Tag Archive: music

Study Music

For the last two years I have been working towards a certificate called a Library Technical Assistant.

It was a part of the condition of my job that I have, that I am to be working towards this certificate if I didn’t already have it. It has been great in a lot of ways; I have learned so much about the world of libraries and researching. The course on technology nearly killed me even though I learned more about excel and word.

Through all of this I have learned to listen to music while I am writing which helps build a wall between me and wherever I might be working. Some days I find myself in a library because my home computers do not have Microsoft products.

My school bag keeps a set of ear buds in it at all times so I can plug in and get going on what ever project I am doing. Having that wall really helps depending on where the computer area located. Some are right next to the check out desk which means I get to hear all of these conversations as people check out or get their card renewed.

What am I listening to?

duranduran 1980sDuran Duran

I loved these guys back in the 80s when they first hit the big time. I loved dancing to their music and would have loved to have gone to a concert but I was a poor college student. 

To be honest, I still have no idea what The Reflex is or why we are waiting for the New Moon on Monday. Some of the lyrics make no sense and I have no idea how some of the videos connect to the song that they are emphasizing. At some point I decided not to care.

At some point I lost track of the guys. I got married, had a kid, got divorced, got remarried, listened to a lot of country music and Raffi. Had more kids.

Hello Bananaphone. Goodbye Duran Duran

Then one day at a garage sale I found a Duran Duran Greatest Hits album. The more I played it, the more my kids made fun of them but I didn’t care. I loved their music. Then for one of my classes, I did a research project on the boys. I found out that they are still making albums and interesting music despite breaking up, connecting with other musicians, and later re-connecting with the original five, and breaking up again. At this time four of the original musicians are still in the group.

Duran Duran GettyImages-todayThrough 2015 they have been creating new music, some of it reminiscent of their earlier stuff and other albums that moved on with more modern sounds. As I hear more and more of these songs, I find my self falling in love with their music over and over again. White Lines, What’s Gonna Happen Tomorrow, All You Need is Now, and Pressure Off are just a few of my new favorites. As much as I don’t appreciate the costumes in the video of Girl Panic, I find myself loving the song and the supermodels portraying the guys.

I listen to their music because the mid-tempo songs help my typing become quicker and easier. I feel happy when I am listening to it and that makes projects get put together much easier. I will admit that I could have never gotten through this program without the music of Duran Duran.

Everyone has a band or an artist that they love. For me it is Duran Duran. No apologies, no justification. Not sure if I really care if the rest of the world disagrees with me.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to go listen to Serious one more time.

Duran duran serious


Having A Party…

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

This past weekend, our family hosted a party in which our son’s band played a bunch of songs and performed for family and friends.

This was not their first performance. In the spring, the boys were apart of the high school’s talent show. In that venue they only had to play three songs. In our backyard, the expectations were greater while the audience was smaller.

Those of us who were there had a great time. The boys had occasional help from family members to make a song work but more importantly, they learned how to deal with each other in a performing situation and that is a big hurdle to overcome.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Will it go anywhere? Who knows. The potential is there to be a good regional band. But like anything else, it takes persistence and hard work. Nickelback wrote in one of their songs that as they were growing up, they wanted to know what it would be like to sing to someone other than themselves while in the car. I think that could fit for many of us.

Friends of mine recently recommended a documentary called Searching For Sugarman about two South Africans who go on a trek to find out whatever happened to their musical hero. Sugarman, also known as Rodriquez, is a folk singer who made two albums in the early seventies. But no one seemed interested in him. His albums didn’t sell in the U.S. and the man slipped back into obscurity.

Somehow his music found its way to South Africa. The man was as popular as Elvis but it was rumored that Rodriquez was dead from an apparent suicide. In the 1990s the two friends decided they would find out what happened to their idol.

