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Image: James Hilston/Post-Gazette.

Are you ever annoyed by the same tune going ’round and ’round in your head for hours — maybe even days? Drives me crazy. As fast as I can get to a radio, I put on a music station to drive the tune out. Here’s a theory about that repeating phenomenon.

Jeremy Reynolds reports at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “In the dark corners of the internet hides a playlist of some of the most torturous, addictive music known to man. That’s right, Spotify, SoundCloud and Apple Music all have playlists of ‘Baby Shark’ remixes. Do doo, do do, do do, do.

“Would you walk 500 miles to get away from that tune? Will your poker face crack the thousandth time it plays in your head? Does it remind you of somebody that you used to know? Do you value the sound of silence?

“You aren’t alone. These so-called earworms — gross — are annoying but useful, as new research published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology in June helps illuminate the exact function these loops play. …

“Music therapists and shrewd marketers have long taken advantage of music’s ability to trigger memory. As research continues to illuminate how the process works, their techniques and goals are likely to become increasingly refined and targeted.

[Per Janata, a researcher at the University of California, Davis] says earworms help your brain encode and parse through daily memories and sensations that may not have anything to do with the exact moment when you first heard the tune. As it plays over and over in your head, you may come to associate memories or sensations different from those you experienced on first listening.

“These musical fragments became a kind of sorting mechanism that triggers clearer recall at a later date, especially when the tune plays once more, according to the study Spontaneous Mental Replay of Music Improves Memory for Incidentally Associated Event Knowledge. …

“In general, musicians and scientists alike have concluded that faster music with simple, repetitive melodies and harmonies are more likely to loop in the brain. …

“[Pittsburg composer Nancy Galbraith] differentiates between musical ‘hooks,’ a fragment designed to catch the ear, and earworms. Many earworms come from song hooks, but not all hooks become earworms. …

“ ‘Tchaikovsky was a really great hook writer, but we don’t really call them that in classical music,’ she said. ‘Personally I don’t associate them with anything specific. It’s more of an emotion or sensation.’ …

“Music therapists already use music’s ability to trigger a range of emotional states with their patients. According to Brittany Meyer, a neurologic music therapist at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, music’s ability to activate multiple parts of the brain simultaneously makes it a useful tool for rebuilding and strengthening pathways in the brain.

“ ‘Repetition is really great for creating earworms,’ Ms. Meyer said. ‘And we know that music is great for both encoding and retrieving memories.’

“She explained that music can trigger reaction in both the hippocampus, which plays a role in learning and memory, and the amygdala, which is involved in experiencing emotions. So listening to the same music at a later date can trigger the same emotions as when the listener last experienced the music.

“Ms. Meyer also said that a patient’s prior associations with a tune are more important than the inherent characteristics of the tune itself. For example, she cited an experience working with a child on the autism spectrum who didn’t want to brush his teeth. Ms. Meyer made up a song about brushing teeth to the tune of a song he liked. Then his mother could sing with him every night, which helped him remember to brush his teeth.

“Mr. Janata wonders how long it will be before this research is used in a more targeted way. Many Americans above a certain age can recall a few jingles from their childhoods and the products they advertised, and some educators use songs or tunes to help memorize information.

“But the possibilities don’t stop there. Mr. Janata’s recent study found that music can function as a targeted memory aid. That means learning names or new faces or places could one day be paired with an individual tune, almost like a personalized musical tag. 

“Mr. Janata is exploring that idea in his research and attempting to observe how the brain responds to musical stimuli and earworms using neural imaging technology. …

“ ‘That’s what our current experiments are trying to show and see whether that’s possible.’ ”

More at the Post-Gazette, here.

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Photo: Colorado Public Radio.
Cherish Ross is with FLOW, a sign language interpreting agency that specializes exclusively in performing arts.

So many interesting kinds of jobs in the world! And the luckiest people are the ones whose work aligns with what they love doing. Consider those who interpret for the deaf at concerts.

Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim has a cool story at the New York Times. “On a recent afternoon in a brightly lit studio in Brooklyn, Mervin Primeaux-O’Bryant and Brandon Kazen-Maddox were filming a music video. They were recording a cover version of ‘Midnight Train to Georgia,’ but the voices that filled the room were those of Gladys Knight and the Pips, who made the song a hit in the 1970s. And yet the two men in the studio were also singing — with their hands.

“Primeaux-O’Bryant is a deaf actor and dancer; Kazen-Maddox is a hearing dancer and choreographer who is, thanks to seven deaf family members, a native speaker of American Sign Language. Their version of ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ is part of a 10-song series of American Sign Language covers of seminal works by Black female artists that Kazen-Maddox is producing for Broadstream, an arts streaming platform.

“Around the world, music knits together communities as it tells foundational stories, teaches emotional intelligence and cements a sense of belonging. … As sign language music videos proliferate on YouTube, where they spark comments from deaf and hearing viewers, the richness of American Sign Language, or A.S.L., has gotten a broader stage.

“ ‘Music is many different things to different people,’ Alexandria Wailes, a deaf actress and dancer told me in a video interview, using an interpreter. Wailes performed ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at the 2018 Super Bowl, and last year drew thousands of views on YouTube with her sign language contribution to ‘Sing Gently,’ a choral work by Eric Whitacre. …

“A good A.S.L. performance prioritizes dynamics, phrasing and flow. The parameters of sign language — hand shape, movement, location, palm orientation and facial expression — can be combined with elements of visual vernacular, a body of codified gestures, allowing a skilled A.S.L. speaker to engage in the kind of sound painting that composers use to enrich a text.

“At the recent video shoot, Gladys Knight’s voice boomed out of a large speaker while a much smaller one was tucked inside Primeaux-O’Bryant’s clothes, so that he could ‘tangibly feel the music,’ he said in an interview, with Kazen-Maddox interpreting. Out of sight of the camera, an interpreter stood ready to translate any instructions from the crew, all hearing, while a laptop displayed the song lyrics.

“In the song, the backup singers — here personified by Kazen-Maddox — encourage Knight as she rallies herself to join her lover, who has returned home to Georgia. In the original recording the Pips repeat the phrase ‘all aboard.’ But as Kazen-Maddox signed it, those words grew into signs evoking the movement of the train and its gears. A playful tug at an invisible whistle corresponded to the woo-woo of the band’s horns. Primeaux-O’Bryant signed the lead vocals with movements that gently extended the words, just as in the song: on the drawn-out ‘oh’ of ‘not so long ago-oh-oh,’ his hands fluttered into his lap. The two men also incorporated signs from Black A.S.L.

