

Imagine your favorite TV show or video game without music or ambient sounds. Or what if the jingle in your favorite podcasts was not there? All of those forms of music are called incidental music. Such music is specifically written to accompany the main act of whichever medium it finds itself in and is an integral part of modern multimedia. Though, not many pay it too much attention and take it for granted, as if it was actually created by accident.

The use of incidental music dates back to ancient Greece and the development of Greek drama. I mean, it’s no wonder we take it for granted, it’s been around for millennia. Its importance, though, can’t be overstated. The tradition was continued by renowned classical composers, such as Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn, who have all written music for various plays.

Fast-forward a few centuries and incidental music is still there. A great modern example is film. Especially horror movies, where the music is extremely fundamental to building up tension. This is where incidental music took a massive leap forward. Using minor keys and dissonant forms the composer provokes unease, suspense, dread, and trepidation, tapping into our most visceral instincts.

Speaking of visceral reactions, what I found most baffling is the use of infrasound in the aforementioned intents and purposes. Infrasound is basically any sound that’s 19 Hz or lower and it breaks the boundaries of what incidental music stands for. Humans can consciously register only sounds louder than that point on the sound spectrum because the range of the human ear is from 20 Hz to 20.000 Hz. But, even though the frequency level of sounds below 20 Hz is too low to pick up, they still have a great deal of influence on us. Such sounds provoke feelings of general discomfort because they’re present during horrifying events such as earthquakes or thunder.

Just because we tend to neglect the omnipresence of music, even though it’s meant to be in the background, it doesn’t mean it has no impact on how we’ve grown accustomed to perceiving things. Some might disagree and say that I went out on a limb by attributing a lot of weight to non-musical concepts and presented them as music, but that’s a stance I won’t change – everything can be music if you listen intently, and even if you don’t, it still is of great importance. Even a shower is music to my ears, especially since I installed a tankless water heating system that I found from Tankless Center; now I can spend as much time as I want contemplating various musical concepts while enjoying endless hot water.

That Electric Crackle Sound

Music is my life for good reason. It is a dynamic and exciting world. New creations are constantly stimulating your senses. Sometimes they evoke completely new thoughts.

I heard a new song that had just come out and hadn’t yet read anything about it. It has some odd sounds that I couldn’t identity. I asked some friends to listen on their own to tell me what it might be. I have heard of many composers and artists who like to use “found sounds,” that is, everyday objects like pots and pans, the whirr of a mixer, the roar of a vacuum, etc. We all listened numerous times until the unusual sounds were identified. One of my friends is interested in self defense and by that I don’t just mean martial arts. He carries pepper spray and a stun gun after reading Self Defense Guide. By golly, that is the source of that electric crackling noise. Now I get it. I don’t know whether to love or hate it. It is rather innovative to be sure.

I wonder what other people hear? Now I know. After a while, I read a sharp review of the “new music” and while the writer liked the sound, she did not like the idea of something violent featured in a popular song. This gave me pause and prompted me to think about the issue and share it with the readers of my blog since they represent a good cross section of values. Once you get a picture of where I stand, you can decide for yourself. My friend had no problem accepting the source of the sounds as he promotes carrying a stun gun. I do not. I believe that there is enough violence in this world and glorifying a weapon seems inappropriate, especially for young people. I believe people are becoming immune to violence due to movies, TV, the news, and now music.

Hearing the song will annoy previous victims of assaults. Some of them have been subjected to stun gun shocks. It isn’t always the criminal who feels the pain. Meanwhile, it is a topic of debate that has elicited more than a few responses to the review. I have given you my two cents. Most parents are on my side and have asked their children not to listen. It is like the issue they have with violence-promoting rap lyrics. It is difficult to combat something so prevalent. Unfortunately, all the ranting and raving has done nothing just like in the old days of rock and roll. Preachers were obsessed with condemning it for its promotion of sex and violence. Now it seems so tame. Will that happen with the use of weapons to make music?

Most people these days go with the flow and a few instances of violent sounds will probably go unheeded. It was interesting nonetheless to debate the issue from an ethical and moral standpoint. We don’t often do that these days, especially in regard to the arts.

