Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Advertisements

Jane Little, who debuted as a bassist in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1945, at age 16 and who never stopped playing, died during a performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Sunday. She was said to be the longest tenured orchestra musician in the world. She was 87.

“We can say that Jane was fortunate to do what she loved until the very end of her storied life and career,” the symphony said in a Facebook post. “The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was truly blessed to have Jane as part of our family for the past 71 years and we all miss her passion, vitality, spirit and incredible talent.”

“Her footprints are permanently etched on that stage,” wrote another admirer, Doug Ireland. “Everyone who ever attended a concert was amazed to see this tiny woman with that huge instrument!”

“Was at the performance today when Jane Little collapsed,” said a post by Rosemary Kord. “So sad to witness this tragedy. Happened in the last couple of minutes of the final song. I am still shakened and send my prayers to Jane’s family and to her musical family, The Atlanta Symphony. If there is a Requiem in her honor, I would like to be in attendance. RIP dear lady; you are an inspiration!”

The symphony was performing a pops concert called “Broadway’s Golden Age,” according to its schedule. A spokeswoman said the players were about 30 seconds from the last measures of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” the encore to the concert when Little collapsed and was carried backstage by her fellow bassists. She never regained consciousness.

“She seemed to be made of bass resin and barbed wire. She was unstoppable,” bassist Michael Kurth, who was playing next to Little when she collapsed, told The Washington Post on Sunday night.

Kurth, 44, added that “I honestly thought I was going to retire before she did, honestly.”

“What an amazing way to go,” added Amanda Turner in a post on the ASO website.

The symphony did not provide a cause of death. Little had not been feeling well. She’s been undergoing chemotherapy for multiple myeloma, had missed the orchestra’s April concert in Carnegie Hall in New York, and told Russell Williamson, the ASO’s senior orchestra manager, during intermission at Saturday night’s concert that she felt weak and woozy. That night, violinist Ellie Kosek asked Little to call when she got home safely, which she did.

Little was not a physically imposing figure. She weighed 98 pounds and had battled through, in addition to the myeloma, a broken shoulder, elbow and pelvis in recent years. Last August, she fell and cracked her vertebra, leaving her unable to play.

But in February, after months of rehabilitation, Little took to the stage and passed the record set by Frances Darger, the Utah Symphony violinist who had retired in 2012 after 70 years of playing. Little took pride in her feat.

“I’d thumb through the Guinness book and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat?’” Little told The Post in February. “A lot of people do crazy things like sitting on a flagpole for three days. I just kept on. It was just me and the lady in Utah. So finally, I said, ‘I’m going to do this.’”

Though frail and injury-prone, the prospect of setting the record seemed to have helped keep her going, albeit not for every ASO concert. “I was competing with this woman out in Utah, who played 70 years, 69 of them with the Utah Symphony,” she told Atlanta Magazine. “When I heard she was retiring, I said, ‘I’m going for it.’”

“Seventy-one years ago,” Little told The Post during the intermission after a five-minute-long standing ovation earlier this year. “It’s hard to remember when I wasn’t here.”

By then, she had already said she would retire at the end of the season. Little, a widow with no children, planned to spend time at her house in North Carolina. Truth is, she hated the idea of walking away.

“She wanted to play,” Williamson said. “She certainly could have afforded to retire years and years ago. But this is what she did. This was her family.”

Little did not set out to play the bass when she first took an interest in music during the Great Depression. She wanted to be a ballerina, she recalled in an interview with Atlanta Magazine.

I always loved music from the time I was a kid. My aunt had a dancing school in Atlanta, and my mother was the piano accompanist. She played by ear; she could just sit down and play everything. I started dancing, and I wanted to be a ballerina, but to be a ballerina, you need to have these nice feet, and mine just weren’t right. So my dreams were shattered there. But I still loved music, and I taught myself to play the piano on my next-door neighbor’s piano. This was during the Depression, and we didn’t own one, even though my mother was a pianist.

Later, at Girls High School in Grant Park, I wanted to join the glee club, and I found out that freshmen had to take a musical aptitude test….I took the test along with all the other freshmen, and about a week later, I was called up to the orchestra room. I had scored really well, in the top percent of all the students. The orchestra leader asked me what instrument I played, and I told her I didn’t really play an instrument, I just wanted to join the glee club. She was shocked. She told me, you must play an instrument! You’ve obviously got the ear for it, and the rhythm for it.

