“Killing Me Softly with His Song” & a flashback to my childhood

After reading Cloonan and Johnson’s Killing Me Softly with His Song article I was instantly reminded of an episode of a children’s show that I watched as a kid. It was a little strange at first, considering I don’t remember many of the old cartoons that I used to watch, until I realized that the reason it popped into my head was directly related to one of the arguments stated in the article.
The authors discuss several qualities of music that have the ability to make it uneasy on the ears, citing “volume” and “repetitiveness” as two of the main factors. This is true for me even in the most basic of situations, where there are certainly no harmful intentions involved. Even some of my most favorite songs won’t sound as aurally pleasing to me if I’m playing them too loudly, especially if it just sounds like my ears are being screamed into. The same applies for repetitiveness; no matter how much I may like a song, if I listen to it too many times, there’s a good chance I’m just going to get sick of it. I see the same has held true in some of the examples given by the authors; the songs alone being played may not have much of an effect, but if the intended victims are exposed to them for an extended amount of time, or are forced to listen to them at uncomfortable volumes, they begin to suffer.
The cartoon I mentioned in my first paragraph exemplifies both the volume and repetitiveness arguments. In an episode of Courage the Cowardly Dog, the story begins with two thieves stealing a slab from the tomb of ancient Egyptian ruler Ramses. Shortly after, the two were confronted by Ramses himself, who tells them to return the slab or suffer his curse. They bury the slab but Ramses is apparently not satisfied, and “curses” the thieves by having them get attacked by a swarm of locusts. Courage, the show’s titular dog, happens up this same slab and takes it home with him.
Not surprisingly, Ramses soon shows up at Courage’s house and gives him and his caretakers a similar threat, to either return the slab to its rightful home or suffer three curses, each one worse than the last. It is here that the second of Ramses’ curses is relevant to the article. A record player appears outside and starts blaring an unattractive tune, to which Courage and his caretakers respond immediately and very negatively to. They cover their ears and cry out in pain because 1) the music is too loud, and 2) the record player is skipping, causing part of the lyrics to constantly repeat. Here we have both the volume and repetitiveness of a piece of music being used to inflict pain. Ramses certainly wasn’t very far off when he called the music one of his “curses.” Courage eventually locates the troublesome record player and smashes it with a bat to ensure that he doesn’t have to suffer through any more of that music again.
What I found equally interesting was the fact that I thought back to this old episode even though it has been many years since I last watched it. Specifically, I was able to hear the tune and lyrics of that annoying song in my head, as if I had heard it as recently as yesterday. This definitely contributes to the power of music, where, if played loudly enough and/or repeatedly, one can still remember it for years and years to come.

Hate Song

Since the last topic we discussed in class was about music being used for torture I decided to make a blog post about songs people hate. Music is the most subjective art form in the world and I personally don’t think it’s possible to create a universally loved song.

http://www.avclub.com/search?feature_types=hatesong&page=1

The A.V. Club has an ongoing series called Hate Song where they get public figures to talk about a song that they absolutely can’t stand and discuss the reasons why they are so turned off by it. One of the interviews in this series includes a humorous dialogue exchange with David Lynch where he talks about how sick the song “It’s a Small World” makes him feel. Some recent overplayed songs that have been mentioned in this series include Lorde’s “Royals” and Macklemore’s “Same Love.”  However, alot of the songs chosen for this series weren’t just the easy targets like modern pop music and novelty songs. Many of the people interviewed have some pretty controversial selections that would most likely piss off alot of people. Musician Dean Reid chose Jeff Buckley’s cover of “Hallelujah” (considered by many critics to be one of the greatest vocal performances in recorded music history) as a song he just can’t enjoy. During the interview he talks about how the over-sincerity of the song just rubs him the wrong way. He also brings up the fact that it seems like it’s trying way too hard to be a huge cathartic experience and how it’s been overplayed both on the radio and with all the countless covers of it. While I personally enjoy the song I can see where Reid is coming from and I actually think “Hallelujah” is kind of overrated and that there are a bunch of other songs on Grace that I prefer.

I actually recommend you check out all of the articles in this series because they are pretty interesting and entertaining and some of them might just make your blood boil!

Buckley

New Research Proposal

After experiencing a unique country environment in an urban city NYC, I decided to change my research to the New York City Country Music fan subculture.

