Category Archives: sound

Bollywood Big Bang

It had to happen. Last week Outsourced; this week Bollywood invades The Big Bang Theory. Great job by “Bernadette” in capturing some of the signature Bollywood dance gestures.

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Posted by on February 4, 2011 in dance, sound, television


Why can’t I be you…

“Why can’t I be you…” moans a familiar voice through the speakers… I recognize the lyrics, the notes, the tones… It’s from an album I bought in the late 80’s or maybe the early 90s.

“Is it The Cure” I ask the store clerk, a 20-something who responds with a big grin “Yes, I love them!!”

The song reminds me of my own youth. I lived in a house with three roommates, and all of us had met because of music. We had bonded on the basis of knowing the lyrics of songs like “Lips like Sugar” (Echo and the Bunnymen), “Your own personal Jesus” (Depeche Mode), “I Know It’s over” (The Smiths), and “Boys don’t Cry” (The Cure). One of our roommates, Bill, was a singer/songwriter in a band. When he told us the title of his new song “Diet Christ”, he didn’t need to explain to any of us what it was about.

I recall my rebellion against the cliched emotions of pop songs and my attraction to the poetry in the lyrics of alternative bands. I think of my friends who shared the existential angst that penetrated our souls and the upbeat irony in the music that moved our bodies.

Today, in a store on Valencia Street in San Francisco, music connects me to my youth in Boston…

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Posted by on January 30, 2011 in lyrics, poetry, sound


Native Sounds

@the Native American museum in Washington D.C.

The sound of live music is unexpected. I’m at the Native American Museum in Washington D.C. My friend Eugene and I are drawn to the the rhythms beating on the hand held drum.

Only a few minutes ago, we were listening (and watching) similar music on a looping video in the museum. After a few minutes, Eugene had moved on to other displays but I was transfixed by the gorgeous sounds of the flutes and the drum rhythms, the mountainous backdrop of Peru,  the beautiful brown skinned men in multi-colored outfits and rainbow accessories.

Now, similar sounds are here, live, four floors below us, and I’m captivated.

Perhaps it’s a drum beat that reaches into ancient memories, essence of our human rhythm, on par with our instinctual lizard brain…a feeling resonating inside my neurons and my other cells and beyond the grasp of my words… isn’t that what all good music does?

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Posted by on January 15, 2011 in sound


Public Space

I don’t look at them until they turn on the music. It’s a phone on speakers so the sound has a sharp unpleasant edge to it. Otherwise, I might have enjoyed the beat. The words might even have been poetic from what I glean from the occasional set that I hear.

They look like teenagers. Two girls, two boys. We are all passengers on BART. I am two seats away from them, facing them diagonally.

Earlier I had overheard their conversation. They were saying the words of a song, a rap.  I heard a few words here and there and tried to hear more. But couldn’t tease out the poem. So, I was lost in my own thoughts when I was forced out of my quiet escape by the phone speaker.

I look at them to let them know that I am unpleased with this invasion of my personal space. My quiet request is ignored. The music continues. I decide to adjust to the situation and try to listen. The rudeness of the situation is more overpowering than any musical or poetic words and I can only relax once the song is over and the kid turns off the speaker.

This is akin to the occasional car that passes me on the roads in San Francisco with music blaring loud enough to make me wonder if the driver has hearing problems. I feel as if sound pollution is slowly encroaching my personal space and I’m powerless to do anything about it. I wish I could tell these people that listening to music should be my choice and not one made for me.

I feel the same about the pervasive music in coffee houses. I go there for quiet, to work, to read. I wish they wouldn’t feel the need to add their own entertainment. But, at least, in those cases the option of listening is mine.

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Posted by on January 14, 2011 in sound


Too much music?

I’m reading This is Your Brain on Music but the technical explanations of octaves and scales are eliciting a mental yawn. I don’t want to give up so I continue reading but I know that I’m not learning very much. I want to get to the good stuff, the physiological effects of music. That’s the reason I bought the book.

I’m at Borderlands. There’s no music. Just a soothing hum of conversations. Ironically, I’m noticing the absence of music and the calm that it produces.

Is music being used too much in our society?

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Posted by on January 9, 2011 in sound


What is music?

I do a few google searches with the keyword ‘music’. The results are mostly about musicians and their songs. I don’t find much on the instrumental aspects.

What is music? It seems that many people emphasize the songs or the musician rather than the sounds of the instruments. The only indicator of the type of instruments used is gleaned by the categories which are assigned to the song: jazz, rock, bhangra, country, Arabic, classical, rap, r&b, Indian, hip hop, reggae, electronic, a Capella, Chinese.

I look up the definition in Merriam-Webster and the primary definition “tones or sounds in succession, in combination, and in temporal relationships to produce a composition having unity and continuity” seems fairly broad and beyond just musicians and their songs. I like the concept of “tones and sounds” and that’s what I’ll explore in this blog.

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Posted by on January 8, 2011 in sound


Faucet Dripping

I was watching a French film today and noticed the absence of music. Moods were indicated by sounds of a door closing or a key rattling or a faucet dripping. There was none of that overpowering Hollywood or Bollywood music that tells the audience what to feel.

In the case of the French film, it was the absence of music that gave the movie its emotional power.

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Posted by on January 3, 2011 in film, sound