The movie won an Oscar for best documentary in 2012. Rodriquez did not show up for the ceremony so as to not take the spotlight away from Swedish director, Malik Bendjelloul. Bendjelloul stated that is fitting for Rodriquez, that he would be so generous on a night honoring his career.

Image from IMDb.com

Image from IMDb.com

Another documentary on music that I love is Standing in the Shadows of Motown about the Funk Brothers. These guys were the studio musicians who played on every song recorded in the Motown studios in Detroit.

They created the licks and picks of Motown songs that made them memorable. We see pictures of the man who came up with the opening line of “My Girl” and hear music from an era that has passed into history. These men tell stories of how they worked together and kept each other safe during the riots. And they also tell how hard it was not to be known for the great music they created. And they tell the truth of what happened in the end, why they ended up being left behind.

Music is a fickle mistress but when you are in the middle of making it, there is a feeling of paradise.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle. 

Grammy Inspiration

Everyone has their own take on Whitney Houston who died this past weekend. My own take will come later this week.

Image by popplepop

However, today I want to ask people who is the artist/singer/band who speaks to your soul.

For me at this time it is Adele. I love her voice, her demeanor, the passion with which she sings. While I like Katy Perry, Madonna and Lady Gaga (They have wonderful voices when you listen to their recordings), their performance becomes style over substance. Although, I have to had it to Katy. Setting fire to an ice sculpture of a man after the divorce is final is a great send off to the ex.

But when you consider the money and awards that Adele has earned since her break-up songs on her “21” album, perhaps there are other ways of celebrating that break-up. Then again, her ex tried to demand royalties because of the inspiration he gave her. Yeah, that is not happening.

I am also becoming a big fan of Foo Fighters and David Grohl. Her is his acceptance speech from last night.

“This is a great honour, because this record was a special record for our band. Rather than go to the best studio in the world down the street in Hollywood and rather than use all of the fanciest computers that money can buy, we made this one in my garage with some microphones and a tape machine…

“To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do.

“It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head].”

After his acceptance speech, the husband and I looked at our aspiring drummer, saying  “what he just said that is what you need to do.” 

So who is inspiring you?

Sing Along

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

I was standing in line the other day at Walgreens to pick up meds and listening to the music. It was a Mamas and Papas cover and before I knew it I was shaking my vitamin bottle to the beats.


That was not the strange thing. The person who came up behind me started humming and dancing a little when the next song – “It’s My Party” by Leslie Gore – started playing. The woman in front of me looked as if she might be willing to tap her feet if given a chance.


All that started me thinking about movies where characters spontaneously started singing or dancing in an ordinary place without the film being a musical. It had to be an organic action that made sense with the plot but not a part of the total story.


Image from IMDb.com

I immediately thought of The Full Monty with Robert Carlyle and Mark Addy. The movie is about men who have been laid off from the local stainless steel plant who are trying to find work and not getting anywhere. So Carlyle decides he and his buddies should put on a show – a dance act – to perform at the pubs women like to going.


And they plan to take it off – take it all off. There is no way that this movie is appropriate for small children, just so you know out of the gate. But there is a lot of hope and joy in this flick along with some serious outpouring of emotion.


The scene I am thinking about occurs in the middle of the movie when the majority of the troupe is at the unemployment office. They are in line at various points when the speakers overhead begin playing the song that goes with their routine. While trying to keep their cool, the men start doing the moves to the dance. Not all at once and not one of the men do the whole routine to the song. But it is this wonderful moment in the middle of a movie about desperation and re-kindling of joy.


Image from IMDb.com

I also thought about a wonderful scene in Tortilla Soup in which the three sisters sing “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps.” And there is that moment in Almost Famous when the band sings “Tiny Dancer” on the bus while they are really hating on each other. It is a reconciling moment.


I was trying to think of a family movie that has a scene like this and my brain cannot find one. Remember the movie is to not be a musical in the first place. I thought about the moving truck scene in Toy Story or the first Latin dance scene in Toy Story 3.