She asked what I’d like to play, and I named a few small instruments like the clarinet and the violin. She said, “Actually, we really need bass players.” I was five-foot-three and weighed all of 98 pounds at the time, but she asked me to try it. She gave me lessons, and within a month, I was hooked. I loved it. It was awfully difficult to push those heavy strings down, and to carry the instrument around, but I just loved it.

According to her profile on the website of the American Federation of Musicians, “She struggled at first to hear the lowest pitches and could barely press down the thick E string — not to mention, even just carrying the bass around was no easy task. ‘I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, this is going to be a challenge!’ she says. ‘But I was back for the next lesson, and the next, and the next.’ After just a couple months of private lessons, Little was ready to join the orchestra — and not only did she join, but she was quickly appointed principal bass.”

While playing in the symphony, she met the man who would become her husband, Warren Little, who played the flute. Their first date was a performance by the legendary violinist David Oistrakh.

“’I must say that when I met Warren, I was very impressed that he played a small instrument,’” she commented in the profile, “‘so he could carry my bass around!’” He retired in 1992 and died in 2002.

There was no Atlanta Symphony Orchestra at that time. But there was an Atlanta Youth Symphony, for which she auditioned and joined in 1945. Three years later, that youth symphony became the Atlanta Symphony.

“It’s just mind-boggling,” Timothy Cobb, the principal bassist with the New York Philharmonic, told The Post in February. “It takes a tremendous amount of physical power, frankly, and just brute force to play in a big orchestra. I have had friends who have made it into their 70s but to be pumping it out in the orchestra is really something.”

Little took a fall last August, cracked a vertebra and was so weak and in such pain she could only practice for minutes at a time during her recovery. She was taking prescribed steroid pills to help her through performances.

Little, according to the ASO, played under all four of the orchestra’s music directors, as well as guest conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Pierre Montez, Leopold Stokowski, John Barbirolli and James Levine.

“To me, it seems like more than the end of an era,” Kurth said. “She outlasted every era of this orchestra. She outlasted three music directors. The next, most longest tenured member was here I think twenty years less than she was. There are no words to describe how remarkable she was. You think of superlatives and you just run out.”

There was great sadness among orchestra members Sunday night. There was also a sense that there was a poetic beauty to the timing of Little’s death, playing her bass during a performance of a classic from the “Great American Songbook.”

“Hollywood could not have scripted it better,” said Paul Murphy, the orchestra’s associate principal viola.

“For her to go out at the end of a concert, the golden age of Broadway, and it was during the encore,” said Williamson. “The words are ‘let’s go on with the show.’”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/05/16/what-an-amazing-way-to-go-bassist-jane-little-worlds-longest-serving-orchestra-musician-dead-at-87-after-collapsing-while-performing/?tid=pm_national_pop_b

M.I.T. researchers Nancy Kanwisher, Josh H. McDermott and Sam Norman-Haignere have uncovered specific parts of the brain that are activated primarily by music — and not, say, human speech or ambient sound.

In fact, according to the findings they published in the journal Neuron, the circuits that “light up” to different kinds of sound are located in completely different parts of the auditory cortex.

n unpacking this groundbreaking study, M.I.T. News explains that by utilizing a new method working with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers were able to identify six different neural population response patterns in 10 human subjects who were each played 165 sound clips. In summary, “one population responded most to music, another to speech, and the other four to different acoustic properties such as pitch and frequency.”

Dr. Horman-Haignere, the lead author of the findings, told the New York Times that, “the sound of a solo drummer, whistling, pop songs, rap, almost everything that has a musical quality to it, melodic or rhythmic” would activate the part of the auditory cortex called the sulcus, or major crevice.

Josef Rauschecker, director of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition at Georgetown University, praised the study, noting that “the idea that the brain gives specialized treatment to music recognition, that it regards music as fundamental a category as speech, is very exciting to me.

“There are theories that music is older than speech or language,” he added. “Some even argue that speech evolved from music.”

Though it’s still unclear what particular features of music are lighting up that part of the brain, the study proves something that we suspected all along: though we may not know how to describe what good music is, our bodies certainly know it when they hear it.

http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/6873880/music-brain-effect-scientists-mit-study

by Tori Rodriguez, MA, LPC

As the search continues for effective drug treatments for dementia, patients and caregivers may find some measure of relief from a common, non-pharmaceutical source. Researchers have found that music-related memory appears to be exempt from the extent of memory impairment generally associated with dementia, and several studies report promising results for several different types of musical experiences across a variety of settings and formats.