‘The hands have their own emotions,’ Primeaux-O’Bryant said. ‘They have their own mind.’

“Deaf singers prepare for their interpretations by experiencing a song through any means available to them. Many people speak about their heightened receptivity to the vibrations of sound, which they experience through their body. As a dancer trained in ballet, Primeaux-O’Bryant said he was particularly attuned to the vibrations of a piano as transmitted through a wooden floor.

“Primeaux-O’Bryant was a student at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington in the early 1990s when a teacher asked him to sign a Michael Jackson song during Black History Month. His first reaction was to refuse.

“But the teacher ‘pulled it out’ of him, he said, and he was thrust into the limelight in front of a large audience. Then, Primeaux-O’Bryant said, ‘the lights came on and my cue happened and I just exploded and signed the work and it felt good.’ Afterward the audience erupted in applause: ‘I fell in love with performing onstage.’ ”

Find information on things like the role of ballet training in ASL interpretation, the impact of the pandemic, and Egyptian Arabic Sign Language at the Times, here.

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Photo: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.
Listening to music can soothe people of any age. The woman above was 108 when the photo was taken.

We have been keeping an eye on the use of music to connect dementia patients to calming memories. (For example, in this post.)

Today we have Robert Booth reporting at the Guardian that when hospital staff in the UK worked with Alzheimer’s patients on a targeted playlist for each person, the results included lowered heart rate and less agitation.

“Trials are under way at an NHS trust to see if an algorithm can curate music playlists to reduce suffering in Alzheimer’s patients as well as in stressed medical staff.

“A test among people with dementia found an algorithm that ‘prescribes’ songs based on listeners’ personal backgrounds and tastes resulted in reductions in heart rate of up to 22%, lowering agitation and distress in some cases.

“[Now] Lancashire teaching hospitals NHS trust is extending trials to medical staff who worked in critical care during Covid to see if it can ease anxiety and stress. It is also planning to test it on recovering critical care patients, needle-phobic children and outpatients coping with chronic pain in the hope of reducing opiate prescriptions.

“The technology operates as a musical ‘drip.’ playing songs to patients and monitoring their heart rates as they listen. … An algorithm allows the software, which is linked to a streaming service like Spotify, to change forthcoming tracks if the prescription doesn’t appear to be working. Its artificial intelligence system assesses the ‘DNA’ of songs, examining 36 different qualities including tempo, timbre, key, time signatures, the amount of syncopation and the lowest notes. Gary Jones, the chief executive of MediMusic, the company developing the software, said these were among the factors that can shape the heart rate and blood pressure response to a track.

“A trial of 25 people with Alzheimer’s aged from their 60s to their 90s conducted at the Lancashire NHS trust has shown some promising results, the trust said. …

Said Dr Jacqueline Twamley, academic research and innovation manager, ‘Some people it doesn’t affect the heart rate at all, but you can see the effect in their facial expressions and in them tapping along. One patient burst out crying. He said the song brought back happy memories and they were happy tears.’ …

“When Twamley tried it, she was surprised to see the algorithm prescribed her songs by Gloria Estefan, the Pretenders, Lionel Richie and Billy Ocean. She is a fan of more raucous bands, including Led Zeppelin, Queens of the Stone Age and the niche progressive rock outfit Porcupine Tree. But it still had an effect.

” ‘I was quite stressed at the beginning of it, but I just felt calm afterwards,’ she said.

“The system aims to select songs that create a gradation in heart rate, starting with something bracing like Tchaikovsky’s 1812 overture and moving towards a lullaby.”

At the Guardian, here, you can check out the playlists recommended for patients of different ages.

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Photo: Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
Robert Black started playing tuba with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at 19.

The photo above reminds me of a long-ago time that one of my brothers played the tuba. Even today, people remember how it hung out the door of the VW bug when my mother drove him to junior high.

A tuba is a mighty big instrument, and it takes a certain kind of musician to fall in love with it. For example, the young man in today’s story.

Jim Higgins writes at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “If Robert Black drops out of college, and that day could be coming soon, his professor and his parents aren’t going to cry or scold.

“Black, 19, beat out dozens of older musicians to win the job of tuba player in the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra through a blind audition process. He’s the orchestra’s youngest musician and only member of the Gen Z cohort.

“He signed his contract in early 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted chances to play last spring. So Black [made] his MSO subscription debut March 6, playing Paul Hindemith’s ‘Morgenmusik,’ though he did play a Christmas music quintet with MSO colleagues in December. 

“A calm speaker, Black finds it easy to explain why he enjoys being an orchestra tuba player. A tuba — and the low brass section — adds fullness in an ensemble filled with higher register instruments.

” ‘I just really love being … the person that gets to add that (depth) to the whole sound of the ensemble,’ he said.

“Black said he likely became a tuba player because his late godfather, who played the instrument, gave his family a small E-flat three-valve tuba. Black’s mother was a middle school and high school band teacher, and both his mom and his older sister played horns, so brass music was a regular part of family life in Vernon Hills, Illinois. …

“After finishing his college auditions and choosing Rice University in Houston, Black took part in the 2019 auditions for the Milwaukee Symphony’s open tuba position with 61 other musicians. He did not expect much to come from it.

” ‘My kind of goal was if I can advance past the first round, I’ll consider it a success,’ he said. 

“In the ‘elephant room’ where the tuba auditioners warmed up, he recognized musicians he knew from Facebook, people who already had jobs. But to his pleasant surprise, Black made it through to the final round, playing excerpts from Bruckner’s Seventh with a professional trombone section for the first time.  

“The MSO didn’t hire a player out of that audition, but Black went off to his freshman year at Rice with helpful feedback. … At Rice, he worked closely with professor David Kirk, who is also the principal tubist of the Houston Symphony. 

‘It was clear to me from when I first heard him that he would have a very short time as a student. He was destined for professional success,’ Kirk said during a telephone interview.