Image from IMDb.com

The other example I can think of is in Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009). Miley is writing music when he father joins her and she has him sing with her. It is supposed to be a spontaneous moment but I like it for the emotional closeness between father and daughter that is displayed.


All of these are enjoyable movies to watch as we get ready for the holidays, remembering the love and joy of being with family.

What movies do you remember having moments of song? 

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

They Write the Songs

Family Movie Night

Movie poster for "Justin Bieber:Never Say Never," Image from IMDb.com

Bieber Fever is about to hit the home theater market when Never Say Never comes out on DVD on Friday May 13th.

The movie, perfect for pre-teens and up, tells Justin’s story of being a kid who recorded his music and put it up for the world to see. We get to see just how hard the kid works and how hard it is to stay a kid in the performance world. As Justin tells his story, he also shares that you should not let your dreams go because others tell you they are impossible.

Now it would be the hip, cool, snarky thing to immediately put down this movie and Justin Beiber as an artist. After all, this guy came about because people saw and liked his You Tube videos. His songs are fairly simplistic but solid workmanship. 

I watched the Glee episode that featured Bieber music and realized that his music may not save the world but it was not completely terrible either. Do the nasty comments come from true criticism or jealousy that this kid worked at his dream and achieved it but the critic has not reached that level of accomplishment?

That is something to think about.

Robert White and Joe Messina in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," image from IMDb.com.

Now if documentaries about music are something you want to watch, let me suggest one of my favorites. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002) tells the story of the studio musicians, the Funk Brothers, at Motown when it was in Detroit. It chronicles not only the members of the band – who did what on which song but also the stories of the time period.

This is just one of the stories. At the start of the Martin Luther King Jr. riots in Detroit, the guys had been playing music all day. When they leave the studio they realize very quickly what is going on and the Funk Brothers hide their white horn player so that he can remain safe.

The soundtrack is filled with the memorable songs of the era that still sound so wonderful to my ear. How the opening lick for My Girl came into being is discussed and credit to the man who came up with it. It is a movie that will send adults on a reminiscing trip and give a lesson to those not affected to Motown music.

Movie Poster for "This is Spinal Tap," Image from IMDb.com

The mocumentary that does the best at laughing at the self-absorbed world of superstardom is This Is Spinal Tap (1984). Directed by Rob Reiner who stars as a documentary-like interviewer, this is the movie that gave us the joke about ’11’ on an amp volume dial. This movie made fun of guitar collecting and searching for enlightenment through Eastern meditation. It skewers everything we think we know about that world and then some.

Would I show this movie to my kids? Because it has a lot of swearing, drugs and alcohol references and some sexual jokes, I would allow my older teenager watch it and I am pretty sure the 14-year-old will quietly come in the room and watch. The younger ones are just going to have to wait a few years before they see it.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note below.

Being the Director

Sometime ago, about a year and a half, I became the choir director at our church.

Keep in mind I have had no formal training although I sang with a women’s choir in college. It was great stress relief and I enjoyed trying different pieces that were difficult.

Picture by Darren Hester

I was lucky enough to watch good directors and remembered their techniques. I think about that now when we are prepping new songs and need to make changes, sometimes on the spot.

My problem has been a lack of confidence and tendency to allow the pianist more leeway. That is when two different instances reminded me that perhaps I should be more directive.

The first was a comment by the pianist who plays monthly at our church but stepped in when the regular pianist was on maternity leave. I asked her to replay the intro for one song because I could not hear the entrance point. “You have to cue it, don’t wait for me,” she said.

The second instance was during Performance Today on NPR in which they were talking about conductors and the role they play for the orchestra. The conductor decides the tones and speed of passages. But they are also traffic managers who make sure each section comes in on time.

Suddenly, it seemed to me that the choir wouldn’t get better unless I got out of my own way. I began directing more, asking more from the choir members in regards to volume and speed. I had always been asking the choir for music requests but it appeared as if they were taking me up on it more as of late.

