Romantic Songs, if You’re a Stalker

Happy Valentine’s Day!

To celebrate I’ve put together a little list of my favorite songs to show you my affection. That’s a lie. These songs are creepy if you actually listen to the lyrics. With that said, I still like these songs and will gladly sing along whenever I get the chance. I included the music videos because some of them really take the creepy factor further with visuals. I know there’s a TON of other songs that are creepy, so if you want to add to the list leave a comment. Enjoy… winkwink.

Elvis Costello featuring Fiona AppleI Want You

The PoliceEvery Breath You Take

Cheap TrickI Want You To Want Me

Death Cab for CutieI Will Possess Your Heart

The Smashing PumpkinsAva Adore

Nine Inch NailsCloser

On My Bucket List: Vienna New Year’s Concert

I’ve never really kept an official “bucket list”. For much of my youth I really just stayed hopeful that when I became an adult I’d have enough money to do things like travel the world and eat all the food found in those locales. With Aiden I make seasonal bucket lists of activities and it’s got me thinking about things I’d like to do one day with a little planning.

One item on that list is to attend the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra‘s New Year’s concert. What makes this concert special other than it being a great way to ring in the new year is that they play the Radetsky March with the audience participation. We did this at a recent concert here and it was so fun that I’d do it again if I had the chance.

Thanks to the beauty of the internet, I found the full 2015 concert on YouTube, below.

The whole program is over 2 hours, so if you’d like to hear the Radetsky March fast forward to hour 2 and 16 minutes, or click here to start at that mark.

[ image above © Terry Linke ]

What I Want You To Know About Museums

I work in a museum. Often when people ask what I do for work I love to mention that I work at the Lyman Allyn. I want people to know this place exists! Although, there’s always a tiny part of me that feels like that person may as well be hearing, “I work at a really snooty place, period, that’s all you need to know because it’s probably too good for you anyways.”

But it’s not a snooty place! I want you to know that whatever we have on view is meant to be accessible to everybody.

Admission fees shouldn’t determine whether or not you can walk through our front doors. In fact, a lot of museums in the United States are free to the public. For example, if you visit Washington D.C., all of the Smithsonian institutions are always free and open everyday of the year except on Christmas. The admission fee we charge at the Lyman Allyn doesn’t mean we’re greedy and want all of your money. Like a lot of museums we’re a non-profit organization. A lot of what gets collected financially will help us to fund the costs to run this building, care and maintenance of the objects in our collection, to allow us to provide programs for children and special events related to the current exhibitions, to pay for applications for grants, to order office supplies, and to pay the small amount of staff members who work hard and tirelessly to organize and plan everything that happens within these walls.

If you feel that our admission fee is still problematic, you have options! With a little planning and preparation you can visit for free. Museums may hold an occasional “free night” or “free day” promotion. My museum has a “Free First Saturday” where we provide free admission on the first Saturday of the month. Also, find out if your local library holds passes to local museums and attractions which will cover a portion or all of the admission cost. Some museums offer reciprocal admission to other area museums if you’re a member with that museum.

For a yearly fee there are museum associations such as the North American Reciprocal Museums or American Alliance of Museums where you are granted free admission to a large group of museums affiliated with that organization. If you travel often, this is a great thing to have because you’ll be able to enjoy the museums in the areas you visit at no extra cost.

If the museum doesn’t tout the really priceless van Goghs / Picassos / Monets / Renoirs / Kahlos / Warhols, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing worth seeing. The permanent collection at the Lyman Allyn aims to present artwork and objects that were created by those who have worked and/or lived in Connecticut or New England. Much of the objects were made or owned by prominent people from this state’s history. While a museum may have a niche that makes it unique among other museums, it may also present temporary shows that encompass a variety of subjects and themes. Without being strictly about one thing, you might see traveling exhibitions and accompanying events/activities that cater to different ages and interests. About ten year ago when I was vacationing in Tampa, Florida, there was a Bodies at one of the local museums. A year later I saw that the same exhibit moved it’s way north to a New York City museum.

You can bring the kids. Adding to what I just mentioned about there being exhibits for every interest, there are exhibits and programs geared towards kids. I know a lot of museums are populated by the older peeps, and some of them prefer a quiet stroll through the galleries, but kids can behave too. New Yorkers do it all the time. Shoot, I brought my kid to the Yale Center for British Art and there’s nothing there that would really engage my kid’s mind but I created activities for him to participate in while we walked around. How many horses do you see in this gallery? What do you think that child is doing in this painting? Do you like this sculpture; and what do you like about it? If you see a painting with boats in it, sing a sea chantey. Get creative!

I hope this post motivates you to take a trip to your local museum at least once this year. I have such a huge passion for the arts organizations in my community. I think places like local museums and hearing music groups live are ways that one can stimulate their local economy and experience some culture in return for a small fee. Now, get out there!