“For his second audition in January 2020, in attempting to prepare as much as possible at Rice while still making his flight to Milwaukee, but with dorms closed for winter break, Black slept on a couch in a practice room for a few days. …

“After the final round, assistant personnel manager Rip Prétat took him to meet the panel of musicians and music director Ken-David Masur, who welcomed him to the orchestra. …

” ‘Robert is an incredible musician,’ principal trombonist Megumi Kanda said in an email message. ‘He is sensitive to his surroundings and has great style. His playing and blending skills are remarkably mature, especially given his youthfulness! His ability and willingness to musically interact and adjust quickly will make him a great fit.’

“Lest Black’s parents have any concern about his adjustment to life in the MSO, Kanda wrote: ‘As his neighbors in the orchestra, the trombones are a nurturing bunch; we will take good care of him!’

“Kirk said he has counseled Black on integrating himself into the orchestra. Ask questions, don’t make statements, he has told the young musician: ‘You have to be respectful of the fact that those people have been playing music together for so long. They have their own habits, their own customs and they must be respected.’ “

More at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, here.

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Photo: Business Trip Friend, 2017.
An Ice Music Festival is held in Norway most every year, although it was cancelled for 2021 because of Covid. In 2020, it was held in the village of Finse, near the Hardangerjøkulen glacier.

Finally, the ice is melting where I live. I can’t help but think “good riddance” after an outdoor birthday party Sunday that saw us slipping and sliding with the grandchildren through the woods. But I have to remind myself that they actually love the ice (two kids are hockey players), and in fact, there are a variety of reasons to love ice.

Consider Lola Akinmade Åkerström’s report at National Geographic.

“Brittle bursts that mimic cymbals. Deep hollowed notes reminiscent of metal drums. These are some of the surprising sounds that Siberian percussion group Ethnobeat created from Russia’s frozen Lake Baikal in a 2012 viral video that introduced millions around the globe to ice music.

“But similarly haunting melodies had been filling dark Arctic nights across Norway and Sweden for several years. In 2000 Norwegian composer and percussionist Terje Isungset performed the world’s first ice music concert inside a frozen waterfall in Lillehammer.

“Six years later Isungset founded the annual Ice Music Festival Norway, drawing curious adventurers willing to brave subzero temperatures in order to experience this unique way of bonding with nature through music. (This winter’s festival was canceled due to the pandemic, but he’s planning to livestream a concert on March 14.)

“For Isungset, who was already experimenting with natural elements such as stone and wood when composing music, his foray into ice was an organic next step.

‘When I first started playing on clear ice, I found its pure sound surprisingly warm and gentle compared to the sound of crushed ice beneath your feet.’ …

“So what exactly is ice music? Musicians tap beats out of naturally occurring ice or play instruments crafted from ice. Many of the instruments may seem familiar, but with ice music, nature takes center stage—and brings more than a few notes of unpredictability. Both the making and playing of the instruments are processes that can’t be fully controlled, which only adds to the art’s appeal.

“Carved instruments can be either completely made of ice, such as horns and percussion, or hybrids, like harps, in which the main body is ice with metal strings attached. Isungset collaborates with award-winning ice sculptor Bill Covitz, who is based in the United States but travels to concert destinations around the world to make instruments on location.

“Another American artist, Tim Linhart focused on snow and ice sculptures in the U.S. before moving to Europe and building a reputation for crafting ice instruments. Thirty-six years later he has created hundreds of them. …

“By studying and intricately blending materials — such as homemade clear ice and carbonated water, plus crushed mountain snow — Linhart can make instruments like violins and tune them as close to perfect as nature allows. …

” ‘When you approach that breaking point between the tension of the string and the thickness of the material, right there is where music truly happens,’ says Linhart, who honed his craft through trial, error, and a few exploding instruments. …

“When the show starts, other complications arise. “’Ice is always in motion; expanding, contracting and sublimating away into the atmosphere,’ says Linhart. ‘Warm bodies melt instruments. Audiences increase temperatures because they are breathing. Instruments need to be re-tuned differently. Some drop several notes, others rise.’ To mitigate this, he designs domed concert venues that ventilate heat away from the instruments.

“Another hazard? Horn players’ lips can stick to the mouthpieces of their instruments. And most of the time, the performers can’t practice on their delicate tools, so they often compose music live and improvise in front of the audience. …

“Other instruments such as the ‘iceofon’ — a cross between a xylophone and a marimba that pairs nicely with the harp — need to be tuned differently to avoid playing entire concerts in one tone.”

Lots more about musicians up for a challenge at National Geographic, here.

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Photo: Mark Humphrey/AP.
National Museum of African American Music, Nashville, Tennessee.

I haven’t headed back to museums yet, but I’m pretty sure I will be allowing myself to go this year. I’ve been interested to read that many museums plan to keep some presentation techniques they’ve used during the pandemic. Meanwhile, other museums are actually just launching.

Kristin M. Hall reports at the Associated Press (AP), “A new museum two decades in the making is telling the interconnected story of Black musical genres through the lens of American history.

“The National Museum of African American Music, which opened with a virtual ribbon-cutting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is seated in the heart of Nashville’s musical tourism district. …

“Even as Nashville has long celebrated its role in the history of music, the new museum fills a gap by telling an important and often overlooked story about the roots of American popular music, including gospel, blues, jazz, R&B and hip-hop.

” ‘When we think of the history of African American music and the important part it has played in our country, it was long overdue to honor it in this type of way,’ said gospel great CeCe Winans, who serves as a national chair for the museum.

“The idea for the museum came from two Nashville business and civic leaders, Francis Guess and T.B. Boyd, back in 1998, who wanted a museum dedicated to Black arts and culture. And while there are museums around the country that focus on certain aspects of Black music, this museum bills itself as the first of its kind to be all encompassing. …

“Said H. Beecher Hicks III, the museum’s president and CEO, ‘[It’s]it’s one thing to say that I’m a hip hop fan or I’m a blues fan, but why? What was going on in our country and our lived experience and our political environment that made that music so moving, so inspirational, such the soundtrack for that part of our lives?’

The museum tells a chronological story of Black music starting in the 1600s through present day and framed around major cultural movements including the music and instruments brought by African slaves, the emergence of blues through the Great Migration, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement.

“When Winans recently took a tour of the museum, she saw her own family of gospel singers, the Winans, represented in the museum’s exhibit on spiritual music alongside the artists that influenced her own musical career.