Picture by Ladyheart

 So the choir is beginning to sing sweeter, on time and willingly towards songs that may be hundreds of years old or within the last decade.  We have done songs by Charles Wesley and black spirituals. Next month we are finally doing

I’ll Fly Away with banjo accompaniment and one choir member has asked to do a solo bit.

Is this all because of me getting out of the way to being a better director or happenstance? I would say both. Some things have fallen into place while others needed a little prodding and a lot of trust.

As we get better with each week and braver, it makes me wonder how to use this thought process  in other areas of my life. Has this ever happened to you?

Oh, Say Can You Sing?

I have been trying to keep my mouth shut about Christina Aquilera’s Star Spangled performance at the “Big Game.” 

Picture by Kakisky

Friends on Facebook are complaining. They don’t like her added notes, she skipped an entire verse, a professional would know all of the words all of the time.

Here is the real problem.

When Aquilera blew it, she didn’t run. We need her to be a coward to truly vilify her, to run off when things don’t go exactly as planned.

But she didn’t. Even in her apology she stated that she hoped people would feel the patriotic spirit that she felt as she performed. With true American spirit, she kept going despite her mistakes. Isn’t that part of what makes America great?

Yes, Aquilera messed up. Lots of performers mess up that un-singable song. You need to have at least two octaves of singing range to get it right. Perhaps you need to be like Freddie Mercury who had a reported four-octave voice to truly do it justice. I hear bad versions of the National Anthem on The Boers and Bernstein Show on WSCR in Chicago all of the time. Her screw up was minimal at best.

Instead of running off, as we have seen other performers do, Aquilera kept going with gusto. She hit the final notes just as the flyover happened. And she did it ‘a capella,’ meaning there was no accompaniment. That was all her, right there, in front of  a huge crowd and an bigger TV audience. She didn’t  have a taped version backing her up as other singers (Whitney) have in the past.

When she sang “What so proudly we watched” instead of “O’er the ramparts we watched” it was a goof. But a goof that she almost instantly corrected and powered through.

I hear people saying she shortened the song and still made it to the alloted 1 minute, 54 seconds. I read the lyrics  of the Star Spangled Banner as she sang the song. From what I can see, she started the second line again and quickly got back on track to the fourth line.  Her syllable  count was the same, there was no shortening of the song to make room for the runs she added.

I loved her version but perhaps it was that I was caught up in the moment. After Michele Lea’s nice but staid version of God Bless America, I was ready for something more.  Considering  it was the “Big Game” staged in Dallas, Texas where bigger is better and that stage is meant  for BIG stars with vocal power, what did people think was going to happen when Aquilera was announced for this role?

I enjoyed Aquilera in Burlesque. While I am not always interested in her skanky persona, I do love her voice and how her talent has grown over the years.

So am I going to give Xtina grief for her goof? Nope, because I am not sure I would not have made the same mistake and came back as strong as she did. Do you sing this song every day? I don’t. But it might be fun to see people take videos of themself singing the anthem in one shot without accompaniment.

Wonder if that is going to happen on YouTube any time soon?

Getting Into the YouTube

This past week one of my friends on Facebook asked for his friends to list their favorite covers of songs.

Johnny Cash covering “Hurt,” KD Lang doing “Hallelujah,” Social D with “Ring of Fire.”

Picture by NPClark2K

The selections were not surprising, I had heard some of them myself or from my kids’ musical selections (which are always louder than you want. How the guinea pig who lives next to the stereo has any hearing left I will never know).

 While Shannon’s question did not send me on a YouTube quest for great cover songs (Dancing in the Streets by Van Halen), I will admit I go there from time to time. Like daily.

 My office radio is limited to the stations it will accept. So I find myself looking on YouTube for favorite artists and songs. Some days I am into classical (Joshua Bell), be it violin or piano. Here is a side note. Want funny reading? Look at the comments for the classical music pieces. There is more swearing than anywhere else I have been by people who are incredibly passionate about their music.

