Los Angeles singer, songwriter, and creative Em Hollow releases her debut single "Move On"- an early spring anthem. The ambient electronic elements of the melody keeps the track swinging from the beginning until the end. Her passionate and soothing voice along with the transcendent lyrics drive the melody, giving the single a timeless and elegant feel. The LA based twenty-three year old has a bright future ahead of her, as this is the first of many records she will release in the near future. While attempting to find her niche in the competitive industry, she will continue to work on her EP, in which she has yet to name. Go and listen!
Written By: Matthew Harron
A Tribe Called Quest returned from their 18-year hiatus without skipping a beat. Their double sided album, We got it from Here, is packed with a 90's-era feel that will have you jiving for the entirety of the album. One of the more politically charged pieces on the album is track two, “We the People.” Before listening to the song, the satirical title establishes the basis in which the lyrics within operate.
Kick back and listen to Q-Tip & Phife Dawg weave a beautifully crafted piece of music that unpacks messages functioning on multiple levels including: police brutality, deportation, inequality, and the social constructs of race and gender.
Q-Tips opening verse reveals the path in which the rest of this song will take:
We don’t believe you ‘cause we the people/
Are still here in the rear, ayo, we don’t need you/
You in the killing-off-good-young nigga mood/
When we get hungry we eat the same fucking food/
The Ramen Noodle.
Q-Tip addresses the opening lines of the constitution, revealing a sense of satire. He flows into the next line with a metaphor to African Americans being forced to sit in the rear of the bus during the 1950's. His transition to police brutality and the murder of Travyon Martin is fortified in identifying that we are all humans, attempting to live our everyday lives in peace.
The amount of ground that Q-Tip covers is quite impressive if you ask me; in the matter of four lines, Q-Tip matches the powerful beat, flowing through his lines with such intensity and passion. In another section of the same verse below, you will notice that Q-Tip continues the same flow and idea:
Niggas in the hood living in a fishbowl/
Gentrify here, now it’s not a shit hole/
Trendsetter, I know, my shit’s cold/
Ain’t settling because I ain’t so bold but ayy.
Those living in lower socioeconomic environments, predominately minorities, are stuck in a corrupt system. Those living in this system have little to no room at all to move; their ideas and ways of life bounce off the glass, similar to fish. Q-Tip criticizes white culture and those who gentrify the surroundings of minorities. Rather than solving the issues regarding poverty and crime, an influx of white citizens continue to move to these areas to make things "better". The hook that follows after verse one is simple, yet moving:
All you black folks, you must go/
All you Mexicans, you must go/
And all you poor folks, you must go/
Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways/
So all you bad folks, you must go.
These lines are most relevant to major societal issues today. While they are being reinforced by a large majority of Americans, there is a greater bigot at fault: our president, Donald Trump.
Verse two is taken over by Phife Dawg. His lyrics are creative and his flow points towards unrecognized talent.
You bastards overlooking street art/
Better yet, street smarts but you keep us off the charts/
So motherfuck your numbers and your statisticians
Fuck y’all know about true competition?
Phife Dawg reiterates that pop culture doesn’t take the time to recognize talent from the streets; more so, not recognizing honest music with an actual message behind the beat. Major record labels and publications look past a majority of such talent, not allowing them to ever transcend and make it to the top of the charts. Phife Dawg claims that statistics and numbers are extraneous—what really matters is the message and aesthetic produced through their medium. Phife Dawg ends with a total bash towards pop culture, claiming that they have no clue what actual competition is like.
The entirety of Phife Dawg’s verse will make your head spin with his clever word play and syntax. Not only does Phife Dawg address racial issues, he also throws in a line aimed towards gender discrimination:
We got your missy smitten rubbing on her little kitten/
Dreaming of a world that’s equal for women with no division/
Boy, I tell you that’s a vision.
Phife Dawg refers Missy Smitten as someone’s girlfriend, waiting for times to change for women. He claims that women are taking action for a world free of division and patriarchy. He is aware that equality for women is a large task, but our generation is taking admirable steps towards a better world.
Written By: Matthew Harron
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are known for breaking boundaries through their medium of music. From hits like "Same Love", "Drug Dealer", and "White Privilege II", the Grammy Award winning duo depict political and societal charged topics with intentions to get their listeners involved in making a change.
Click here to listen to full the song.
