Music is Magic

music is magic

It is everywhere

For most of human history, many countries were much more isolated than they are today, more so for island nations like Japan or Caribbean nations and somewhat less so for countries in close proximity like those in Europe. It is amazing to consider that every culture was still drawn to discover music, create their own instruments and their unique styles and create beauty through an art form that is so simple, yet very complex and even for all its differences very similar.

Even before the creation of instruments, people still created music, beautiful and unique sounds, using only their voices and harmonizing with each other. We have many records of this from religious chanting and other spiritual singing to the simplest melodies certainly hummed by any person on the street and folk songs, many of which are surely long forgotten. Though today we have the ability to broadcast and share music of any type you can be sure that before technology enabled these feats that people were no less enchanted by the intangible joys of simple melodies and beautiful sounds.

My beloved Opera is a style of music developed rather recently in the grand scheme of things and one of the most opulent displays of our human tenacity, the will we have which always reaches for the next branch and keeps trying to improve. Everything about an opera is big, from the skill and time necessary to develop the story and compose the score, the skill of the performers and the training required of them. The musicians s bringing the music to life on such a wide variety of instruments and the conductors with the skill to organize the individual parts, even the buildings are grand and the architectural components that go in to their design to create the optimal sound is extreme.

Though the art of music is largely a learned cultural phenomenon we also seem to have a sensibility which allows us to recognize and associate different types of music with different moods. Just imagine a lively jig  and the movements and feelings that are evoked and then compare it to a dirge, low and slow, bringing a heavy feeling in its wake. It is incredible to think that simple sounds can have such an impact on something so basic as our emotions, making us think and feel differently simply by hearing the notes.

Today we often are affected by music almost without realizing it, from the background noise in a mall to the score of a movie which affects us almost subconsciously at times. Have you ever found yourself tapping your foot to the beat before you even realize why or without realizing that a song was playing? We are not creatures of silence, but of community and of sharing and music is a gift we share with each other that allows us to touch hearts and minds and share our feelings. By the way I stumbled upon this websites which informs consumers on online fraud products.

Even with the state of music today, with the global stage allowing us to experience different cultures, languages and styles at the push of a button we still continue to create, laugh, cry and tap our feet and find our own way through the seemingly endless morass of sounds that are available. Though we now recycle beats or tunes and giant companies perform focus testing on what sells the best does it really diminish our enjoyment of the final product? As long as enthusiastic, talented people are driven to create art through music we will continue to enjoy it and as we evolve so music evolves with us, a constant source of happiness in the ever changing world.

Parts of an Opera

parts of an opera

The old 39th St Metropolitan Opera House is packed to the rafters in 1937

I hope this piece will help anyone interested in opera learn a little bit. An opera, while being a very distinct dramatic work, does have some similarities in form to other stage performances. Understanding the different parts of the performance, what they are called and what they entail, will help you further enjoy the performance and follow along.

Acts and Scenes

An opera is divided into several acts; within each will be a number of scenes. The scenes may move the timeframe or location of the story and allow the action to be started and stopped at the desired point. Acts will therefore be longer than scenes, or at least the same length in the case of a one scene act. Typically if a long period of time passes, the scenes will be split into a new act, to give a sense of the finality of the first act and the reopening of the next. These breaks in the performance allow for intermissions, scene and costume changes and other important events which don’t necessarily happen upon the stage.

Prelude/Overture

The music provided by the orchestra is one of the most important pieces of any opera, and what sets it apart from other stage performances. The overture is the first piece played by the orchestra, before the curtain even opens. It showcases many of the musical themes of the upcoming performance, setting the tone and giving a brief hint of things to come. You might think of it as an introduction in music.

Recitative

The recitative parts of an opera are there purely for the story. They give information about the story, characters, setting or other important notes without much embellishment. The recitative may be done in a “speech-like” singing, with certain inflections and emphasises designed to bring to mind normal speech, but it would not be mistaken for an aria and in some styles is even spoken.

Aria

Arias are the reason we love the opera, the songs. Full of emotion and feeling, the singing in an opera must do many things. First the words must tell the story of what is happening on the stage, but they must also convey different feelings depending on the mood of the scene. The orchestra is also involved, and it able to add a lot of feeling to the piece by drawing on much of what was heard in the prelude. Arias are added to inject beauty and emotion into an opera, bringing the listener into an emotional state to feel for the characters and their story.

Finale

A finale is usually the final aria of an act. It is generally grander than the other scenes and, as it will be the end of a significant plot of the opera, will generally be a bit more exciting or end with a big change or cliff hanger. A finale may be a large event, with many different characters on stage singing with the orchestra. The grand finale will be at the end of the final act and scene and is now a common term for a big ending.

Libretto

As a play has a script in which the lines and songs are written out, so does an opera. The word libretto actually means “little book” and is the text of the opera. It often contains the musical “lyrics” but not the actual music; in fact, some operas had two writers, one to compose the libretto and one to compose the music.