Other days I want Linda Ronstadt and EmmyLou Harris. I did a Doobie Brothers day, listened to the Eagles, found my way to Mo-town selections. When it is office cleaning day, I put on upbeat songs to make the task that much quicker. My husband found Beausoleil and 80s alternative to listen to after a day of work.

I have watched movies, the latest BBC Jane Austen mini-series of all of her books, and BBC’s Jane Eyre. There were a few nights I went to bed much later than I should have because I wanted to finish the episode.

Thanks to YouTube, I have discovered and rediscovered so much music. When I get on a Mo-Town kick, I admit to only wanting to hear Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell. They really had great chemistry and were never a couple. The saddest part of this is learning that Tammi Terrell was only 24 when she died from Brain Cancer.

She had so much talent and passion in her singing that 40 years after her death we still remember her songs. ‘Precious Love,’ ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing.’

 My favorite is ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.’

Watch her performance, the little things she does that seem to add and truly connect with Marvin. It is said they loved each other like a brother and sister. He was married to Anita Gordy and she would become engaged to a doctor in the final year or so of her life.

 What makes their music special is the amount of passion, the joy they had at crafting each note into a love story, a resounding affirmation of the happiness in their hearts. Even if that only existed for the moments they sang together.

 What are your favorites to watch on YouTube?

TV Comfort with Glee

Family Movie Night

This past week was open house night at schools across the country. My friends on Facebook have all talked about meeting teachers and seeing classrooms.

Picture by K. Conners

I love this part of open house night. I like peeking into the rooms where my kids spend most of their day, seeing the special areas for reading. The science room had the new smart board which can print off what the teacher writes up on the board. Very cool.

Learning and finding out new factoids is one of my joys in life and I am glad that my kids get excited about doing that everyday. It is something that I wish more adults felt excited about as well. There is always something cool happening in the world and maybe knowing that little thing doesn’t change your whole world. But it can expand your thinking and how you do things on a daily basis.

That is what teachers do for our kids everyday.

I could talk about Mr. Holland’s Opus or Three Cheers for Miss Bishop or Goodbye, Mr. Chips or Music of The Heart as movies that honor and applaud teachers. I might have forgotten other good movies about teachers who strongly touch kids and make them better.

However, on September 14th the complete first season of Glee comes out on DVD and Blue Ray. Man oh man there is going to be a Glee marathon at my house. Every episode has a show stopping number that takes your breathe away while running chills up and down the spine.

When it comes to television that is like comfort foods, this is it for me this year. One of my favorite talk show hosts talked about how a Leave It to Beaver marathon on Nickelodeon got him through 9/11 in 2001. For me, it doesn’t get any better that seeing Sue Sylvester work her magic of evil and win or get burned. Jane Lynch deserves every accolade in the book for her performance.

But there is more than that to my love of Glee. I will admit to getting into the baby drama created by Finn, Puck and Quinn. I am glad that the focus is not always on Rachel and Mercedes knows how to push back. I am watching Kurt and hope that life doesn’t turn him into an evil manipulator. The love between Will and Emma is developing, showing the kids that life is messy no matter how old you are.

I am enjoying seeing Mike O’Malley and Charlotte Ross as parents who are making mistakes and trying to fix them. The guest stars have been great. Neil Patrick Harris, Molly Shannon, Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth were FAb-u-lous.

At this point I have two favorite perfomance pieces. Amber Riley was awesome when she performed “You’re Going to Love Me.” But the group performance that rocks beyond anything is “Bad Romance.” I can watch it over and over and over again.

Now the big sticking point in our house is just how appropriate is this show for kids under the age of 12 or 13. At first I let my 9-year-old watch it. But now, I am beginning to think that there is just enough adult drama and sexuality to ban it from that younger age group. Let me know what you think on the subject.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a suggestion below. Become my friend on Facebook.