New York City isn’t known to be the home of country music, but stereotypically the opposite. After doing a blog on country music and visiting a country music venue in Midtown I realized that there was a significant country fan base made up of New Yorkers. New Yorkers are known to mainly be listeners of Hip-Hop, Rap and Pop, which is evident on when you turn on the radio. Not until 2013 did New York City have a country radio station. All the prominent stations, such as Z100, HOT97 and newbie 92.3 NOW, prominently play the stereotypically expected Hip-Hop, Rap and Pop. There is no country on either station, except for the occasional Taylor Swift or Lady Antebellum, which can be argued, would fall in the Pop category, not solely country. Though New York is not known for its interest in country music, I surely feel like there is a rise in their fan base, which the success of the new country radio station NASH-FM 94.7 and the success of country themed venues shows proof of.

To better understand this subculture, I think my best bet is to spend some time listening to the new radio station to see if they have any similarities to the already existing radio station, such as programming; possibly helping me understand it’s success. I would also like to speak to someone from the station to help me understand the inside operation, along with finding out what caused them to start this station.

I have already visited one country venue, but I’d like to visit one more to get varied of the type of people that go to these kinds of places. I would like to explore places other than restaurants but possibly a country fan shopping store, if there be one.  I would like to explore other outlets country fans in this city have, except for restaurants and the radio station, such as shopping store or activities. Understanding this subcultures environments and forums will better help recognize what kind of person this fan is.

The type of academic articles I’ll be searching are ones that speak of stereotypes New York City “music” and stereotypes of country music listeners. I’m hoping either my research outside of the articles either support or go against the stereotypes proposed by the academic articles.

I want to prove or see that New York City defies all stereotypes of music listeners to the what New Yorkers are suppose to listen to and what a country music listener looks like. I also want to see how country music fits in such an urban city.

Country in NYC

MUSIC BLOG

As a New Yorker people are shocked to hear that I enjoy country music. Though country music may dominate most of the country, New Yorkers aren’t seen to be country music’s prime demographic. I was expected to enjoy rap and hip-hop because I was born and raised in New York City. Well I don’t. I enjoy country, contemporary folk and alternative rock. Most people I use to meet would confuse country music with bluegrass or hillbilly music. Though those two genres can be put under the country genre, if you think of country music in a more broad general term. I always had to explain that I enjoy contemporary country music. The most people know of country music was Johnny Cash or Taylor Swift; though these are good artist they aren’t prominent in my country music collection.

Ever since the show The Voice and the new New York country station emerged more and more New Yorkers seem to learn about country music, which fascinated me. I wanted to see how much of an influence did one country artist, Blake Shelton, on a popular singing reality show and a FM radio station had and continues to have on the New York City population.

During some research I stumbled upon an article by the Gothamist and American Songwriter from 2012 stated that a study by Nielsen/Sound Scan showed that New York City was the biggest consumer of country music in the United States. This study was done before the radio station existed. According to the American songwriter article the buzz was all over Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift CDs.

According to the Gothmist article, Billboard’s Wade Iessen says, “New York City is a very demanding place to live. Country music is a great way to put the brakes on a lot of the noise in people’s lives.” Which was intrigued me. Is that the real reason country music sales are high here.  Is Country music a peace of mind for music listners?

I use to work in the Music Department in Barnes and Noble for three years and every year we would shrink our country music section, granted I haven’t worked there for more than a year now, but how much could things change? I do agree that Taylor Swift was a big deal because her CDs would sell fast, but I would consider Taylor Swift to be a Pop teen sensation compared to One Direction though she was technically classified as country music. I wouldn’t compare some of her new work to work of Blake Shelton or Miranda Lambert.  Regardless of the signs of Country music disappearing in New York from my Barnes and Noble experience, I have lately seen more Country star tour dates in New York City. Is it because I’m actually paying attention to it now or is it actually increasing is something I would have to research. One thing is for sure more people seem to know more country artist now than in the past from my personal experience.

RADIO SOUND

Music Blog

While working in broadcast news world, I’ve noticed how crucial sound is, even if it is non-music radio station. Sound in news radio may mean a little different from what people would automatically think it would mean. In news radio sound is referred to reporters segments, quotes, and background sound of events.

We have a lot of bell and whistle kind of sound that makes sense to have because it indicates to the listener what they are about to hear. For instance at 1010 WINS we had a sound we play before we air a breaking news story, it’s called the breaking news sounder. Every time we play it the listener already knows what kind of news they are about to get and for them to pay better attention to the station. Also we have sound to indicate the beginning of a show or when there’s an update to a big story and for a weather alert; all of these alerts that give people information without any word exchange.