Music with Household Objects

Hello music lovers and welcome to my latest blog. I am here to share my passion for all things music. I explore every nook and cranny of the art form and no instrument, artist, genre, or historical fact goes unnoticed. There are anecdotes humorous and sad; there are long-lost records; and there is a myriad of inventive compositions of all types from the traditional and conventional to the avant-garde. Let’s revel together in this fascinating realm full of creativity and emotional expression.

I am going to open today with a story about a child that shows youthful whimsy and imagination. You never know what you are going to get with kids when they see a musical instrument. You never know what they will fashion into a readymade musical instrument. I saw this first hand. I was babysitting a friend’s son as a favor. He had a last-minute urgent appointment and no other recourse. All his usual sitters were booked. I stepped in thinking that it would be just another ordinary day with the little one. We know each other so it was instant recognition. We are, in effect, great pals. I asked him what he wanted to do and he had no special preference. He nixed my idea of playing ball in the park, going for an ice cream cone, or taking in the latest animated movie.

I thought long and hard to come up with a better idea. We weren’t close enough to the zoo and we couldn’t go bike riding. We could go window shopping, but for a tot that is a bore unless you make a bee line to the nearest toy shop. I didn’t want to go that route and have to fork over significant funds for a pile of new toys. It had to be my last resort. Instead, I took him to my apartment and see if he would play cards or a board game. We could also watch TV or listen to music. He was happy to oblige. He loved snooping around my place and immediately found some packaged cookies. We were off and running. He then explored the kitchen drawers and pulled out all kinds of gadgets. He banged them on pots and pans and he turned on the electric mixer. After he taped two spoons together to make that old-fashioned primitive instrument, he blurted out, “I am making music.” This occupied him for a good hour before he retired to playing games and browsing the internet on his iPad. All of a sudden, he sprung up like he had just had a sudden inspiration. I looked at the screen and he had a site about vacuums for pets open, called https://www.pethaircleanup.net. He rushed to the kitchen broom closet and pulled out my portable vacuum cleaner. It is one with an attachment to clean up pet hair—I have a dog.

The vacuum noises fascinated him and he loved turning it off and on. He changed the attachments and hit them and pushed them along the floor. “This is bootiful music,” he crooned. I gave him a big hug and laughed and laughed. Let’s sing along, I suggested.

Outdoor Concert Must-Haves

I love to listen to music quietly ensconced on the couch where my full attention can be on the selection at hand. I crave the kind of full absorption this brings. Sure, I like music at parties and other social occasions as well although the songs are usually interrupted by conversation or people singing along. A life full of music anywhere or anytime is what I seek and hope to impart that to you. It is a vital life-long need that is easily fulfilled as music is surely all around us. It is a matter of controlling what we want to hear and when we want it. For me that is most of the time. I have a nice collection of favorites from which I can draw as the mood moves me. Other times I invite friend over for music and snacks so it is a communal experience. Everyone brings their own choices as well. It is a great way to share, to enjoy new music, and to feel like you are newly alive.

An outdoor concert is also a wonderful communal experience and I seek them out as I can. They are few and far between in my area so you better believe that I am there at each and every one. Some of them are all day and go into the night so you need to bring your supplies. If you sit in the sun, then sunblock is essential unless you want to look like a red beet the next day. Some venues are known to be bug infested, especially during the summer when the air is humid and the temperatures soar. Bug spray is your next important item for any well-supplied backpack. Water and food are often available at these outdoor concerts by assorted vendors. I like the ones that cook fresh hamburgers and hot dogs on a grill. If you are in doubt, bring anything you think you might need as an additional snack. Some people like beer, which is not always sold on site.

At night, you might need a light jacket or a fleece hoodie. You will know in advance what the expected conditions will be from the weather report. I remember a few times when I couldn’t read the program notes because it was so dark. There might be some distant illumination but the audience section of the venue is often poorly lit. Now I know to bring a flashlight. You don’t need anything huge or powerful. Just a cheap flashlight that you don’t mind dropping or forgetting. You will find it so useful that it will never leave your side during the later hours of the concert. It can also light your way to the restrooms, food vendors, or the parking lot. If you are in a group, more than one could be useful so mention it to your friends. Thus, you have my suggestions for making an outdoor concert comfortable so you can truly not worry and just enjoy the music.