Orchestra

The orchestra use musical instruments to provide the music which goes along with the opera. Depending on the time period of the piece and the country of the composer, an opera may have only a few instruments, or up to 100 as we would usually think of when we picture a modern orchestra, but hundreds of years ago this was simply not practical or even possible for many areas and the size and composition of an orchestra plays a big role on the feel and sound of an opera.

Opera is a beautiful form of art combining singing, instruments and acting in one, which often does not get the appreciation it deserves. I hope that you’ll go out and give it a chance and tell your friends about how awesome it is, I know I do!

The Siren’s Song of Convenience

Healthy DietIt has been a busy few weeks for me. I’ve been working on several tracks for a few different people. It has been tough but I’m working through it. Usually I would like to work on one track at a time and really get a feel for the music before moving on to something else, but that isn’t the case at the moment. It is very interesting through being exposed to the different sounds, styles and personalities all the time, it really keep me on my toes, but I find it a lot more stressful.
The problem for me, sitting at a desk all day, is that when I’m stressed I tend to eat a lot and make food choices that are quick and easy. This inevitably leads to me making really unhealthy choices, which is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I don’t have time to think about what I’m eating because I’ve got work to do and I actually enjoy doing the work so I don’t want to be interrupted by my food.

However, last time this became an issue, I asked a friend of mine to be my food buddy. He looks out for me and catches me when I start to make those unhealthy choices. He agreed to help me a while ago after another time when I started getting into bad eating habits. I noticed I was getting really tired and couldn’t concentrate on my work as well and I also noticed all the weight I was putting on. It can really creep up on you when you aren’t paying attention. Luckily, now I have a buddy to help me out and I’m going to solve this before it becomes a problem again.

I learned a lot about eating when I first changed my habits by going to talk to a nutritionist and doing my own research on the internet. I was able to talk to the nutritionist, get a plan and also address a lot of my concerns and specific issues as well as be supported and learn just what all the repercussions of the bad diet would be down the road. My dad has high cholesterol and I worry about him and his heart a lot, especially since I don’t get to see him as much as I’d like and I don’t want to go down the same path if I can prevent it with a healthy diet.

I find that doing the research and immersing myself a bit in healthy eating by reading about it online and talking to others helps me stay motivated and accountable to the lifestyle. Another big help to me is finding the right diet plan. I’ve tried some diets in the past which absolutely did not work for me. Not eating, restricting foods and things like that just lead to me saying “screw it”, and going off course never to return.

Here are a few things that helped me in the past. I liked the food. If the food is bad I won’t eat it for very long. Celery is not a meal, it’s not a snack and trying to pass it off as one is insulting and doesn’t do it for me. I do like meat on the other hand and finding quick ways to cool up my favorite meats was a big thing to me. I got a Foreman grill which did the job really well and I totally love it. Also those full roast chickens from the grocery store that come already cooked are amazing, I love them and they are just so easy. I actually really like fruit for snacks too, especially apples and persimmons. To think that I never would have discovered how amazingly delicious persimmons were if I never took an interest in eating better. A lot of good has come out of that and it is time for me to get back on track and stop the unhealthy eating I’ve been doing

A Day in the Life of a Sound Technician

mixer - via wikipediaThe alarm goes off at 8 am; it’s the prelude to Carmen, getting me ready to start the day just like it starts off the show. After taking care of the morning routine, it’s into the car and off to work. To set the mood for the day and get me ready I like to listen to the same style of music that I will be working on that day. Today I am working with jazz and so I pop on my jazz mix with Louis Armstrong and some other greats.

When I arrive at the studio it is time to perform the first checks. There is a lot of equipment to go over for the tech. Everything needs to be turned on, the mics in the recording room must checked and adjusted, the levels must be set to a base level for the days recording, to be modified later as the recording goes on. I get my second cup of coffee and start in on the testing, checking for feedback and bad sound quality until I am satisfied that we will be ready to start. Usually there isn’t much to change since this is a studio and not a live venue but there is still must be adjusted down from the previous day when different levels might have been required.

Things start when the musicians arrive. We do some more testing to get the levels right and I work with the producer. The producer works with the musicians and knows what kind of sound they are looking for. We do some recordings and change things up until we get the right sound. Mixing and mastering the output gives the sound they are looking for and the day is basically made up of doing different takes, trying different things and just experimenting with what we have until they are happy with everything.

I love the job because of my love of music. I get exposed to many different things in my line of work and it really gives me an appreciation of the art and talent that goes in to creating a song that will be heard on the radio or on a record. I am just one of the “behind the scenes” guys in the line who most people would not think about when they listen to their favorite songs. Hearing fresh new sounds every day from different artists with different disciplines and different outlooks on creating music is really amazing. Watching someone give their all to their music and really put a lot of work in to making something beautiful gives me an appreciation for it. Most people will have their favorite type of music and that will be fine for them, but I see the rest of the iceberg of the music world. It is so vast and incredible and exploring it is a really rewarding and exciting experience that I don’t think enough people really get to see.

If I could give one message to you concerning music that I think would improve your life it would be to explore. Listen to new artists and new genres; you might be surprised what speaks to you.