The type of sound that intrigued me the most was background sound, or we call it NATS standing for Natural Sound, because of how it changed a story quality and essence all together. I understood why we put songs or music with entertainment story because it allowed for the story to seem less serious and more entertaining, but why put sound with a serious news story; why put background noise like buses going by or people chattering with a story about a car accident? Why was that sound important to the station when the reporter was crisper and easier to hear without the background buzz? And then it clicked – for the authenticity and thrill of the story. NATS allowed the segment sound not so recorded or fake, but gave it the feel as if we are at the scene, where in most cases reporters were and wanted to prove or indicate they were with the NATS. NATS sound of the scene also indicated a difference from the story reported by a reporter and one by the anchor. These things are easier to do on TV because you visually see another person on the screen but on radio you need other indications and sound makes for a great indication.

Lets get back to this word authenticity. We spoke about why it’s important to be authentic in the music industry and that’s the same reason why radio news needs to keep its authenticity with its NATS: to keep some kind of loyalty to its roots and listeners or fan base.  Back in the day radio station didn’t have the technology to sound as if they were at a studio while they were on the field so when they reported they had NATS regardless, even if they didn’t want it. Now when we do have the technology to have studio quality when a reporter is on the scene, we still keep to the NATS to keep loyal to what we use to be.

Besides authenticity, the NATS allows for a story to have some flavor and keeps it interesting, while sound of just a reporters voice can get a little dull sometimes.

Musical Torture

Music as a tool of oppression

 

Various degrees of oppression falling anywhere on a continuum between discomfort which is incidental to the intended function of the music to deliberate as pain. The music can either accompany the discomfort or be the primary cause of it. Physically or psychologically. And that is a summary of some of the first few sentences of the essay “Killing me softly with his song.” How creepy does that sound?

 

However, later in the article it made a little more sense. The author explains that music can also be the sounds of instruments arriving upon battle striking fear into the ears of the surrounding citizens about to be conquered. (Nation vs. Nation/ Tribe vs Tribe). Pain as incidental sounds last serious when explained, this could be something as the sound level on headphones being too loud, or the clicking of a woman’s heels on transport. The extreme would be music that the listener just really, really, really doesn’t like. I know that sometimes “screamo” music if played too loudly just really bothers me to a point where I feel uncomfortable. I don’t have anything against the music, but it almost gives me goose bumps.

 

I automatically remembered a scene from Zero Dark Thirty where intentionally loud and violent sounding music to torture people during war. Their controversial treatment for torture in the film was almost terrifying. The use of sound was a major factor. Here are the lyrics to the song:

 

Open wounds

Never heal

Bleeding

I sense no pain

Festering

Over and over again

Drooling

The bell has rung

What have I said

What have I done

Unconscious

To the act

Not realizing until

After the fact

Everything evil

Becomes serene

Drilled in my head

What does it mean

 

Listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1LaW7FsFYnw

implications of interactivity: what does it mean for sound to be “interactive”?

Karen Collins article focuses on how using video games enables people to be more interactive when it comes to sound.  Using the video game as a the platform is something I think any boy or girl my age can relate to.  Chances are we grew up with this stuff.  From Nintendo NES to Xbox 360 and Playstation 4 we know that as technology as increased so has the interactive aspect of video games.  Collins tells us of the world we live in…no longer are we slaves to repetative music or sounds in our games.  Rather we have so much influence over a game system now a days that we can totally alter how we perceive to play the game.

Essentially she tell us how music and sound shape human experience.  She lists 6 categories that can be depicted in video games.  From my personal experience I think that Halo is a suitable candidate that clearfully describes each of the platforms Collins depicts.  For example, since Halo is a first person shooter, users need to stay on their toes.  Preemptive  and alert sounds definitely come in handy.  As does status feedback for health purposes and peripheral vision.  Through sounds the user can fully understand the situation and environment of his or her character.  It’s pretty amazing that through sound we go from hearing a ping that allows us to know when a user has made contact with his pong paddle to Halo and fully understanding if you are under enemy fire, if someone is sneaking up on your or talking to you.  Even certain kinds of music help explain your situation.  In Halo more fast paced soundtracks with heavy drums are played when you are entering combat, as opposed to when you are just walking around with no one around.  Without the music not only would the user has no fun sounds to play with, but they might be cheated and snuck up on.  These sounds are meant to keep the user interested.  It’s not really about the game..thats just a complex program of numbers and algorithms.  It’s the user that is essential  to the game.  The sounds and music give the user an experience and the sense of control over the situation.  Hopefully it’s a good feeling and will result in more hours spent playing the game.  You become fully amerced into the digital world.  It’s as if users have been jacked into the matrix and rely on sound to help get them through.

