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Music as torture

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It sounds like a joke, so it was no surprise that when we first learned of music being used as an "enhanced interrogation technique" there were lots of jokes to be heard. But we're not talking about being in a store and feeling like the music being piped in is going to drive you crazy. We are talking about music deliberately being used in way that can drive you crazy. You can walk out of a store; prisoners cannot escape from the loud onslaught of the music they're subjected to.

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Turn the page - if you dare

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

You've probably never given a second thought to the page-turner sitting or standing unobtrusively behind the pianist at a concert - and that's the way it should be. Page-turners, and their opera counterparts, the prompters, are like offensive linemen in football: you only notice them when they do something wrong. Their job is to be invisible, and to enable the star to do his/her job, whether that's negotiating a long and difficult sonata, or surviving the murderous charge of a 300-pound linebacker clad in hard plastic armor.

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Eminem's relapse

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I've liked Eminem since "My Name Is," his first real hit back in 1999 and a song which, while full of vulgar and violent imagery, also had something unexpected going for it - a sense of humor. With "Stan," his chilling tale of an obsessed and possibly murderous fan, Eminem ...

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a note on final notes

Monday, May 18, 2009

The opening of the 1983 film The Big Chill begins with a group of former college friends coming together for the funeral of one of their number. We don't yet know anything about him or them, but when the funeral organist launches into the Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get ...

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The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Noise

Friday, May 15, 2009

Most of us think we know the difference between music and noise. Bach, the Beatles, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, Celine Dion, Youssou N'Dour... you may not like all of them, but they're clearly music. The garbage truck on a Saturday morning when you're not quite ready to wake up, or ...

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The New Sound of the String Quartet

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In 2000, I brought the Opus One Piano Quartet to Memphis to play at a public radio conference. Their cellist, Peter Wiley, and I got to talking about the various things he'd been doing - among them, playing the cello in the fabled Beaux Arts Trio - when he confided ...

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previously on the blog...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I've talked before on the blog about soundtracks, and how they can be more than simple background music - most recently, last week when Jim Jarmusch joined us. But Michael Giacchino's music for the hit ABC television series Lost is an interesting case. For one thing, we don't expect ...

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Soundcheck's Picks of the Week

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mexican-flavored beats, atmospheric chamber music, and some intelligent dance music are featured in Soundcheck's Picks of the Week.

Mexican Institute of Sound - Soy Sauce (Nacional Records)

If there is one thing music could make more use of is some sense of humor. That is why it’s so refreshing to ...

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... and a side of Beatles please.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A restaurant tells you a lot about itself by the way it's lit and by the way it sounds. Bright and noisy, with pop and classic rock at full volume means eat your food (but maybe don't pay too close attention to it), have some drinks, and see who's at ...

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"born in a small town"

Monday, May 11, 2009

I hadn't noticed a particular upswing lately in the number of country songs proudly and loudly proclaiming their creators to be Small-Town Boys. (And girls, I suppose, though this does seem to be mostly a dude thing.) But then, I don't pay attention to the contemporary country scene all that ...

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AM I SHOUTING?

Friday, May 08, 2009

I'LL BE WITH YOU IN JUST A SECOND! I JUST WANNA HEAR THE END OF THIS SONG! 'CAUSE I REALLY LIKE IT, YOU KNOW?! OK - WAIT. THERE, I'LL TAKE THE EARBUDS OUT NOW! OKAY, SO... oh. Okay, so I guess maybe I was shouting a little. It's just that ...

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Practicing Safe Sound

Friday, May 08, 2009

With the increasing popularity of MP3 players, millions of people across the U.S. are at a new found risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss. Prolonged exposure to sounds over 90 decibels, or the equivalent of a motorcycle, can cause gradual hearing loss, and ...

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Music: luxury or a necessity at any price?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

When the economy tanks, everyone feels the pain. Even the New York Yankees, who in the run-up to the opening of the new Yankee Stadium gave every indication that they were immune to the effects of the recession, are finding themselves slashing their (ridiculously high) ticket prices in the face ...

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When music is more than just a soundtrack

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Film makers can sometimes be really obsessive about the music in their films. The late Stanley Kubrick, for example. He was notorious for falling in love with his placeholder music - the records he'd play to certain scenes before the actual film score was composed, just so he'd have something ...

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The real jazz icon

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

At first, today's Smackdown topic seems an easy one to answer. Which instrument has had the bigger impact on jazz, the sax or the trumpet? Gotta be the sax, right? I mean, sure, the trumpet had Louis Armstrong and Clark Terry and Miles Davis. But John Coltrane, Lester Young, Coleman ...

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The "Real" Adele

Monday, May 04, 2009

"Authenticity" has become a big part of the music conversation - usually among musicians and critics more than rank-and-file listeners, but still, the talk about who's raps are more "real" has certainly become more commonplace. The "authenticity" argument stalks through London's music circles too - when Kate Nash began to ...

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Was the Grinch right?

Friday, May 01, 2009

There's a scene in How The Grinch Stole Christmas where the Grinch is explaining to his hapless dog Max why he simply must stop Christmas from coming to Whoville. Being a grinchy sort, he hates all the good will and the presents and stuff, but what really gets him, he ...

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What are New York's Noisiest Neighborhoods?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Each Friday throughout May, Soundcheck explores how noise shapes our lives in a 5-part series we call "Sound Off." The series coincides with "Better Hearing and Speech Month." We begin by looking at what noise means for our quality of life in New York City. Below is a breakdown ...

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I Got The Horse Right Here...

Thursday, April 30, 2009

I have always loved thoroughbred horse racing. I mean, I love sports in general: baseball (Yankees), football (Giants), real football - aka "soccer" (Arsenal, from north London), hockey (Islanders). But there's a difference with horse racing. Because the bettors are so much a part of the sport, you feel involved ...

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Soundcheck's Picks of the Week

Thursday, April 30, 2009

This week’s picks offer some Mediterranean sounds, Bernstein's hippie-inspired Mass, and a truly “Grimm” fairy tale...

Philip Glass & Robert Moran – The Juniper Tree (Orange Mountain Music)

In 1985, composers Philip Glass and Robert Moran unveiled a chamber opera based on The Juniper Tree, by the Brothers Grimm. Even ...

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