“We can say that perception of music can be intact, even when explicit judgments and overt recognition have been lost,” Manuela Kerer, PhD, told Psychiatry Advisor. “We are convinced that there is a specialized memory system for music, which is distinct from other domains, like verbal or visual memory, and may be very resilient against Alzheimer’s disease.”

Kerer is a full-time musical composer with a doctoral degree in psychology who co-authored a study on the topic while working at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. She and her colleagues investigated explicit memory for music among ten patients with early-state Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and ten patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), and compared their performance to that of 23 healthy participants. Not surprisingly, the patient group demonstrated worse performance on tasks involving verbal memory, but they did significantly better than controls on the music-perceptional tasks of detecting distorted tunes and judging timbre.

“The temporal brain structures necessary for verbal musical memory were mildly affected in our clinical patients, therefore attention might have shifted to the discrimination tasks which led to better results in this area,” she said. “Our results enhance the notion of an explicit memory for music that can be distinguished from other types of explicit memory — that means that memory for music could be spared in this patient group.”

Other findings suggest that music might even improve certain aspects of memory among people with dementia. In a randomized controlled trial published in last month in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, music coaching interventions improved multiple outcomes for both patients with dementia and their caregivers. The researchers divided 89 pairs of patients with dementia and their caregivers into three groups: two groups were assigned to caregiver-led interventions that involved either singing or listening to music, while a third group received standard care. Before and after the 10-week intervention, and six months after the intervention, participants were assessed on measures of mood, quality of life and neuropsychological functioning.

Results showed that the singing intervention improved working memory among patients with mild dementia and helped to preserve executive function and orientation among younger patients, and it also improved the well-being of caregivers. The listening intervention was found to have a positive impact on general cognition, working memory and quality of life, particularly among patients in institutional care with moderate dementia not caused by AD. Both interventions led to reductions in depression.

The findings suggest that “music has the power to improve mood and stimulate cognitive functions in dementia, most likely by engaging limbic and medial prefrontal brain regions, which are often preserved in the early stages of the illness,” study co-author Teppo Särkämö, PhD, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, Finland, told Psychiatry Advisor. “The results indicate that when used regularly, caregiver-implemented musical activities can be an important and easily applicable way to maintain the emotional and cognitive well-being of persons with dementia and also to reduce the psychological burden of family caregivers.”

Singing has also been shown to increase learning and retention of new verbal material in patients with AD, according to research published this year in the Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology, and findings published in 2013 show that listening to familiar music improves the verbal narration of autobiographical memories in such patients. Another study found that a music intervention delivered in a group format reduced depression and delayed the deterioration of cognitive functions, especially short-term recall, in patients with mild and moderate dementia. Group-based music therapy appears to also decrease agitation among patients in all stages of dementia, as described in a systematic review published in 2014 in Nursing Times.

n addition to the effects of singing and listening to music on patients who already have dementia, playing a musical instrument may also offer some protection against the condition, according to a population-based twin study reported in 2014 in the International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers at the University of Southern California found that older adults who played an instrument were 64% less likely than their non-musician twin to develop dementia or cognitive impairment.

“Playing an instrument is a unique activity in that it requires a wide array of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together simultaneously, throughout both the right and left hemispheres,” co-author Alison Balbag, PhD, told Psychiatry Advisor. While the study did not examine causal mechanisms, “playing an instrument may be a very effective and efficient way to engage the brain, possibly granting older musicians better maintained cognitive reserve and possibly providing compensatory abilities to mitigate age-related cognitive declines.”

She notes that clinicians might consider suggesting that patients incorporate music-making into their lives as a preventive activity, or encouraging them to keep it up if they already play an instrument.
Further research, particularly neuroimaging studies, is needed to elucidate the mechanisms behind the effects of music on dementia, but in the meantime it could be a helpful supplement to patients’ treatment plans. “Music has considerable potential and it should be introduced much more in rehabilitation and neuropsychological assessment,” Kerer said.

http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/alzheimers-disease-and-dementia/neurocognitive-neurodegenerative-memory-musical-alzheimers/article/452120/3/

References

Kerer M, Marksteiner J, Hinterhuber H, et al. Explicit (semantic) memory for music in patients with mild cognitive impairment and early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. Experimental Aging Research; 2013; 39(5):536-64.

Särkämö T, Laitinen S, Numminen A, et al. Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease; 2015; published online ahead of print.

Palisson J, Roussel-Baclet C, Maillet D, et al. Music enhances verbal episodic memory in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Clinical & Experimental Neuropsychology; 2015; 37(5):503-17.