On February 26, Macklemore and Lewis released their newest album This Unruly Mess I've Made. The longest track on the album, White Privilege II, featuring Jamila Woods, emphasizes how white privilege is aligned in our countries lineage; more so, Macklemore addresses how his listeners can get involved.
Macklemore exposes his listeners to a personal experience of his. His opening lyrics paint a scene of confusion at his first Black Lives Matter rally. His lyrics and message convey different opinions regarding race and how individuals perceive race today. He digs into how white culture is accustomed to his message because of the color of his skin.
Macklemore finds himself in a area of unfamiliarity and uncertainty at the BLM rally. As a white male, similar to the cops regulating the rally, he is unsure how to portray himself as a white male surrounded by African Americans.
Pulled into the parking lot, parked it/
Zipped up my parka, joined the procession of marchers/
In my head like, "Is this awkward?/
Should I even be here marching?"
If their is no unity among races, Macklemore believes their is no hope for the greater cause. Macklemore's assiduous mind continues to question his relation to African Americans.
Thinking if they can't, how can I breathe?/
Thinking that they chant, what do I sing?/
I want to take a stance cause we are not free/
And then I thought about it, we are not "we"
Throughout "White Privilege II", Macklemore reinforces the need to support African Americans . His lyrics insist on African American recognition—particularly through the current music industry. Macklemore continues to express how his listeners that white artist continue to take from African American culture. Whether through music or fashion, whites do not recognize the source and creator of what they take for granted.
You've exploited and stolen the music, the moment/
The magic, the passion, the fashion, you toy with/
The culture was never yours to make better/
You're Miley, you're Elvis, you're Iggy Azalea/
Fake and so plastic, you've heisted the magic
In simple terms, whites have taken and recreated a culture for popularity. Not only has this been seen throughout music artists, but also Jazz Age based literature. Claude McKay's Harlem Glory, tells the story of the numbers game in Harlem. Once dominated by African Americans of Harlem, it was soon stolen and recreated after whites saw the riches that could be made—despite their previous views of the game, referring it to as "the nigger pool," whites recreated it without substantial credit to African Americans.
Still in the 21st century, American culture is still facing similar discrepancies among African Americans. It is clear that American history is in an endless cycle of scapegoating.
Macklemore is a guide to all of his listeners, but in particular, his white listeners who are unaware to such discrepancies. Macklemore emphasizes to his listeners that the best thing we can do is to get involved; be informed and take a stance to create a society where African Americans are granted the same social equality.
We have made progress as a society; five years ago it would be unheard of to hear whites talking about white privilege. Though we have made progress, we cannot halt here. It is in the utmost importance that we continue to inform and educate those who are blinded by the racial boundaries in American culture.
Written By: Matthew Harron
Still today, music is used as a powerful tool to quell political tensions when they arise in American culture. Some artist have built their careers around the politically charged messages embodied within their music; this held true for emerging bebop and rock artist during the Civil Rights movement.
African American artists such as Fats Domino contributed to defeating segregation through music. Bebop was fading and the rock-n-roll scene was pushing into the early 1960's. White teens could not ignore the intriguing style that African Americans artists possessed. African American artists skillfully created powerful music, congregating an audience of listeners from all backgrounds, with the intention of challenging the social construct of race.
Fats Domino, an African American artist, performed for integrated audiences throughout the deep south. Hits like "Blueberry Hill" and "Ain't that a shame" broke through intense color lines.
Amidst the growing Civil Rights cases held in court, organizations like the NAACP struggled to find a fair jury, as primarily white and racist men continued to look past segregation. Music was more effective than the court cases that confined African Americans. Danielle McGuire, author of At The Dark End Of The Street, magnifies this in her book. Interracial bands belted out blues, ballads, and bebop over integrated airwaves, effectively launching a revolution that rattled and roused teenagers and shook up segregationists, who bristled at the idea of their offspring listening to the new 'jungle music.'
White segregationists feared the integrated crowds. Never did they want their children to fall in love with an African American. Members of the White Citizens Council (an organization that fought vigorously to keep Jim Crow laws intact) saw the musical work of African Americans as vulgar.
Though today, we have made tremendous progress as a society in the acceptance of whites and blacks integrating. This does not mean that artists are not following similar paths of those from the 1950s and 1960s.
Kendrick Lamar's 2016 Grammy's performance was passionate and empowering. Lamar dismantled previously held stereotypes about African Americans and the society that they are condemned to. To watch a full video click here.