” ‘You never start out doing what you’re doing to be a part of history or even be a part of a museum,’ said the 12-time Grammy-winning singer. She noted that the museum put gospel music in context with how it inspired social change, especially during the civil rights era. …

“The museum has 1,600 artifacts in their collection, including clothes and a Grammy Award belonging to Ella Fitzgerald, a guitar owned by B.B. King and a trumpet played by Louis Armstrong. To make the best use out of the space, the exhibits are layered with interactive features, including 25 stations that allow visitors to virtually explore the music.

“Visitors can learn choreographed dance moves with a virtual instructor, sing ‘Oh Happy Day’ with a choir led by gospel legend Bobby Jones and make their own hip-hop beats. Visitors can take home their recordings to share via a personal RFID wristband.

“There will be a changing exhibit gallery, with the first topic to be the Fisk Jubilee Singers, an a cappella group originally formed in 1871 to raise money for Fisk University. The group sang slave spirituals at their concerts. The tradition continues today.

“After a year of racial reckoning through the movement of Black Lives Matter, Hicks said the timing couldn’t be more perfect to highlight the contributions of Black music to our shared American experience.

“ ‘[It] is not an accident that we are able to finish and get the museum open in this moment, in this moment where we need to be reminded, perhaps more than others or more than in the recent past that we are brothers and we share more together than we do our differences.’ “

More at AP, here

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Photo: Carole Fritz.
This ancient conch shell from modern-day France was once used to play music.

For today’s story, you’ll want to go to the original article to see the detailed illustrations showing how a conch shell was turned into a musical instrument thousands of years ago — and how archaeologists figured it out.

Matt Simon reports at Wired, “Some 18,000 years ago, in a cave in what we now call France, a human being left behind something precious: a conch shell. It was not just any conch shell. Its tip had been lopped off—unlikely by accident, given that this is the strongest part of the shell—allowing a person to blow air into it. The shell’s jagged outer lip was trimmed smooth, perhaps to assist in gripping, and it also bore red, smudgy fingerprints that matched the pigment from a cave painting just feet away from where the object was found in 1931.

“But those archaeologists missed its true significance: It was an intentionally crafted musical instrument. Writing today in the journal Science Advances, researchers from several universities and museums in France describe how they used CT scans and other imaging wizardry to show that a person during the Upper Paleolithic age took great care to modify the shell, the oldest such instrument ever found. They even got a musician to play it for us, revealing sounds that have not rung out for millennia.

“The first clue to suggest this shell was actually an instrument is that broken tip, or apex. If you find a conch shell on a beach, you can’t just toot it as-is — you’ve got to knock that tip off to get air flowing through the internal chambers and to exit through the opening of the outer lip. …

“The researchers had a musician try playing the shell in the lab. You can hear three notes [at Wired]. The sound is a bit breathy, like a more earthy version of a trumpet or trombone.

“But the breakage around the apex turned out to be quite jagged. ‘It’s very irregular, and it was hurting his lips,’ says archaeologist Gilles Tosello of the University of Toulouse, a corresponding author on the paper. … Why would an ancient human take the trouble to modify a conch shell and then not add a mouthpiece? …

“As for the shell’s outer lip, Tosello and his colleagues could tell it had been chipped away, both from wear patterns and by comparing it to pristine shells of the same species, which have significantly larger lips. In addition, the researchers enhanced a photo of the inside of the lip … to reveal faint red splotches.

These are fingerprints left behind in ocher, and the pigment matches a wall painting of a bison that was mere feet from where the shell was found. That bison was actually etched into the wall, then covered with over 300 ocher fingerprints to shade it in.

“The researchers couldn’t date the shell itself, since that’d require breaking a piece of it off to do carbon dating. But … based on these nearby objects, which they think would have been used by the same people around the same era, they surmised that the shell is likely 18,000 years old. …

“This was in pre-agricultural times, so they would have been Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. [It is] likely that this person belonged to a band of 10 or 20 humans working together to survive.

“We also know that life must not have been too terrible, since people had the time and energy to make music. And after all, they didn’t need an instrument to make music in the first place. ‘With a voice, you can make music,’ says archaeologist Carole Fritz of the University of Toulouse, a corresponding author on the paper. That is, the shell is extraneous. ‘I think music is a very symbolic art for people,’ Fritz adds. …

“This find emphasizes the richness of Upper Paleolithic culture, says University of Victoria paleolithic archaeologist April Nowell, who wasn’t involved in the research. ‘We have music, we have art, we have textiles, we have ceramics,’ she says. ‘These were really complex people.’

More at Wired, here.

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Photo: Ryan Collerd
Bowerbird, a group of musicians in Philadelphia, is streaming late-night concerts that may help you sleep — or at least put you in a relaxed state
.

When I wrote about people having trouble falling asleep, here, it was September 2020. It seemed like a more stressful time than January 2021, despite today’s increasing numbers of Covid cases. Readers who had their own reasons for stress in September, weighed in with their techniques for getting to sleep. Today, I offer a new one.

David Patrick Stearns remarks at the Philadelphia Inquirer that musicians work hard to keep audiences awake, but “not in the new Bowerbird concert series Liminal States, seven streamed events slotted at 10 or 11 p.m. that aim to put listeners into a sort-of slumber somewhere between sleeping and waking. The series is co-produced with West Philly’s Rotunda, Bowerbird’s home venue.

“ ‘Everybody is so traumatized and beat up that if a concert involves another state of awareness, that’s a very attractive prospect,’ said pianist Marilyn Nonken, who [opened] with Morton Feldman’s spare, meditative, 90-minute Triadic Memories.

‘It’s not a piece so much as it’s an environment, a sanctuary, where you can go and stay a while. … where your brain waves change.’

“If the other Liminal musicians have anything in common it’s a concept of sound that proceeds without a predictable end in sight.

“The hard-to-categorize indy artists include Jeff Zeigler (Jan. 31), next on the schedule after Nonken, an engineer and producer whose own music falls in the ambient zone. Philadelphia-born Laraaji (Feb. 14), the series’ third performer, is described as often as a mystic as he is a percussionist who creates shimmering, luminous sound environments.

“Laura Baird (Feb. 25) arises more from the folk tradition but crosses over into the electronic zone. Tatsuya Nakatani (March 10) has a gong orchestra, with instruments gently bowed more often than they’re struck. If there’s such a thing as an experimental harpist, it’s Mary Lattimore (March 25), whose ambient collaborations with Zeigler have her harp giving definition to his washes of sound.