El Haj M, Sylvain Clément, Luciano Fasotti, Philippe Allain. Effects of music on autobiographical verbal narration in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Neurolinguistics; 2013; 26(6): 691–700.

Chu H, Yang CY, Lin Y, et al. The impact of group music therapy on depression and cognition in elderly persons with dementia: a randomized controlled study. Biological Research for Nursing; 2014; 16(2):209-17.

Craig J. Music therapy to reduce agitation in dementia. Nursing Times; 2014; 110(32-33):12-5.
Balbag MA, Pedersen NL, Gatz M. Playing a Musical Instrument as a Protective Factor against Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Population-Based Twin Study. International Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease; 2014; 2014: 836748.

by John Haltiwanger

As a musical genre, hip-hop is often denigrated for seemingly condoning misogyny, materialism, violence and crime. But this is an unfair characterization and an overgeneralization.

Yes, there are some rap artists who write songs containing nothing of substance. More often than not, however, hip-hop offers many of us an insightful view into a dark world we’re unfamiliar with: the impoverished inner city.

In this sense, hip-hop has the potential to educate and foster empathy.

To borrow from Jay Z:

I think that hip-hop has done more for racial relations than most cultural icons. Save Martin Luther King, because his dream speech we realized when President Obama got elected.

[Hip-hop] music didn’t only influence kids from urban areas. People listen to this music all around the world, and [they] took to this music.

Once you have people partying, dancing and singing along to the same music, then conversations naturally happen after that.

We all realize that we’re more alike than we’re separate.

Indeed, hip-hop breaches ostensibly impenetrable cultural divides, breeding solidarity among people with disparate backgrounds.

This is precisely why recent albums like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly have been widely celebrated and even used by high school teachers to teach lessons about race and oppression.

Beyond enlightening people on race, poverty, the War on Drugs and the inner city, it also appears hip-hop has a hidden benefit as a powerful tool against mental illness.

A study from Cambridge University found that hip-hop is extremely effective in combatting depression, bipolar disorder and addiction.

When you think about the themes hip-hop encompasses, this makes a lot of sense. Many artists rap about overcoming numerous obstacles in the ghetto, from gang violence and poverty to drugs and police brutality.

The overall narrative of hip-hop is one of progress. Artists tell dynamic stories of advancing from deeply oppressive environments to living out their wildest dreams.

Fundamentally, the message of hip-hop is one of hope.

Thus, hip-hop has the effect of “positive visual imagery,” helping people see the light when the whole world feels dark.

In other words, during bipolar episodes or periods of depression, listening to hip-hop can help people visualize or imagine a more positive place and where they’d like to be in the future. In turn, they arrive at a more secure mental state.

The study was conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Becky Inkster and psychiatrist Dr. Akeem Sule.

As Dr. Sule puts it:

Much of hip-hop comes from areas of great socioeconomic deprivation, so it’s inevitable that its lyrics will reflect the issues faced by people brought up in these areas, including poverty, marginalization, crime and drugs.

We can see in the lyrics many of the key risk factors for mental illness, from which it can be difficult to escape.

Hip-hop artists use their skills and talents not only to describe the world they see, but also as a means of breaking free.

We believe that hip-hop, with its rich, visual narrative style, can be used to make therapies that are more effective for specific populations and can help patients with depression to create more positive images of themselves, their situations and their future.

One of the prime examples utilized in the study is that of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” a hip-hop classic.

In the song, Biggie details his rise from deprivation on the harsh streets of Brooklyn to the covers of magazines and a life of affluence. It’s a song about making it against impossible odds.

There are so many other examples like this within the world of hip-hop. From Jay Z’s “On To The Next One” to the more recent Kendrick Lamar track, “i.”

Interestingly enough, not long ago, Lamar stated he penned the song as a form of encouragement and inspiration for prison inmates and suicidal teenagers:

I wrote a record for the homies that’s in the penitentiary right now, and I also wrote a record for these kids that come up to my shows with these slashes on they wrists, saying they don’t want to live no more.

Accordingly, it’s apparent some hip-hop artists are already deliberately attempting to help people with mental illness.

Regardless of the criticism it receives, hip-hop is a form of artistic expression with limitless educative and therapeutic potential.

The rapper Killer Mike has noted there is a commonly held view that hip-hop poses a threat or danger to society, but as he explains:

The kids spending hours per day writing rap songs aren’t a threat to society; they are often trying to escape the threats from society.