Music: What Can be Said About Our Taste in Music?

Taste in Music

Have you ever wondered what constitutes the type of music a person likes?  What makes one individual love country music while another despises it?  And why do some people adore classical yet others cannot stand it?

Even young children, even babies have music preferences.  There are kids who rock out to classic rock and others who just scream and cry when exposed to it.  Some babies are comforted by the soft tunes of classical music while it has the opposite effect on others.  But…why?

Without a doubt, music can remind us of events or people, positive or negative.  Someone who worshiped his or her parents who listened to oldies music, most likely will love the sounds of that type of music.  Others who had a hard childhood where the same music was played, may not react in the same way.  They may hate that kind of music.

When, where and by whom the music was introduced does play a huge part in the way we perceive it.  That is just common sense.  But what about babies and small children who show a strong like or dislike for a certain genre?

It is thought that our music preference might not only be a product of our surroundings but also may be in our genes, literally.  In fact, the effects of music and the reasons why has been the subject of many research studies, even extremely complicated scientific ones.

It is hypothesized that perhaps it is the tones of music that make a person like or dislike certain tunes.  The tone, or sound, of a note can draw some in while tuning some out.  It is believed that it may be caused by things that are actually programed in our very DNA.

No matter why we like what we like and hate what we hate, the fact remains.  Perhaps it can be changed and perhaps not.  You may have never liked rock music but find yourself married to a person who loves it.  The more you are exposed to it, the more you find yourself jamming to it as well.  Or…not.

Some people like to listen to downbeat, sad music while others like faster paced music.  Some like hard, metal sounds while others love the drum beat or piano.  There are many who enjoy a raspy female voice but cringe when opera music is sung and….vice versa.

Perhaps exposure can change what we like and dislike as far as music goes.  Perhaps we had a bad experience with one genre of music but that changes and we become a fan of it.  Then again, maybe our preferences are so deeply embedded in our physical make-up, we have no control over what sounds we celebrate and those we can barely tolerate.

It is interesting than in study on music, it was noted that upon meeting, people who liked the same music, tended to have an initial bond.  Is that because they share a liking?  Would the same be true if the two discovered they both liked apple pie?  Or, could it be that they are similar in at least some of their biological make up?

There are many things we may never know about our personal preference in music.  Then again there are many things we do know.  The fact is, we like what we like and most of us are quite adamant about our taste in music and that, my friends, helps to make us who we are.

Listen to the Music: How Our Listening Habits Have Changed Through the Years

Listen to the Music

The music we listen to is constantly changing.  The way we listen to it is changing as well.  How have our listening habits changed through the years?

The phonautograph, an early version of the phonograph, was introduced in 1857.  It was invention that revolutionized the way people could listen to music.  Before then, live music was about the only way it was possible.  Later, the radio came into play and music listening took another huge step.

Vinyl records gave way to 8-track tapes which made it possible to mobilize favorite music selections.  Until then, the radio was the only way to listen to music in the car or when moving around.  Then came the cassette tape which was less bulky and said to be a clearer quality.  Cd’s replaced cassette tapes.

The Walkman was basically the first “on the go” option to music.  Listeners could take their music on walks and jogs which was something that could not happen before, short of taking a transistor radio along.

Digital music has actually been around for decades.  It was basically refined in the mid-sixties to the mid-eighties and was available on compact discs, or CD’s in the late 80’s.  Now, digital music is wildly popular with devices like I-phones and computer generated options too.  There are lots of platforms that make digital music available like ITunes.  Pandora is a popular method for getting digital music on demand too.

We live in an instant and technical world and the way we listen to music is a reflection of the times.  MP3 downloads are a way of purchasing and owning the music of choice within minutes.  It can then be listened to through devices that are modern versions of the Walkman.