A Christmas Playlist Worth Playing

I’m going to assume your area has that one radio station playing Christmas music all day, every day and it plays that one Paul McCartney song a minimum of 25 times a day. Also, how is it possible for every musician out there record a Christmas album? How many pop arrangements of these songs do we really need? That’s a question I want you to answer. So I like to counteract all of these usual radio mainstays with a jazz-oriented set of holiday songs. It’s not a Merry Christmas without my homeboys Mel, Bing, and Perry. I also threw a disco song in there at the end because I knew you’d appreciate it.

[ image via ]

From the Edge – Notes from Rehearsal

So! We’re done with the serious (for now) and now we’re doing something fun. The day after a rigorous concert weekend we jumped right into our repertoire for Christmas Pops. With three weeks until the next concert, there’s a pro and a con to this. Sure, we’re all are familiar with most of the holiday songs, but there are various arrangements of every song and making sure we sing what’s printed in the music is sometimes a tricky thing. Making sure we sing all the correct notes at the same time is still the goal, but without that amount of accuracy in our performance it could go from really great choir sound to karaoke night really quickly.

To add a little pressure we’re also premiering a new composition. Even though the whole work is about 15 minutes long, it still requires quite a bit of challenging note and rhythm-learning. It’s a daunting task but I love to take on a challenge.

The piece is called Psalms for Leo, composed by Jonathan Dove. The original choir who commissioned this piece was The Bach Choir in England. This work is in memory of Leopold de Rothschild, who was a member of The Bach Choir for fifty years and later served as President of the choir.

Here’s a peek at the first page of the score:

The score itself is a marvelous composition. Jonathan Dove doesn’t just put together a sweet sounding piece for Leo, instead he weaves together a number of vocal lines that in places complement each other and other places there’s a glorious minor-key dissonance that resolves once in a while. Also, the music theory nerd in me got excited to find out that one of the movements is in the Mixolydian mode. The one feature about the Mixolydian mode that makes it “mixolydian” is that the seventh scale degree note is a lowered by a semitone. The rest of the notes are what would make up the major scale built on the fifth of that key signature. Let me stop there. I feel your eyes are starting to gloss over.

For the text Jonathan chose to compose music for Hebrew translations of Psalms 148, 27, and 19. Psalm 19 is very fitting to honor the devotion Leo had for the Bach Choir.

Here’s an interview with Jonathan Dove and conductor of the Bach Choir, David Hill, describing the piece and how it came together for them and the children’s choir they invited to sing with them.

Unfortunately I haven’t found any recordings of the London premiere, but it must have been a wonderous experience considering they have at least 220 singers. I thought the Chorus of Westerly was huge, but The Bach Choir takes the cake. If you’re in the Westerly, Rhode Island area on December 21st, please consider attending our Christmas Pops concert! It’s always a good time. (Buy tickets online)


Sleater-Kinney is Back

[ photo via Facebook ]

Sleater-Kinney is one of bands that I became a fan of in the late 90’s when I was in my GIRL POWER! phase. Obviously the Spice Girls may have been the jumping off point of the whole thing, but then I realized girls can also kick ass with instruments which made the ladies of Sleater-Kinney and other women-only/heavy bands awesome in my book as a teenager. So yeah, i’m a little bit of a riot grrrl in my heart.

I’m also glad that Sleater-Kinney has kept on creating music for years now and I love their newest music as much as their first tracks. I always get a little nervous when bands go on a hiatus because it may mean no more of the ol’ band I know and love, and I just hope they stay in the music scene in a different shape or form. Recent events that have prompted them to record a new album for a January 2015 release has me all sorts of excited. The track above was just posted on their SoundCloud page right after they did an Ask-Us-Anything on Reddit today and the track below is another new track.

Gifts for the Musician in your life

Here’s a handy list of gifts you could get for your family member or friend who’s a musician. If none of these seem good enough, you can get these for me you can’t beat a gift card to their favorite music store.

1.) Mechanical Music Box Set, $22, Uncommon Goods
2.) Really Big Pianist, $22, T Shirt Hell
3.) Theremin Mini Kit, $39.99, Think Geek
4.) Sony MDR7506 Professional Large Diaphragm Headphone, $84.95, Amazon
5.) Tab Station iPad Holder, $29.95, Drum Bum
6.) Recording studio in a box, $249.99, Sweetwater
7.) Keys to the Kingdom doormat, $37.99, ModCloth (ahem)
8.) Rock Band T Shirt, $24-$25, Design By Humans
9.) Arizona Arena Bifold Picker’s Wallet, $35, Whipping + Post (and get the matching guitar strap because it looks so so good)

Seen and Heard

Here are a few things that I found interesting while browsing around:

The Yaybahar, an acoustic instrument I’ve never seen before.
Art Project by the Google Cultural Institute features high quality images of all the artwork featured in many musuems around the world. This is marvelous!
The Positive Emotional Impact of Sad Music
Butts in art
Museums make you happier and less lonely, studies find
Buddy Editions sells affordable prints of art and photography. There’s a photo of Bill Murray in there too, if you’re a fan of his.