The town of Willimantic, Connecticut’s annual Independence Day parade once again will include the traditional Little League teams, floats sponsored by local businesses, fire trucks and politicians. But, for the 30th consecutive year, there will be no marching bands.

In what has become an offbeat tradition, the participants and the spectators will instead be carrying radios tuned to the same local station, which will provide traditional marching music.

More than 5,000 people are expected to attend the town’s annual Boom Box Parade, which kicks off at 11 a.m. Saturday.

“I didn’t think the idea would work,” said Wayne Norman, the WILI-AM radio personality who has served as grand marshal for all 30 parades. “I didn’t think people would get the concept. Boy was I wrong.”

The parade dates to 1986, when the town couldn’t find an available marching band for its Memorial Day parade. Organizer Kathy Clark approached the radio station for help. Station officials said it was too late to organize and publicize for that holiday, but they began planning with Clark for July Fourth, and the tradition was born.

Norman said the staging area was empty two hours before the parade but by the time it was ready to start more than 2,000 people were there, all carrying boom boxes.

Norman said there were some evolutionary pains as the portable radios, ubiquitous in the 1980s, went the way of the cassette tape and were replaced by iPods and other portable electronic devices.

He said any radio or device with a speaker and a way to access the radio station is welcome.

“We ask people to please not wear headphones,” he said. “We don’t outlaw them, but it kind of defeats the purpose.”

The parade, he said, celebrates independence in all its connotations. There is no registration to march. Anyone can participate, and people are free to bring signs, promote causes, even advertise for their businesses.

Norman said that in an ironic twist the Windham High School band, which was not around to march in 1986, this year provided a recorded piece that will be played during the parade.

A lot of groups just have fun with the event. That would include the Traveling Fish Head Club of Northeastern Connecticut, which Norman said walks up from the nearby Hop River to join the parade disguised as a giant fish made from wood, wire and papier-mache.

“We don’t have many rules,” Norman said. “We just ask people to wear red, white and blue and bring a flag and a radio.”

Members of the state legislature and Congress and the governor often march in the parade, though Norman said they usually get a bigger turnout of politicians during an election year.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal shows up every year. He said he loves the parade because it has a spirit that is quintessentially American.

“It’s good old Connecticut ingenuity,” he said. “Let’s use boom boxes if we can’t have a band. Let’s make do. Let’s invent. Our ingenuity will make it happen.”

http://bigstory.ap.org/urn:publicid:ap.org:b9a26103751f484cafc89015e5518bb3

Late last week, one of the great innovators in consumer audio passed away. The loss of Joseph Grado is felt deeply by all of us who love and care about great audio gear.

The company Joseph started, Grado Labs, continues to be a huge name in the hi-fi audio industry. The Grado of today makes several different styles of headphones, from world-class high-end models to sub-$100 consumer models, as well as headphone amplifiers and phono cartridges for record players. It has always followed Joseph’s original vision of making products that try to reproduce music as faithfully and accurately as possible, so you hear your favorite songs the way they were meant to be heard.

“My uncle, foremost, was a lover of music,” says John Grado, Joseph’s nephew and current President & CEO of Grado Labs.

But even though Joseph Grado displayed obvious talent and ambition early in life, Joe never planned a future in audio. In fact, when he began working in the field, he scarcely knew what a decibel was, and he certainly wasn’t well-acquainted with the finer points of audio component design.

Joseph was watchmaker by trade, and while he didn’t have much experience in the audio world, he had a passion for perfection and an ear for sound. It was at the insistence of Saul Marantz (the mind behind Marantz pre-amps) that Joseph met with Sherman Fairchild, who wanted his “expert” advice on improving the manufacturing process of his phono pickups. Joe obliged, and Fairchild all but offered him a job on the spot.

Grado left his watchmaking position at Tiffany & Co. to helm Fairchild’s struggling hi-fi operation and used his talents to design and manufacture quality phono pickups. Not long after, in 1953, Joe struck out on his own to begin making the very first Grado Labs cartridges in his kitchen in Brooklyn. Sixty-two years, almost 50 patents, and dozens of products later, Grado Labs is one of the foremost names in the audiophile world.

Among his most important patented inventions is the stereo moving-coil cartridge, a new (in 1959, anyway) design for the record player stylus that offered a significant improvement in audio fidelity. Joe Grado also created the HP-1000 headphones, an iconic design that’s not only still sought-after by collectors, but one which still technically and visually informs all of the modern headphone designs Grado makes today.

http://www.wired.com/2015/02/joseph-grado-gallery/#slide-id-1732899