With our personal preference music available with a click, does it mean we are not exposed to music we otherwise would be?  Probably.  Perhaps that is why there is such a wide array of genre music these days.  Musicians can afford to be niche and to cater to a select audience much more than they could in the past.

Digital music on demand, such as the downloading of ITunes, has diminished the need for the middleman like record shop owners and the clerks who work there.  They have not disappeared.  There will always be those who like a good hard copy and collectors of vinyl as well.  But there certainly has been a decline.

We can now listen to music anytime, anywhere.  There are those who worry that such is not healthy.  Some argue that the hearing itself is in danger with sounds being piped into the ear canal at all times.  There are also those who fear the electric currents of such electronics are damaging.  And still others say it stunts creativity and conversation.  But, there are others who feel that the ability to listen to music most anytime is healthy and healing and has a positive effect on the individual as well as society.

No matter what the verdict is, healthy or not, good or bad, the fact is that music has come a long, long way.  It is now possible to listen to what we want when we want and that, my friends, is one thing about music that is not going to change now.

Music: Does It Influence or Reflect the Generations?

Music is always changing.  It always has and always will.  But does music change to reflect the times or do the times change in reflection of the music?

It’s kind of like the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”  Upon first thought, you would think that music reflects the times because the music of the era is often times about what was going on in the world during those times.  But…can the opposite also be true?  Does music have enough influence to actually change what is going on in the world?

Take the Depression Era.  “Brother Can You Spare a Dime?” was a big hit.  There were many songs that told about the hardships.  There were others that did quite the opposite though.  The times were depressing enough and many musicians sought to change the tone by uplifting tunes that cheered up a very distraught nation.

Music of the 40’s and 50’s was much simpler than the music of today.  Perry Como sang, “Catch a Falling Star” to a crooning nation.  By the end of the 50’s, things were changing and along came Elvis Pressley.

Then there were the 60’s with the Vietnam War and rebellion of the youth.  Songs were written about the happenings such as “Fortunate Son” – Creedence Clearwater Revival and also the account of the Ohio riots, “Ohio” by Neil Young.  But in the same era, there were songs begging for peace, like John Lennon’s “Imagine”.

Both the 60’s and 70’s music were widely about drugs.  Some were pro-drugs, others were against but since drug use was so prevalent in the era, it was often in the music.  Even music that did not state drugs were suspected to be about them like “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles.  Did the music influence the listener to use, or not use, drugs though?

The music of the 90’s were often comprised of Grudge sounds and lyrics.  Much of it reflected the “don’t care” attitude of the age.  Greasy hair, greasy clothes and lazy was often implied in the music of Generation X.

Even in recent times, there are songs that are about what’s going, about 9-11 and Afghanistan.  There are also peace-loving songs that praise and encourage the world being as one.

Today, there is a mechanical edge to music in many cases.  There are machines that play drums and keyboards are electronic.  Sophisticated software has led to many new sounds.  Music is indeed reflective of the day in which we live, mechanical and technical.  And, perhaps we are influenced by the music and have become more mechanical and technical as the music we listen to has.

Music has always told us the story of what was going on with the generation of the day.  It’s hard to say which it is, if the music of an era reflects what was going on at that time, or if the people are reacting to what was going on in the music.  Perhaps,…it’s a bit of both.

Rent-a-crowd

Live venues are not to be missed at least a few times in life. Who hasn’t been to at least one rock, pop, or country concert, taking in the lights, the sound, and the crowd? Everything happens at once. It’s amazing how in sync it all is: the artistic and technical elements fuse and combine producing one big exciting event. The stars come out in a blaze of glory under the spotlights and the music begins. The crowd sits rapt at first and still. It looks like rent-a-crowd. Then they loosen up and go wild with adulation and glee. People say there most inspiring moments are witnessing music in the flesh so to speak. The madness of the crowd is catching and the moment is sublime under the best circumstances.

The music world is just that exciting when you are dealing with the top level of performing artists. People will sit in the cold for hours or days, lined up to get tickets. (But they will sit longer, for days, for Black Friday sales.) They will brave rain, sleet, and snow—anything and everything to gain admission. Conversely, they will doff their duds and get down to their t-shirts and tanks in acceptance of the heat of sweltering bodies cramped in a small airless space. It is all for the music, all for the joy. And that comes in spades with the right artists and venues. Fans know it. I know it.