“Relatively traditional — at least on the surface — is Variant 6, a Philadelphia-based vocal sextet that ends the series on May 6, and typically sings a range from Monteverdi to newly written vocal works. …

“Bowerbird artistic director Dustin Hurt is encouraging live performances — a particularly atmospheric possibility for Nakatani’s gongs, since the East Coast streaming time will be around dusk in the New Mexico desert where the artist lives. Some artists will be pre-recorded, though nocturnally, in the late-night slot that their streaming will occupy. …

“ ‘This idea has been around, inside my mind, for a long time,’ said Hurt, who has enjoyed liminal states when listening to Feldman while lying on the floor (an option not available at most in-person concerts).

” ‘The music levitates very slowly, so that when you wake up, you wonder “Was I asleep for 10 minutes or an hour?” ‘

“Variant 6 member Elisa Sutherland said working remotely, and given the lag time that can come with conference technology, ‘there’s potential for a powerful, somewhat spooky experience.’

“Liminal States concerts are pay-what-you-wish, with a suggested donation of $25. Information: bowerbird.org.

More at the Inquirer, here.

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Photo: Daniel A Leifheit/ Getty Images
The aurora borealis in Alaska’s Denali National Park, with a view of Orion and Jupiter.

Have you ever gotten a glimpse of the aurora borealis, maybe from an airplane? It’s something I’ve always wanted to see. My sense of the northern lights comes only from pictures and from the fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials, in which the electricity generated is harnessed for travel to other worlds.

In an article at the Guardian by Patrick Barkham, we learn of a different way to get a sense of the aurora borealis.

“There’s a hypnotic crackle before a whoosh of sound flies from ear to ear,” he writes. “It’s followed by a heavenly chorus that might be whales whistling, frogs calling or the chirping of an alien bird. It sounds celestial because that’s what it is. The noise is the aurora borealis: the northern lights.

“The vivid green lights that trace across the Arctic sky emit electromagnetic waves when the solar shower meets the Earth’s magnetic field, and these can be translated into sounds that are made audible to human ears by a small machine.

“These mysterious, sweeping noises are celebrated by a new Radio 3 documentary following the biologist Karin Lehmkuhl Bodony into the wilderness on her dog sleigh to record the soundscape, which has now been turned into music by an Alaskan composer.

“Bodony lives in the remote Alaskan village of Galena. She can see the lights from her porch, and 16 years ago she discovered she could also record the sound of the lights using a very low frequency (VLF) receiver.

“ ‘To hear those “whoosh-whoosh” sounds, which are so like what you see, is really special,’ she says. …

‘There are times when it’s just normal background chattery, crackly sounds and then there’ll be other times when it’s really cool – beautiful whooshing sounds and a chorus that sounds like frogs calling. If it was always the same it wouldn’t be as fun to go out and listen.’

“For Songs of the SkyRadio 3 commissioned the composer Matthew Burtner, who works with natural sounds and scientific environmental data, to make a piece of music derived from the sounds of the aurora.

“Northern lights listeners must get at least four miles away from human-made sounds and other electrical sources such as power lines to avoid interference on the VLF receivers, so Burtner had to hike into the wilds with his daughter. …

“Burtner found that the recordings from the [VLF recorder] weren’t very clear and so mapped the sounds’ frequency and amplitude profile onto a high-quality synthesiser. ‘You can then alter the timbre of the sound and have the northern lights play different instruments. That let me really orchestrate with the northern lights, using their input as a controller,’ he says. …

“Burtner created a six-minute piece that he hopes expresses the dialectic between humans and the natural world. ‘That’s what I’m always looking for in music – there’s something of the real natural system in there that’s untouched by a person.’ …

“The programme also explores the traditional meanings of the aurora borealis in the rapidly changing Arctic environment, where temperatures are rising faster than in many parts of the world.

“According to Bodony, traditional Inuit interpretations of the northern lights are often benevolent, with the lights signalling to hunters how they will find food or reassuring the bereaved that their loved ones have passed to a better place.

“But there are more sinister mythologies connected with the northern lights, which have symbolised danger in certain stories as well. ‘Our atmosphere shields us from the sun’s radiation and manages to warm the planet but not too much – it’s a shield – and this display of the northern lights is a representation of the sun’s fearsome force on our planet that could make it uninhabitable,’ says Burtner. …

“For Bodony, the perspective derived from her rural subsistence culture – and the experience of the aurora borealis – can correct the wider human attitude to the planet, which is ‘like impudent children whose parent is away and we’re destroying the house’ “

More at the Guardian, here.

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Photo: Raph_PH
Juliana Hatfield in concert, 2019.

Musicians and other artists who are not big names don’t get paid what they’re worth in the best of times, and a pandemic is not the best of times.

At the online magazine Slate, William Ralston and Niko Seizov suggest that fans in large enough numbers can help musicians survive by making micropayments. The writers point to a model in China.

“Back in July, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek caught flak for saying it’s no longer enough for artists to record ‘once every three to four years’ — that they need to pump out more product if they want to make a living streaming their music on his platform. As the man cutting their modest checks, Ek would know.

“Streaming on platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora accounted for 79.5 percent of the $8.8 billion total global revenue for recorded music last year. But … while these platforms generate mammoth revenues through advertising and subscriptions, they pay out negligible amounts per stream, and only a portion of this ends up in creators’ pockets. To make it even worse, Spotify has proposed a new feature that will enable artists and rights holders to boost specific tracks in the platform’s recommendation algorithms provided they agree to a lower royalty rate for those streams. It’s a race to a bottom we didn’t know existed.

