RIA Steve Jobs

Of course, the day I go on blog hiatus, something important happens that warrants a post. So scratch that, reverse it.

As I sat at my desk this evening, typing away, my computer made the “e-mail!” sound. I opened up Gmail and there it was: “Steven P. Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple, Dies.

At first I couldn’t believe it – he was only 56 years old! He was Steve Jobs. He couldn’t just die. He was Apple to me (not saying that there aren’t plenty of wonderful people at Apple… but, well, he was Steve Jobs).

I read about his death on my MacBook Pro. How many Apple products have I owned? A desktop, two laptops, three iPods, and iPhone… not to mention I’m an avid user of iWork, iTunes, the App Store. All of these wonderful things invented by Jobs’s creative genius.

When I was doing my undergrad, we had a Mac computer lab – because the honest truth is that most music programs are easier to use on a Mac. At least they were for me. I remember sitting in our student lounge area (also known as The Vortex – it sucks you in) and chuckling with the other students – because there would be nine or ten of us with our MacBooks on our laps.

My dad even called to make sure that I had heard the news. What can I say? I’m a Mac woman, through and through. And while some of you out there aren’t (I know you’re out there), you can’t deny that Jobs was a great presence in our world, a one-of-a-kind inventor, an innovator, an amazing person. The keynote presenter in the black turtleneck is not going to be someone you forget.

Apple isn’t done – but it will certainly be different without Jobs’s guidance. We can only hope that the company will soldier on.

RIA Steve Jobs. 

(Blog hiatus resumes in 3… 2… 1…)

Excuse, Excuses: Blog Hiatus

I could probably give you a million excuses why I haven’t updated since May. Except I think that the reasons I’ve been missing in action are pretty legitimate. Here’s the news:

My summer was insanely busy, with working, travelling, LeakyCon, and research, I really didn’t have a break. I don’t regret that in the slightest. It was fantastic.

In March I started vlogging and posting my videos on YouTube for fun:

Vlogging is somehow less serious than what I was writing here. I have also found a really wonderful, small audience of people – the sense of community on YouTube is amazing.

On my YouTube channel, I started a campaign to raise money for the ALS Association called the ALS Project. So far we’ve raised nearly eight times as much as the original goal! The new goal is $2,000 by January, and right now we’re sitting at $1,586. It has been an incredible process and I am so grateful for the wonderful people who have donated.

I joined a band – the Ned Devines. We’re an Irish traditional music group, and we perform twice a month in Tallahassee. It’s a lot of fun, but I spent a good part of my summer trying to learn a boatload of new tunes in order to keep up with the rest of the band. Luckily, I’m working with a wonderful group of people so that has made adjusting very easy.

I’ve started my second year of grad school, and this really means two things: thesis and comprehensive exams. Of course, I am still taking a few classes, but those two things are hovering over my head like a giant black cloud of doom. Not because I don’t want to do them, but because it’s a lot of work.

Finally, the newest development: about a month ago, a website run by Melissa Anelli (of Leaky Cauldron fame, among many things) called LeakyNews went live. And somehow, here I am, a few weeks later, online music editor of LeakyNews! I’m really excited to be working with Melissa and the rest of the LN staff. It’s been fun so far and I can’t wait to see where this website takes us!

So, unfortunately, I think I am going to take an official blog hiatus (as opposed to the unofficial hiatus that has been in place since May). I will still be active on  Twitter if you’d like to keep up with what I’m doing. Hopefully, once this semester is over, I’ll have some more time to post. In the meantime, I’ll see you around the internet.

Nerd Rock

Nerd rock is on the rise. I don’t know if nerd rock is the proper term, but that is what I am going to call it. Entire songs or even genres of music dedicated to specific aspects of pop culture. For example, the latest YouTube hit by The Lonely Island:

Wizard Rock is an extremely popular genre about Harry Potter which probably started with two brothers known as Harry and the Potters, around the release of the Order of the Phoenix. This is the first song I ever heard about Harry Potter:

Harry and the Potters actually helped to co-found one of my favorite organizations, the Harry Potter Alliance.

Some other examples of Wrock:
Ministry of Magic, “Don’t Leave Me”

The Parselmouths, “What Kind of Name is Hermione?”

The Moaning Myrtles, “And Then I Died”

I have mentioned it before, but there are also two full-length musicals posted on YouTube about Harry Potter. The musicals were performed by the University of Michigan-based theater group, Starkid. The music was mostly written by Darren Criss, who is now known as Blaine on the TV show Glee. You can find them both here.

There are even more nerd rock subgenres, about things like…

Star Wars:
Skyway Flyer, “Ready for Anything”

Kristina Horner, “What Would Buffy Do?”

The Hunger Games:
Alex Carpenter, “Reaping Day”

Video Games:
Alex Day, “Pokémon, What Happened to You?”

Trock, or music about the TV show Dr. Who:
Charlie McDonnell, “Exterminate Regenerate” (written for his band, Chameleon Circuit)

YouTube is, for lack of a better term, a breeding ground for this kind of music. With thousands of internet savvy young people sharing these videos, nerd rock has gone viral. An entire record label, DFTBA records, was created by YouTubers Hank Green and Alan Lastufka, and exclusively signs YouTube artists. Many of the above artists have released albums with DFTBA.

