Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Who is Utada, you might ask?
Well, she has to be one of the most famous musicians in all of Japanese music history. She was born in New York to a record producer and a well-known enka singer (Keiko Fuji). At the age of thirteen she recorded her first English R&B album, but that never came out in the United States due to label change issues. At the age of fifteen, she recorded a Japanese language album (it went ten times platinum) that turned out to be the top selling album in Japanese history. Altogether she's sold over 50 million units and counting! She also holds the number two position for most digitally sold song ("Flavor of Life") right behind Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend". In 2004, she came out with another English album called "Exodus" but that failed miserably in the states selling only about 55,000 units. But I blame Island Def Jam for not promoting her. This time around the promotion has been a thousand times better!
Betcha didn't know all that! Well, unfortunately, she's virtually unknown to the U.S. masses. But there's always an underground fanbase for her, you'd be suprised at how many Hikki fans there are around.
But I digress.
This is the One came out in the United States digitally on iTunes on March 24th and physical CDs will be coming out some time in May to allow for more promotion. Of course, I had the CD way before it came out on iTunes and way before it was released in Japan (which was in early March). Pirating. Woo hoo! But hey, I kinda have permission to download it illegally since Hikki said in an interview that she didn't mind it. LULZ. It's basically a whole 180 degree change from her Exodus album which was mad-scientist experimental. This time around it's very poppish/R&B. It's drops hints of inspirations from good old 90's music, like what you would hear from Ace of Base and TLC. Overall, I think it's a better album for mainstream play in America, but I do miss the experimental tones of Exodus. Well, don't get me wrong, there is some experimentation in This is the One but it's very subtle. Anyways for this album, Hikki teams up with Tricky and Stargate (two VERY popular producers) to create a pretty awesome tracks.
Anyways, my album review (going from the Japanese track list):
The album opens up with On and On which is an uptempo track. I love the line: "Honeys if you're gay burn it up like a gay parade". It's a fun track and great way to open the album. The beat is good and the harmonies are catchy. My only gripe is the guy screaming constantly in the background.
The next song is one of my favorites on the album even though I'm not too pleased about the synthesized violin (possibly it's an electric violin) but I think a warmer acoustic sound would have sufficed. Utada samples the song "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" by pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto for the track. Considering the original song had such a different feel, Utada does a pretty good job incorporating it into a more poppish sound.
The album transitions into "Apples and Cinnamon". This was one of the first songs produced for this album and the final product uses vocals from the demo version. This song was produced by Stargate--a duo that has created hits such as "Unfaithful" and "With You". Some of the lyrics can get a little repetitive here.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
From the annoyingly catchy commercial jingles I hear coming from my television to the thunderous and powerful crescendos and cadenzas of Beethoven's symphonies, music permeates my everyday life. Music, as defined by the Encarta Online Dictionary is: The art of arranging or making sounds, usually those of musical instruments or voices, in groups and patterns that create a pleasing or stimulating effect. How can such a broad and diverse art be categorized in such a manner? This mechanical and objective definition cannot do much justice to this great, organic and complex art. Music is essential in our daily lives whose being is part of our language and is something in which we are immersed.
Something magical happens when I carefully place my practiced fingers onto the ivory keys of my baby grand piano, or place the spindly and fragile bow onto the surface of the surface of the Evah Pirazzi strings of my French-made violin (a note is played). This note is not just sound, but part of a harmony, the beginning of an arpeggio or a chord leading to the melody of the concerto. The sound that is heard is not just harmonic vibration of a string creating forced resonance within the wooden body of the instrument which amplifies the pitch created, but a connotative word imbued with both the composer's and the artist's soul. It is a live being.
The wondrous ways a single note may be played! A single note may sound sensuous, happy, angry, sad, and all the emotions in between. Like human words, a sentence of notes define a certain emotion and message. It feels like my soul spills out from my fingers as I create these sentences which embrace my attention and demand more soul-sacrifice for their hungry exploit. Their goal is to reach unwary ears and trap them into my world of emotions. The barely audible patter of my fingers running up the fingerboard of my violin express the genius of Mendelssohn's only violin concerto and tells a story of vivid landscapes—and the essence of Western classical music.
Playing the piano, my hands fly across the keyboard as I piece together Chopin's Revolutionary Etude. The passion and anger that Chopin felt after the failure of the November Revolution is written into the notes of his bold statement. I am the medium through which hundred-year-old emotions come alive once more. I feel the sadness, the passion, and the anger and I let it flow through my fingers. No, after having the privilege of reproducing these bold statements, I cannot say that music is a mere sequence of notes and rhythms. Not just classical music alone holds these powerful messages but so do all genres. From sugar-pop to the heavy bass beats of rap, all music expresses universal ideas and emotions.
Music is not only mere percussive instrumental or vocal sounds, but it is also present in our language. While music may create words, words may create melodies. When I was younger, my family returned to Maryland every Christmas break for a family gather. In this noisy environment, I would close my eyes and listen to the rapid exchange of Vietnamese traveling throughout Ba Ngoai and Ong Ngoai's small home. Drowning the distinct separation of words, I would listen to the rise and fall of the pitches and through the melody, I can understand a statement's general meaning (even though I am not very fluent in the language). The lilt of Vietnamese is comforting and every sentence creates a melody that is pleasing to my ear. Like instrumental music, not all language-melodies are pleasing to the ear. Personally, I find German too harsh and spitting and that English is quite bland and rough unless it is softened by an accent (preferably British). Similar to modern composers sampling tunes from older music, accents add color to a language by blending two distinct melodies together to create a variation of the originals. From the pitches and tone languages use, an emotion may deviate. A simple sentence, “She's beautiful!” may express surprise, admiration, sarcasm, and a multitude of other emotions. Words, like a single note imply a plethora of emotion and meanings.