“The shortcomings of the streaming payment model have long been blunted by a swelling live music industry: Streaming barely paid for most artists, the argument went, but at least it facilitated audience expansion so that musicians could better make a living on the road. The pandemic has killed that argument, at least for now — and now many artists must wonder where their next paycheck will come from. It has underlined a profound need to restructure, so that artists can depend on selling their art as well as their time. …

“An integral part of any solution may exist within China’s walled-off internet. On several streaming platforms under the umbrella of China’s Tencent Music … micropayments from fans help compensate artists where royalties fall short. …

“What’s interesting is that only around 30 percent of Tencent Music’s revenue comes from subscriptions, music downloads, and advertising revenue; the lion’s share comes through a commission on one-off payments given to artists by listeners, called micropayments. These can be straight-up donations, or given in exchange for virtual goods. …

“There’s no reason why Tencent Music’s model can’t be applied beyond China. We all inherently crave a deeper emotional bond with our favorite artists, and we will part with money for it. …

“The on-demand streaming model has ruptured the audience-artist relationship. There’s no longer a traditional exchange of X record for Y; instead, platforms like Spotify have become gatekeepers, and music has become more like a utility: unlimited supply for a monthly charge. We listen to curated playlists with the creators demoted to the background, their work consumed by a detached and disengaged audience. With its micropayment features, Tencent Music bridges this gap, and provides artists with a toolkit to foster and more importantly monetize deep fan loyalty.

“Skeptics might say that the Tencent model wouldn’t work in the west because there isn’t the same culture of tipping over the internet. … But western platforms like Anchor and Twitch have been successful in implementing micropayment features in podcasting and gaming, and the same could be true of music. There just has to be a convenient mechanism.

“Social media platforms like Facebook have capitalized on this dynamic … without rewarding artists for their efforts for their own contributions to these networks. Not only are the artists not rewarded, but they must invest in advertising to reach the followers they attracted to their page in the first place.

“The toolkit in the west is materializing. Bandcamp, the independent-focused online music store, has offered the ‘pay what you wish’ model for years. Artists set a minimum purchase price for goods, but leave you free to add more. And during the coronavirus crisis, major streaming platforms have started to tip-toe toward this model. Spotify, for one, has launched ‘Artist Fundraising Pick,’ which allows listeners to make donations via artists’ profiles … but it’s not enough. …

“On Patreon, on the other hand, around 4 million fans, or patrons, subscribe to their favorite creators in return for rewards like exclusive songs, physical merchandise, or private lessons. There are no micropayments per se, but the platform is monetizing the direct artist-audience channel, becoming a digital incarnation of a fan club. …

“One major barrier for Patreon is that it exists as an isolated ecosystem separate from where you actually go to listen to music. … It’s a lot to expect listeners to jump to another site, but Patreon does provide a foundation that could feasibly be integrated into a major streaming platform. …

“In the meantime, we must support artists in any way we can. … When you purchase a record, as opposed to streaming it, a larger amount of money ends up with the artist.” More at Slate, here.

Over at Will McMillan’s blog “A Musical Life on Planet Earth,” the cabaret artist/music teacher has been pondering the same issues. Read him here.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Malian musician Oumou Sangaré in Madrid, Spain, 2018.

On my first day at the Boston Fed in 2005, I attended orientation with two other new hires, one an immigrant from Mali. In the years since, especially after Mamoudou returned to Africa, I’ve read with alarm about the many tragedies his country has suffered. How do people live through great upheaval and keep their sense of self and their spirits intact?

Anastasia Tsioulcas has some thoughts at National Public Radio.

“The northwestern African country of Mali is one of the world’s musical cradles. Its rich traditions helped give birth to American blues and jazz, traditions brought by enslaved Africans to these shores. But today, Mali is in turmoil. The country has suffered a long civil war spurred by Islamist insurgents (whose attacks are still ongoing), and the government fell to a coup in August. The country is also trying, like the rest of the world, to cope with the coronavirus.

“Despite all of those challenges, however, Malian musicians are still creating amid the chaos — and have some important lessons to share about how to get through tough times.

“The band Songhoy Blues plays rollicking music of resistance against the political and social threats its country is facing.

“These Malian musicians came together in 2012 after attacks by local and foreign jihadists forced people to flee the country’s northern cities and towns as well as its vast Saharan desert. …

” ‘When the civil war start in Mali, when they banned music, all the people from the north of Mali has to move to the south just to be safe at that moment,’ explains Aliou Touré. He’s the lead singer of Songhoy Blues. …

” ‘When you come far away from your hometown and you meet each other,’ Touré explains. ‘you speak the same language. It’s kind of like a satisfaction of nostalgia when you meet someone who speak your language, who do what you do, who love something that you love.’ …

“The Malian musicians are a thoroughly modern band, but they’re also walking in the footsteps of some of their country’s most revered musicians, like Ali Farka Toure and Salif Keita.

“And like those other artists, the music of Songhoy Blues is born of struggle — and not just political. When I spoke to Aliou Touré (no relation to Ali Farka) by phone in Bamako, he had just recovered from a bout of malaria. And, like so many other places in the world, the coronavirus pandemic has shut down his country. He says enduring each hurdle is like surfing.

‘As every single band in the world during now,’ [Aliou Touré] says, ‘we just keep surfing on the waves — see what’s gonna happen next day, what’s gonna happen next day, next month.’

“The pandemic shutdown, though, has created some interesting creative opportunities for artists. … The pandemic has also provided a respite for one of the country’s most beloved singers, Oumou Sangare.

“Sangare spent much of the coronavirus shutdown in the U.S. — first in New York, and then in Baltimore. She’s since returned to her home in Bamako. She says the isolation was actually nourishing.

” ‘I rejoiced in my confinement,’ she says in French. ‘I’ve never had the chance to rest like that in the 30 years of my career.’ …

“That period of reflection gave Sangare the creative energy to start work on a new album herself. Sangare also acknowledges that Mali’s ongoing civil strife has taken a severe toll across the nation — across ethnic and geographic boundaries. …

” ‘The whole country is suffering. I think that the Malians must unite. That’s my point of view: It is unity that makes strength.’

“For years, musicians have been at the forefront of urging the country to stay united and to stand for peace. Their voices are now again in the lead — trying to bolster the country’s courage.

“Songhoy Blues decided to name its latest album Optimisme — ‘optimism.’

“Lead singer Aliou Touré says that he’s learned that it’s the only way forward. ‘That’s the only thing keeping us, keeping people smiling, and that’s the only, only way to give ourselves a hope,’ he says. ‘It’s the best way to keep yourself alive. To be optimist, I think, is the biggest message ever that the whole world need to hear right now.’ “

As Bonnie Johnson at WICN jazz radio says, “Stay Positive. Test negative.”

More at NPR, here.

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Keane Southard, composer of ‘An Appalachian Trail Symphony: New England (Symphony No. 1).’