Do you have another other examples of nerd rock to share?

Pants on Fire on Fire

I am not going to start this post with excuses. I’ve been on an unplanned hiatus, and now I’m back.

This morning I sat with my coffee watching the Today show, my summer routine. If you didn’t know, the Kentucky Derby is this weekend, so stories about the horses, the jockeys, and the hats abound.

Jockey Rosie Napravnik has the potential to become first female jockey to win the Derby. At 23, she’ll be riding a colt, Pants on Fire, on Saturday. She will be the fifth woman since 1969 to race in the Kentucky Derby. I think this is awesome. I hope she blows it out of the water.

But something on the Today show segment bothered me. One of her trainers, Kelly Breen, said about Napravnik: “She rides like a man. She doesn’t whip like a girl. She doesn’t run like a girl. She race rides like a guy.”

What? Is this really happening? What decade are we in? I’d like to know what “running like a girl” looks like. I don’t know how Marion Jones would feel about that statement.

This entire segment felt like a failed attempt to force masculinity on this young woman. Jenna Wolfe, the interviewer, asked Napravnik if she “relished beating the boys” to which Napravnik resisted. She explained that she just doesn’t think about it that way. She doesn’t want to be a female jockey, she wants to be a jockey. And to a jockey, winning is winning.

Napravnik said that the other jockeys treat her as an equal, as a competitor. Sounds like they don’t really differentiate anymore, as long as you’ve got the chops. Women still struggle with owners and trainers who won’t work with women on principal, but the race world is changing.

Why was the news media trying so hard to place this woman as a “girl in a boy’s world?” As “one of the boys?” Can’t she just be Rosie Napravnik, a jockey and a fierce competitor? I hope she breaks boundaries on Saturday, and I’m putting my money on Pants on Fire.

Photo Credit: NYRA.com

In Defense of Pop Music

The Grammy Awards aired a few weeks ago. To be completely honest, all awards shows should be taken with a grain of salt.

However, I was slightly annoyed with the negativity floating around the Facebook and Twitter -verses regarding the Grammys. The show that we watch on TV is only a small percentage of Grammys awarded each year – usually the main pop, country, rap/hip-hop, and lifetime achievement awards. All of this usually falls under a more umbrella “popular music” category. It is sad that more classical music is not represented on the show. Such is life.

Nonetheless, popular music is still music. Yes, there are “stars” who strut the stage and have obviously had about as much musical training as my cat. There are also musicians on that Grammy stage. I try to avoid defining something by what it is not, but popular music is not going to hold up to Mozart arias, or Schubert Lieder. Different breeds, people. Let’s just accept that, shall we? Popular music is popular because it speaks to more than just musicians. It is an inseparable part of American culture and history. It is not just about the notes. Popular music is music, entertainment, social commentary, politics.

I am not saying that everything out there today is great music, or even good. But I think we – as a population, as musicians, as listeners – should try our ears at popular music. It has always been around, and probably always will be. Isn’t that a cultural phenomenon in itself?

That all being said, this post has been hanging around in my to-be-posted box for a while now. I was reminded of it today when Deceptive Cadence posted “Guilty Pleasures: What Music Are You Embarrassed To Love?”

My guiltiest music pleasure? Britney Spears. True story. What’s yours?

Thank You, Steve Reich

“There’s a certain idea that’s been in the air, particularly since the 1960s, and I think it is an extremely misleading idea. It is that the only pleasure a performer can get while performing is to improvise, or in some way be free to express his or her momentary state of mind. If a composer gives them a fixed musical score, or specific instructions to work with this is equated with political control and it means the performer is going to be unhappy about it. But if you work with musicians you will see that what gives them joy is playing music they love, and whether that music is improvised or completely worked out is really not the main issue. The main issue is what’s happening musically; is this beautiful, is this sending chills up and down my spine, or isn’t it?”
- Steve Reich (liner notes for Drumming, 1974)
I just wanted to share that with the world.

Photo Credit: The Steve Reich Website

Sondheim, Lyrics, and Musical Coherence

(Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)Stephen Sondheim is best known for musicals such as Company (1970), A Little Night Music (1973) and Sweeney Todd (1979). We spent almost an entire class period last week discussing Sondheim and watching clips of the marathon recording sessions of Company in the 1970s.

Sondheim is a brilliant lyricist. He emphasizes clarity – you only hear a lyric once on the stage, and lyrics should be underwritten so that they come through the all of the music, lighting, costumes, scenery, and characters. Each word carries its own weight – “The choices of ‘ands’ and ‘buts’ become almost traumatic as you are writing a lyric–or should, anyway–because each one weighs so much.” And also, that lyrics cannot – and should not – be separate from the music.

It seems that this class (Music in the United States 1880-present) is destined for serendipity. Almost every day our professor brings in an article, newspaper clipping, or YouTube video that is relevant to our class discussions. It is so easy to learn something when you are living it every day.

So, when I found this video of Anthony Tommasini playing and discussing the musical coherence of several of Sondheim’s works and the manipulation of musical motives to create that coherence, I had to share.

Photo Credit: Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times