The Audio-Visual Ipod Response

The Article entitled The Audio-Visual IPod by Michael Bull discusses something I think any one who has ever listened to music has experienced.  In it he talks of people discussing what it’s like to have their headphones on and their IPOD’s on..just being in their own little world.  Seeing things in a different light.  Things like that.  And of course it’s true.  Listening to music on my ipod or cell phone I know first hand that it’s true.  When I’m feeling down I might switch my music to melancholy tunes, and while I walk a dismal street I may be entrenched in my sadness.  Walking the road back to my car, under grey skies, and a sad song to follow me home.  I’ve also had times where i’ve been sad and have relied on my ipod and music to change this.  Changing my persona, and feelings by playing more upbeat music.  Like Bull says, sometimes the weather can affect how we feel, and sometimes living in a chaotic scenery like an urban environment might shape how we feel.  According to Bull though, this is all thanks to the ipod.

Granted, music does do different things to different people.  And having a powerful music source like the ipod does change a few things since it can hold massive amounts of files storing plenty of songs we never had the power to.  However, I feel that Bull might just be an Apple junkie because music in general accomplishes everything he states the ipod has.  Before Ipod’s my CD player did the exact same thing on my walks home from school.  Before that, walkmans provided that same service to somebody looking to alter their mood on a bus,  or change their attitude after having a bad day at work.  Before that their was simply car and home radio’s that allowed people to dance in the comfort of their home or rock out in the car on their way home.  Really what I am trying to say is that music alone accomplishes these feats.  The IPOD is just another platform that enables us to carry around music.  I think a more appropriate title would have been simply The audio visual because I do believe that having headphones on puts people in their own little world.  They are isolated from outside sounds, especially here in a metropolis.  No one wants to hear the clutter of the city, the honks, the cursing, or the conversations…sometimes people need to be in their own world.  To just be with them and the music.  It’s therapeutic, it’s mood altering, and beneficial.  Sometime’s we need to just have the world shut up for a second so that we can just be in our own tiny universe instead of a big city.  That I do agree with.  After a hard day at work, or a long day a school once my headphones go on, I know all that matters is me and what I want to do and hear.  My headphones and music provide me ultimate control of how I wish to perceive my environment, and what I now what running through my head.

World’s Fastest Record

On April 19th, 2014, Jack white put together the world’s fastest studio to store record in just three hours 55 minutes and 21 seconds. The rough copy of  White’s new album “Lazeretto,” was released on record store day at Third Man Records in Nashville, Tennessee. Expect “Lazeretto” in stores June, 10th.

 

Some extra material from The Cinematic Influence of Video Game Music.

Since we ended class early last week there was alot of material in my PowerPoint presentation that I wanted to cover. Professor Herzog actually recommended I post them on the blog so and I’ll also add a little information about them.

Using Music to Create Atmosphere

The link above is from the game Heavy Rain, a highly story based game where you control the actions of four different characters. What made Heavy Rain different from other video games is the fact that there’s no instantly replaying a scene in order to beat it. Every action and decision you make in the game ultimately affects the story and how it plays out. I must confess that during my first run through of the game I happened to get one of the more depressing endings that are possible in Heavy Rain. When you watch the clip above you will notice that music clearly sets the suspenseful tone of the moment and what this character is faced with. The player of the game is also clearly adding suspense by not going through with the action right away which makes this video game clip even more like something you would see out of a movie.

The First Person Shooter

*For the second clip go from about 4:40 to 8:00

I think one of the ways Spielberg broke ground with Saving Private Ryan is illustrating how bombastic war could be. Sure the film uses hokey music during the emotional scenes but when it comes to the battle scenes, the famous opening D-Day scene in particular, Spielberg decides not to use music but instead the sounds of war. This include weapons firing, men screaming, and the buzzing a soldier hears once faced in combat. The numerous amount of POV shots in the film also give the spectator the impression that they are experiencing this life risking moment along with the characters in the film. The Call of Duty game series uses many of these techniques to bring war to life and to put the player directly in the middle of it. When you watch the brief clip of Call of Duty that I posted you’ll notice that there is music playing during the gameplay however it is very low key compared to all the noise going on in the battleground. I should also add that you don’t even pay attention to the music when playing the game because you’re so caught up in everything that is happening and you’re trying your best to move forward without getting killed!