People have so many different sides to them! My friend Ann — retired human resource professional, acclaimed textile artist, and hiker — told me recently about a pianist-composer-hiker who conquered the New England portion of the Appalachian Trail and then wrote a symphony about the experience. As I write, I’m listening to this wonderful piece online.

In a 2018 broadcast, Mary Engisch at Vermont Public Radio (VPR) shared part of Southard’s story in a podcast.

Keane Southard,” writes Engisch, “spent many of his childhood weekends hiking and camping with his family in New Hampshire and Vermont. From that early age, he imagined one day he would hike the legendary Appalachian Trail.

“Southard went on to study [music] composition and theory, and all the while, the idea of hiking the trail and composing a piece about the experience percolated in his mind.

In April [2018], Southard completed ‘An Appalachian Trail Symphony: New England (Symphony No. 1),’ inspired by his 66-day, 734-mile hike of the New England portion of the trail.

” ‘I entered the trip knowing I [would] write this piece afterwards, but kind of having a blank slate to start off, and to have the music and the ideas come out of my experience,’ Southard said.

“In this podcast, learn about … how he transformed the trail sounds of footsteps, buzzing bugs and bird songs that he heard along the way into this composition for orchestra.”

Southard tells Engisch, “I’m really inspired by New England. I grew up in Massachusetts, and my parents took me and my siblings on so many trips up to New Hampshire and Vermont. And it wasn’t until leaving New England and going off to school that I realized how much this region is ingrained in me and how much I love it.” More at VPR, here.

At Southard’s website, he writes about the symphony and some of his other compostions.

“In June, I found out that my orchestral work Titanium and Mercury (which is the first movement of my in-progress second symphony but extracted as a stand-alone work) [won] First Prize in the [Eastern European] 2nd International Michal Kloefas Oginski Symphony Orchestra Contest for Young Composers! I’ve never won first prize in an overseas competition before, so it was great to hear this news! 

“The jury told me that my piece really reminded them of Prokofiev (which is a bit surprising to me) and it looks like the piece will be scheduled to be premiered in Molodechno, Belarus, in spring 2021!

“Just last week, on August 10, I had my first performance since February when the British pianist Maria Marchant gave a beautiful premiere of my Prelude No. 17 (For the Left Hand) in London, UK as part of her ‘7 Notes in 7 Days at 7pm’ project.  

“Back in April, I was fortunate to have pianist Adam Marks record a video of my Prelude No. 18 (On the Day of Penderecki’s Death) as part of his ‘One Page Pieces’ project.  As the title suggests, I wrote this short work (about 30 seconds long) on the day I heard that legendary Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki passed away at the end of March.  While not a ‘threnody’ for him, I was thinking about him as I wrote the piece.

“In April, I also found out my Missa Brevis for Choir was awarded the Belle S. Gitelman Award from the composition department here at Eastman.

“And way back in February before the pandemic hit, I was lucky to have a reading of my wind ensemble transcription of John Foulds’ wonderful piece April-England with the Eastman Wind Orchestra led by David Baker.”  More here.

You might also like to check out an interview Southard gave to the Claflin Hill Symphony, here.

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Photo: Music for Milestones
Spurred by a grant from Dragon Kim Foundation
, Los Angeles teenagers Katheryn Williams, left, and Charu Balamurugan set up a music program for children.

As I often say to my grandchildren when they come up with creative ideas, “I love people with ideas!” And nowadays I find young leaders with ideas especially inspiring. I think if teens and 20-somethings working to end gun violence and reduce global warming are successful, they will have earned the mantle of the Great Generation.

Today’s story is about a couple of teens who wanted to use music to help children smile.

Kyle Melnick writes at the Washington Post, “After asking nine children on her computer screen to retrieve a piece of paper and something to draw with, Charu Balamurugan explains the class’s next lesson.

“ ‘We’re going to listen to parts from each of these three different songs,’ Balamurugan says, ‘and you’re going to use … different types of lines [or drawings] to show how it makes you feel; the emotions you feel.’

“A few moments later, when Balamurugan plays the first song, Peter Schmalfuss’s version of ‘Clair De Lune,’ the children put their heads down and draw images that pop into their minds.

“By the time Balamurugan has streamed three classical songs during this Zoom class on a Friday evening in late August, the kids’ papers feature drawings of watermelon, roller coasters, chocolate bars, sunsets, cupcakes, pumpkin patches and Snoopy.

“Los Angeles high school students Balamurugan and Katheryn Williams created this class, Music for Milestones, to provide local children a creative outlet through music. The free Zoom classes give children a chance to socialize and clear their minds at a time when they’re usually stuck in their homes during the coronavirus pandemic.

‘The most meaningful part about all of this is getting to see the kids smile every single class and the joy on their faces,’ Williams said. …

“Balamurugan began playing the piano at age 6. She went through hour-long practices almost every day and partook in local competitions. Balamurugan enjoyed playing waltz, but she also liked performing pop songs to energize family and friends. Playing the piano would boost her family members’ spirits after they returned from work.

“In high school, the piano became more of a creative outlet for Balamurugan as she realized how composers deliver a story or message through their performances. She taught piano to family friends who had money for lessons, but she wanted to reach those who didn’t.

“Meanwhile, music was a driver in Williams, improving her state of mind. When she was 9, she lost motivation to pursue goals in and outside of school. She felt angry at the world.

“Around that time, Williams’s grandmother, Delmy Lopez, played her ‘Esta Vida’ by Jorge Celedón — a song that preaches appreciating the small pleasures in life. That song changed her perspective, and the next day she signed up for her school’s band, learning the bass, guitar and drums. She later gained the confidence to try out for the school’s basketball team.

“In December, Balamurugan and Williams attended a meeting at their school about the Dragon Kim Foundation, which offers a fellowship program that provides $5,000 to a handful of California teenagers, helping jump-start programs they aim to form in their communities. … They wanted to team up to create a music program.

“They decided they would teach music to children around the Los Angeles area. They would create a free workbook for the class and use the grant they’d receive to purchase keyboards for the children participating. …

“Balamurugan said, ‘Katheryn is an amazing public speaker and has such an affable personality, and with me taking the reins on the organizational aspects, we played on each other’s strengths.’ …

“The original plan was for the hour-long classes to occur in-person, but they shifted to Zoom when the pandemic arrived. Online classes have allowed Balamurugan and Williams to expand their reach, as families have inquired about joining from multiple states. … Balamurugan and Williams go over the basics of music notes and tempos, give instructions on how to play the piano and suggest how to use music to improve one’s mind-set. …

“Balamurugan and Williams are proud to inspire children by showing them women of color can create and teach music, too.