Language and instrumental music offer only a microscopic view of specific regions of music's entire domain. Music resides within the very clockwork of nature itself. We hear animals grunting, chirping, squeaking. And beating out their melodies because they do not have a definite language like humans. They use their melodies to communicate dominance, locations of food, and other essential survival information. Communication to survive is their use of music. The sound of rain beating upon the windowsill to explosions of a molten erupting volcano constitute Mother Nature's personal song which brings peace or destruction to her subjects lives. The seasons, day and nigh, and the solar system move in a fixed rhythm. Some rhythms may die only to be replaced by a new one which only contributes to the never ending score that God has written. The movement of each individual component of the universe, from microscopic atoms to massive stars move sometimes in harmony and other times in cacophony like the harmonies and counter-melodies of a symphony.
The intertwined nature and music is an ancient idea. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese developed the Chinese musical scale and system that incorporated this philosophy. The Chinese mathematically derived their scale from a note, and each varying degree is associated with a cardinal point, the elements, the seasons, the planets, the months, of the year, colors, material,s numbers, parts of the body, animals, smells , and so forth. Also each source of sound, or instrument type is connected with eight elements of nature: metal, stone, silk, bamboo, calabash (gourd), terra cotta (earth), skin, and wood. From the earth comes music and from music comes the expression of creation and existence of all things. The harmonious intertwining in this eternal dance is the philosophy of music and nature.
Listen to the rustling of branches of those overgrown backyard evergreen trees. Listen to someone speaking without attempting to make sense of every word. Listen to the melodies of Mozart, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Broadway musicals, and (with a gigantic dosage of guts, stamina, Tylenol, and an extra helping of Vicodin,) Britney Spears. There is always a melody, a rhythm, a message, a sentence, a word, and an emotion written within each beat played. Music is not something that can be separated and eliminated from existence because it is so vast and extensive, its roots extending far into reality. It is not just a series of rhythmic pitches, rather it is emotion and the driving spirit of the universe.
A DICTIONARY DEFINITION: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/music
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Well, currently I've been in a relationship for oooohhh, about three weeks. I met this guy briefly a couple of months ago on my way to Harrison after a failed attempt to convince some people who were high off their asses to go sledding with me and the rest of the sober gang. He was with a group of people who were friends with one of my other friends and for one reason or another there was a frenzy of exchanging of phone numbers.
A couple of weeks after that, after a lot of crap went down with my friends at Harrison (I no longer am on speaking terms with them,) I saw this guy again and we started chatting a little. Fifteen minutes later, he texts me and wants to study for the exam with me. Who knew people could bond over the abomination of all school subjects? And about a week and a half later we started dating. Funny huh? Getting into a relationship with a guy I barely knew. I'm more used to dating guy friends whom I've known for months or years. Maybe this is a better way because I don't speak to my ex boyfriends anymore, which is really sad since our friendship was ruined after the breakups.
There are things about my current relationship that bothers me. I really don't know what his priorities are and I don't mind all the oddities about him and the things he does. But he's sort of "hot and cold". For a couple days he'll want to spend a lot of time with me, and others he'll just be a little curt when talking to me. I understand what influences him to act this way, but it's a little disconcerting sometimes. I guess that's what I have to deal with. I just wish I had a little more insight into his priorities or something so it would be easier for me.
Then there's those silences. It's a comfortable silence for me, but sometimes I wonder if I should start talking about something. I feel kind of stupid for not being able to think of something to say. I've never really been the talkative type of person. So, I wonder how it feels for him. ~
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Dear God, I envy the people who live for physics because I sure don't.
I've been studying for the PHYS172 exam that I took about an hour ago and I still think that I failed. Seriously I've realized that I don't understand a thing. Well, maybe a little bit but it's nothing to be proud of. I feel a little depressed about it and I don't know if there's a light bulb that will click "on!" and I'll start being able to understand the content a little more easily.
It's hard for me to keep up with such a fast learning pace. In high school, I took Honors Physics and that was a breeze because my classes were small so I could actually ask questions in lecture. PHYS172 recitation does not help me at all because the only I do there is work on problems the teacher assistants give my group. And still, it's hard for me to think up of a way to work out the problems. For example, take the energy principle. I know what it is, but it takes me a while to figure out which formulas for kinetic energy and potential energy I need to plug in and whether or not a system has kinetic energy or potential energy on either side of the problem (Efinal=Einitial [+W in some cases]).
Right now I am totally brain-dead and am lazy as hell. I still need to finish my MA172 homework. I'm so behind in MA162. I haven't paid attention to what has been going on in that class ever since the topic of series came up. So this weekend I'll need to start reading through the chapters.
Well, I confess. I haven't been studying as much as I should have. I studied for the PHYS172 exam, but only superficially. I don't have the concentration to sit down and pick through all the little details in the text. However, I have found that reading the textbook is a really great sleep aid for me. But aside from that, I've gotten no real benefit from reading the text. Also, I've been making bad choices that have kept me from studying. I should have studied all week this week, but what did I do? I spent practically 48 hours straight on Monday and Tuesday with my friends chilling out, smoking hookah, and...other stuff. And then I should have gotten my usual eight hours of sleep but my boyfriend kept texting me and was practically begging me to help him with his English homework which lasted to about 4:30 A.M.. The things I do...
I really think I should make a list of priorities and start keeping an hour by hour schedule of what I'm going to do through the day. If I don't learn time-management skills soon then I'm going to be screwed for the 2009-2010 school year because it will contain some of the most difficult curriculum for my major (biomedical engineering and assuming that I can get in) aside from the dreaded senior design project. Or I could just change my major, but that would be an epic failure (for me at least).