I remember one small intimate concert not long ago with a second tier artist that was well attended in spite of the summer sizzler day. Everyone was bravely packed in with only a ceiling fan or two to stir up a bit of a breeze. It was pretty hard to stay awake and focused. You had to be a diehard to stay put. Because the featured group was late, the air became thin and it was difficult to breathe. Many eyes became glazed over and many were becoming pale. Two people actually fainted! There is only so much a crowd can take, even a loyal engaged one. Thank God there were spectators remaining at all when the band came out, also sweating profusely. The audience was probably stuck to its seats or too feeble to move. The ceiling fans became the most important electrical equipment in the room that day, far surpassing the amps in importance.

We all have our tales to tell and some horror stories here and there (when crowds get unruly and stampedes occur. Pretty scary!). I am thinking of getting a portable backpack size battery-operated mini fan for emergencies. I may look like a middle aged matron having hot flashes, but I don’t care. If you can get a little air on your face, you can tackle almost anything. It is a cheap and easily stored answer to unforeseen moments when the temperature in a room is just too much to bear. Get one online for a few bucks and be prepared, Boy Scout style.

The Rise of Electronic Music

When you go to the symphony in most major urban centers, and look at the program, you see familiar names: Beethoven, Mozart, Hayden, and maybe some “moderns” like Dvorak and Stravinsky. No truly modern electronic music is to be heard. They may throw in a new composer in who uses traditional styles or it may be atonal, but that’s it, no nod to one of the great inventions of the twentieth century.

We hear it all the time as background noise on TV and in movies. You think it would be recognized as an art form in itself by this time. People are slow to accept the new. They don’t even understand Picasso a hundred years later! Why should it be any different with music? We do love it in rock and pop arrangements. Even good ol’ boy George Strait used it in a country classic. But that is the extent of it.

The word electronic is, of course, here to stay. Electronics run our lives: things like Acs, home standby backup power generators, electric pumps, and the like in the past. The digital world is the updated variant. There is new music electronic in orientation that fills the bill in representing our time. But our conservative ears will have nothing to do with it other than as filler or frills. Plug in an acoustic guitar and you have the idea. That’s what most understand as electronic. They see innovation as a form of technology, a method of producing a different kind of sound that barely morphs a traditional style. They think of synthesizers and all the gadgetry that turns a mediocre singer into a good one.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, electronic instruments were being introduced in performance environments. Composers started to write for them. In the 1940’s, music could be taped and altered, a forerunner of our DJs today. Electronic music as an art form was a rebellious child akin to the painters and sculptors of the day. Classical music, just like photographic realism, was rejected in favor of a futuristic embrace of a new kind of sound. It was as radical as Cubism and Futurism were in the arts. It was as avant-garde and groundbreaking. It heralded a new era that never quite gained acceptance.

So much has happened since, but it remains esoteric, like a generator for an electric harmonica. The popular incarnation is the electric bass or guitar we all know and love. We don’t remember John Cage or Karlheinz Stockhausen. They are historical oddities like Marcel Duchamps or Jean Arp. We do have computer music and experimentation is part of digital synthesis. But alas, electronic music has gone far afield from the intention of its groundbreaking originators. It wasn’t the wave of the future as the early 20th century practitioners thought, it was the wave of pop and funk, drum and bass. Just techno. That’s it. But it is here, and let us be grateful for modernization. Perhaps the future will bring it back and give music the impetus it needs to evolve and grow in a new direction.

Record Shops Through the Ages

The 60’s was an era like none other for music store owners.  Not only was it virtually the only place that music was sold, the local record shop was often a popular place for hippies to hang out.

With the generation of music lovers also came an era of rebellion against war and discord.  “Peace, love and rock-and-roll” was the motto of the day.  Record shops monopolized on the mood and often sold peace sign decals and anti-war posters.  Patches were another big seller.  They were sold and then sewn on blue jeans or jackets.

