Temperamental Differences

By: Blake Howe (Louisiana State University) // In their lessons, violinists must train very hard to play “in tune.” Singers face the same challenge; some, fearful of sounding “pitchy,” might even use Auto-Tune to prevent mistakes in live performance. The slightest change in temperature and humidity can knock a piano “out of tune,” so concert … Continue reading Temperamental Differences

From Ziggy to Blackstar: David Bowie’s Musical Masks

Perhaps the most memorable images of David Bowie feature the flaming red mullet and custom Kansai Yamamoto wardrobe of this final Ziggy Stardust concert. In a 2002 interview with Terry Gross, though, Bowie bristles at the suggestion that his career consisted of a parade of dresses and makeup: “That was for eighteen months, actually . . . which out of a career of nearly forty years is not very long.” He isn’t wrong about that, but the image of Bowie as a glammed-up chameleon persists in the days after his death.

James Brown and B.B. King: Mourning and Migration

When blues guitarist and singer B.B. King (b. 1925) died in May 2015, fans mourned his death and celebrated his life at two large public events. On May 27, the hearse carrying his casket began its two-state journey on Memphis’s Beale Street, one of several symbolic “birthplace-of-the-blues” locales claimed by communities throughout the U.S. South. A parade of mourners—some singing, dancing, or playing instruments—accompanied the hearse, as shown in the video above.

Religious Listening

By: Joshua Kalin Busman (University of North Carolina, Pembroke) // A 2012 Pew Research Center survey found that nearly 40 percent of religiously unaffiliated people identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” In 2010, USA Today reported that nearly 72 percent of millennials would describe themselves as “more spiritual than religious.” By all accounts, the “spiritual, but … Continue reading Religious Listening

Autistic and Epileptic, In a Rock Concert

By: Amy Sequenzia (Rockledge, Florida) // Being in a loud rock concert—where there are blinking lights, no places to sit, and a lot of people very close to each other—can be very overwhelming for most Autistic people. Many will avoid such events. And loud noises and lights can trigger seizures in those with epilepsy.   … Continue reading Autistic and Epileptic, In a Rock Concert

Joe Hill Returns: Labor Movements and Protest Music

In 2011, singer Joan Baez performed the song “Joe Hill” for a Veteran’s Day rally sponsored by Occupy Wall Street, a movement that began in New York City that same year in response to widespread financial corruption at banks and corporations. Baez has long been known for her work as an activist; although she might be new to younger generations, her voice is still respected at protests.

Top 40: More Hits More Often

By: Ben Fong-Torres (San Francisco Chronicle) // From What’s That Sound? An Introduction to Rock and its History, Fourth Edition, by John Covach and Andrew Flory (W. W. Norton & Company, 2015) It’s hard to imagine, but there was a time, not long ago, when radio was declared dead. In the early 1950s, television was … Continue reading Top 40: More Hits More Often