A Film About Coffee, because yes, I like coffee.

The Tetris theme song on piano, which sounds like..

If you enjoyed the movie Pitch Perfect, take a look at this:

And The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 1 soundtrack is available on Spotify.:

From the Edge – Notes from Rehearsal

I’m really excited, you guys. I know I just started this series a couple weeks ago but I’m already less than a week from my first performance with the Chorus of Westerly this season!! Monday night’s rehearsal was held on the risers with our new riser assignments (one brilliant individual named Pam has been assigning spots for every singer every season for years according to voice part and height; it sounds like a really challenging job) and it gave our director, Andrew, a chance to hear how we all sound together in the house. From my perspective I think the run-through went relatively well and we’re pretty much polishing our sound in the next two rehearsals before Sunday.

A lot goes on the last few weeks before a performance. From the front end we’re working to perfect our music so we can be proud to perform it for you. Behind the scenes so much is going on- Pam consults with Andrew about where to put every singer on the risers and make sure we all fit, Andrew is rehearsing with the child and teen choristers, travel and accommodations are being made for the incoming soloists and orchestra musicians (there’s at least 40 of them), weather-related back up plans are being made if there is ever a forecast for snow, we’re notifying our followers everyday on social media about the event, our director is talking with local morning talk radio shows, the programs are being printed, the seats in the house need to arranged, the scores for the orchestra are organized, Andrew is preparing for his pre-concert lecture, food for the post-concert reception is being made… Aaaaaand up until the doors open for the first show we’re still selling tickets.

Miraculously a lot of this gets accomplished by volunteers, mostly made up of members of the Chorus and parents of the youth singers. This is one thing that a lot of people probably don’t know about non-profit organizations, is that the paid staff is usually a small group of people while the rest of the operations are taken care of by volunteers donating their free time and skills.

Here’s a shot of the whole chorus (during our little snack break) on the risers for the first time this season and a funny note-to-self in my score:

The humorous result of using a borrowed music score- other people's written notes. "Get the shabby-do into it!"

A photo posted by Erma B. (@stonecoldvox) on

My Rehearsal Notes
Text: (1) familiarize yourself with what the text translates to in English to help determine the type of mood you want to convey for each movement (2) try to memorize more text so you can get your head out of your music (what exactly am I singing? Here’s a translation!)
Keep practicing trouble spots: while rehearsing I draw circles around parts of my score where I mess up and need to review when I have time to practice on my own. It’s a good feeling when I can finally erase those circles with confidence.
Review dynamic markings and time signatures: if you’re like me and feel as though there’s too much to keep in mind while singing, write in the beats above measures where necessary. Note where to take breaths with a check mark or comma.

ScaleNet, a Music Theory app

I’m really excited to tell you guys about an app that a couple of my college professors developed. It makes me wish I had access to this when I took Music Theory classes.

ScaleNet is a “mobile Music Theory learning environment” for the young–or beginner musician. It was developed by two college professors who employed network modeling to help clarify how many of the basic concepts in music are connected by simple, interrelated patterns.

ScaleNet’s melody-game incorporates a large library of diverse melodic phrases which provide a constantly changing “real world” note-ID environment. The skill sets developed through the use of ScaleNet are applicable to Traditional, Popular, EDM, Hip-Hop, Jazz, and Classical music.

ScaleNet provides interactive learning spaces associated with:

  • Keys and their graphic layout on the staff (mirrored in touch-pads).
  • Simple key relationships: Major, relative minor and parallel minor.
  • Complex key relationships–and how harmonic progressions are nested within their natural order.
  • Note identification, employing treble clef, within all keys in a timed play-environment.
  • Ear-training through simple additive melodic phrases which are spontaneously sequenced and which can be used for interval identification.
  • Post-game statistics which allow the user to track ongoing progress.

ScaleNet’s simple, intuitive, interface allows the user to focus on musical processes and ideas.

ScaleNet’s “key-sphere” technology redefines the traditional circle of 5ths revealing new harmonic relationships.

ScaleNet’s ear-training and sight-reading game integrates key information through touch-pad mirroring.

I was playing around the app earlier today and it’s fun. I find it easier to sing the notes than tap the note names if I were trying to race with myself, but competition aside it’s a good game to test your knowledge on what notes are within a certain Major or Minor scale.

Get it for free on the iTunes App Store here and on Android here.