Drugs were also on the scene.  Back then, the dangers we know today were not as apparent.  There was a lot of experimentation which eventually led to the awareness of the harm drugs do but in the 60’s, there was a whole different attitude about them, especially marijuana.  Many record shops sold smoking paraphernalia and sometimes, even the smoke.  A good number of these stores had an upstairs room where people could lounge on beanbag chairs and get high.  With the growing concern about the harm of drugs came crackdowns on such places but for a while, they were pretty popular.

Although there was a movement to fight drugs in the 70’s, record shops still catered to the crowd.  They just did so in a more obscure manner.  Along with albums, incense was sold and other “head shop” items that were commonly used to cover up or aid in pot smoking.  Upstairs facilities were still available in many record shops but they were much more secretive.

A good record store would not only have regular albums, but import ones as well.  These were coveted and sold for considerably more money.  “Cut-outs” were available too.  These were albums that didn’t make it to popularity and were sold for less.  Many people were fonder of “cut-outs” because the music was not overplayed.  “Bootleg versions” were pretty popular as well.

When an album would come out, it was not unusual for people to flock to the closest music shop.  Sometimes there were long lines and albums would sell out quickly.  Since there was no way to duplicate albums in the days of old, there was no such thing as sharing music.  People also needed to replace scratched albums so record shops were rarely without a steady income.  There were also shops that were “the place to go” which were sometimes small local spots and later, in the 70’s, oftentimes in a mall.

Albums gave way to 8-track tapes and they were wildly popular.  They could be played in the car and places that albums couldn’t be play at so people flocked to purchase them.  Cassette tapes eventually replaced 8-tracks and CDs replaced cassettes.  Digital music has now replaced much hard copy music all together but there will always be those who won’t settle for less than a good album or CD and for as long as those people remain, there will be record shops to fill their orders.

Music Mania and Those Who Make Their Living From It

_MG_7724-ChoralMusic

Music makes the world go round and for some of us, it also IS our world.  Not only are some of us consumed with music, it’s also our bread and butter.

They say that those who are fortunate enough to make our living from music, in one form or another…are fortunate enough.  I am inclined to believe that is true.  There are a myriad of those of us who are lucky enough to do so from the songwriters who write to music, the artists who sing and play, all the way down to those of us who sell it.

The evolution of the music industry has been an ever changing one.  The more technical of a society we become, the more diverse the field is.  That has enabled a greater number of people to get into the music career who would not have in days gone by.

Takes mixers, for instance. Although it takes a great deal of talent to mix, that field of music didn’t even exist not so long ago.  Now, one can make a very comfortable living by mixing and may even enjoy fame and fortune if they are great at it.

Talent scouts aren’t new.  There have been people who earn their living searching for great musicians for many years.  What has changed is the number of people doing so.  There are so many avenues of music and so many genres too that it has made the field of scouting wide open which is a great thing for those who have a sharp eye for talent.

Music journalists are in demand more now than ever.  Not only do they have a huge number of musicians and bands to write about, the worldwide web has opened up a whole new audience.  Websites focusing on musicians or music based information are constantly in need of great articles, blogs and interviews too.  Music based e-books are also big sellers, opening a whole new field for writers who focus on music and musicians.

Here’s one you probably never thought of, a music therapist.  These days, you can actually make a living by mastering in the healing techniques of music.  You can even acquire a license in the field and make a pretty decent income sharing the healing power of music with others.

Of course if you are technically talented, the music field is wide open to you now.  Modern day technology has infiltrated the music world and has created jobs that were never even heard of before.

With the number of radio stations growing all the time, the need for disc jockeys is constantly growing as well.  If you have an ear for music and possess the gift of gab, you may just be perfect for the job.  Not only do these personalities work on the radio but also hire out for parties, weddings and other events.

Last but not least are those who market music.  There are wholesalers, retailers and those in between.  Although music is often electronically transmitted when it is purchased in these modern days, there are and always will be those who appreciate a good hard copy for their collection.

The field of music is growing and I suspect that will not be changing anytime soon which comes as extra good news for those of us lucky enough to enjoy making our living from it.