“ ‘We want kids to know that through all your struggles, through anything that you’re facing,’ Williams said. More here.

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Photo: YouTube
The enthusiasm of YouTube phenomenon Twinsisthenewtrend (brothers Tim and Fred Williams) pushed an old Phil Collins song back to the top of the charts.

I’ve been getting a kick out of YouTube videos showing young people listening to pop music that was big decades ago. If you haven’t heard of this trend, read Luke Holland’s overview at the Guardian.

“Earlier this month a wonderful thing – remember those? – happened. Twin brothers Tim and Fred Williams, who post YouTube vids under the name Twinsisthenewtrend, shared a clip that went viral. In it, the affably enthusiastic 21-year-olds sit down to listen to Phil Collins’s moody, 1981 reverb anthem In the Air Tonight.

“And, well, that’s it. The clip is just them, doing that. But their reactions made it one of the most talked-about videos of the year, clocking up over six million views in three weeks.

Because there’s a twist: the twins had never heard this song before. Their minds are suitably, and adorably, blown.

“ ‘I ain’t never seen nobody drop a beat three minutes in a song!’ they hoot, delighted, after Phil clatters in with that drum fill – the one we’ve been so familiar with for so long that it’s passed into the graveyard of hoary old cliche. But hearing it through fresh ears – their ears – and watching the twins as they’re floored for the first time reminded people what an amazing musical moment it is. As a direct result of the clip, the song shot to No 2 in the US iTunes charts.

“First-reaction videos have been a thriving, and rather joyous, subsection of social media for years. In 2018, YouTuber Bman shared a video of him experiencing Bohemian Rhapsody cold. Watching the full gamut of human emotions – gentle contemplation, wistful sadness, wide-gobbed amazement – shimmer across his face, as the song lunges from one operatic movement to the next, is nothing short of wonderful.

“ ‘WHERE HAVE I BEEN?!’ he asks at the end, on the verge of tears. Bohemian Rhapsody is such a pillar of music that it’s taken for granted, in the same way gravity is taken for granted. Bman reminds you what a monumental achievement Freddie Mercury managed to pull off, because you’re right there with him, hearing it anew. …

“As viewers, it goes beyond simple nostalgic appreciation of these songs: it’s a way of reliving your own first experiences of them by proxy.

“Most importantly, despite predictably joyless accusations that many of the videos are staged, they represent a level of wholesomeness that is sorely lacking in music appreciation right now. No snark, no whataboutery, absolutely no pretension. Just people loving some great music, possibly reminding you that you – yes, you – still love it, too.” More at the Guardian, here.

If you want another angle, Jody Rosen at the New York Times sees a darker side to the current trend. “The viral popularity of this display of intergenerational sympathy — Black 20-somethings professing love for a white boomer’s pop-rock chestnut — may also tell us something else about the ambient tensions and neuroses that are, you might say, in the air, adrift in the ether of 2020. …

“Race is a crucial component of music-reaction videos. There are many Black YouTubers who specialize in responding to white musicians, and the twins’ most popular clips feature white performers. These videos … suggest that Black and white people inhabit walled-off cultural spheres — a dodgy proposition in the first place — and then perform a symbolic rapprochement, in which a sick beat-drop holds the power to bridge a racial divide.”

OK, I take his point, but I still think these videos are delightful.

In 2018, YouTuber Bman showed himself listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time.

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Photo: Ken Hofheinz
Brandon Steppe, the founder of the David’s Harp Foundation, received a grant for his work using music education and multimedia training to help at-risk youth.

When philanthropists step up to fill a need, it may be a sign that our tax money is not being used in some important ways. Arts education, for example, provides so many benefits to students that it really should be available in every school, but too often it’s the first thing to go when districts are underfunded.

So hooray for philanthropists filling a gap! Lauren Messman wrote at the New York Times, “The Lewis Prize for Music, a new philanthropic organization focused on fostering music education and career development in young people, announced its first slate of winners on [January 14]. The $1.75 million will be awarded to the leaders of nine organizations in eight states.

“The prize, which is split into three categories and includes both long-term and single-year support, was founded in 2019 by the philanthropist Daniel R. Lewis.

“ ‘My vision is to ensure opportunities to learn, perform and create music are available to all young people,’ said Mr. Lewis in a statement. ‘Ideally, this would be happening in every school, but that isn’t the case, especially in low-income and historically marginalized communities.’

“The Accelerator Award, which provides $500,000 for multiyear support, was given to Community MusicWorks, which provides classical music educational programs in Providence, R.I.; My Voice Music, which brings songwriting, recording and performance mentorships to mental health treatment and detention centers in Portland, Ore; and The David’s Harp Foundation, a San Diego-based organization that works to develop job skills through music with youth in the juvenile justice system. …

“ ‘What we’ve noticed is that when these young people come from being incarcerated back into the community, there’s a gap in our service there,’ [Brandon Steppe, the founder,] said in a phone interview. He added that the rest of the money will go toward building ‘arts-based diversionary programming in the community,’ in an effort to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system.

“Winners of the Infusion Award, which provides $50,000 over one year, include programs aimed at inspiring Native American music educators and composers, bringing traditional Mexican music education to the children of immigrants, providing music and entrepreneurship training for young musicians of color in Detroit and building support for the next generation of New Orleans brass band musicians.” More at the Times, here.

I liked reading further about one of the Infusion Award winners, the Native American Composer Apprentice Project. The Grand Canyon Music Festival website explains, “Since 1984, the Grand Canyon Music Festival has been dedicated to bringing the world’s finest musicians to Grand Canyon National Park in celebration of the power and beauty of this magnificent World Heritage site.

“Since 1985, the Festival has extended this gift of music to the students of northern Arizona’s under-served and rural communities, primarily at schools on the Navajo and Hopi Reservations. In 2001, the Festival initiated its Native American Composers Apprentice Project (NACAP) to extend its outreach to training talented Native American students in the art of composition. NACAP develops musical literacy and enhances critical thinking and decision making skills through the study of music composition. It introduces students to European ‘classical’ music techniques, develops their understanding of their own musical heritages and how to use that knowledge to develop their own compositional voices.”

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