Music has been a guide to creating change in not only the American culture, but throughout the world. It is during the harshest times of racism and segregation that musicians are able to produce a message strong enough to ensure social equality. As McGuire puts it, "It succeeded, as politics, religion, and law could never do, in writing from the heart and soul."
In a recent interview with Kendrick Lamar and Rick Rubin, the two discuss Lamar's relation to jazz music.
Lamar's and Rubin's personalities complement one another in this interactive interview—the conversation between the two is smooth and intriguing. Rubin highlights and reveals Lamar's passion to the sound and creativity jazz music offers.
I recommend watching the full video, but this is the clip that magnifies Lamar's relation to the sound of jazz.
I find what Lamar says about liking Jazz before he knew what it was very interesting. He finds the sound, the dissonance, in particular, to his liking. These sounds can be heard most profoundly on his latest album, To Pimp a Butterfly.
The type of sound was noticed by Terrance Martin, Lamar's saxophone player. Lamar was deciding on the instrumentation used and how the rhythms flowed from player-to-player when Martin pointed out the Jazz influence. The chord structure complimented those of Jazz music.
Some of the most influential Jazz artists for Lamar were Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock.
Lamar also took interest in the work of Prince; Lamar's father introduced Prince to Lamar when he was a child—his father lived and breathed Princes' music. Lamar speaks about how influential Prince was to his career. His range of voice inspired Kendrick to alter his voice and make it more apparent in his music.
Hopefully what we can gain from Lamar's next album is a soul feel. It is clear that Lamar's vibe towards music is being influenced by the greats of past generations.
Written by: Matthew Harron
Upcoming R&B artist Shacar is able to expand on his experiences, inspirations, and motives as a performer in his latest short documentary entitled “Live With Shacar” where we are placed in his point of view as he prepares for his electrified performance later that night in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Various aspects can be identified about Shacar, but one is clear: this transcendent artist has only room to expand. His depth as an artist is strengthened by his spiritual outlook on music, influencing his passion to create generational change though his aesthetic.
As we dive into the thoughts of Shacar, the elegant landscape which surrounds him only radiates his self-taught figure. “I am focused. I still follow the footsteps I taught myself.” His independence reminds himself of the path he has traveled to end up where he is now—since the age of six Shacar has been diligently working as a performer. The trials and tribulations that he has experienced have built upon his persistence as an artist. While seen as a younger artist, his thought process is mature. Shacar’s everlasting goal to influence change is inspiring, “I want people to listen to the words. I want people to go beyond their natural state. Now I can speak my message if you are willing to listen.”
As the documentary comes to a close, we are able to note Shacar’s performance quality. The sweat that drips down his face reflects the burning desire to grow as an artist. His stage presence rectifies what most artist lack: passion, creativity, and solidarity. More than ever, Shacar is pushing the boundaries that engulf our culture—his words will guide your thoughts and support change within yourself.
Most recently, Shacar has been working on a single with Los Angeles producer, Kingdom. Shacar, and other talented artist, will be featured on Kingdom's debut album Tears in the Club- set to release on Feb.24. To read more about Shacar’s single click the link below.
There are two universals in this world. One, washing machines eat socks. And two, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive is a guaranteed antidote to an empty dance floor. While I can't shed much light on the universality of the domestic sock devil, I can offer a few pearls of wisdom about why our bodies find rhythmic songs such as I Will Survive hard to resist.
A universal human trait
Dance and body movement have always been central to the experience of music, and evidence suggests that music and dance evolved together. Indeed, in many cultures around the world they remain inseparable. Even in western society, in which 'passive' listening to music has become the norm, we often just can't help but move along in time to the beat.
By the very nature of the parts of the brain it activates, rhythmic music encourages you to move your body.
And virtually all of us are capable of synchronising to simple rhythms with a high degree of precision. In fact, moving rhythmically to music, especially music we find pleasurable, is for most people spontaneous, accurate, and often hard to inhibit.
A reasonable conclusion, then, might be that moving to music is a universal human trait. But what makes such rhythmic movement possible, and why do we do it?
Dancing in the brain
By the very nature of the parts of the brain it activates, rhythmic music encourages us to move our bodies. This is because rhythmic music activates regions of the brain that control movement, including the supplementary motor area (SMA) and parts of the premotor cortex (PMC).
So not only do musical rhythms in general promote body movement, but rhythmic music we find particularly pleasurable is even more likely to encourage us to dance.
The power of music to activate all these different movement-related regions of the brain facilitates our ability to ʻtune-intoʼ or synchronise with a musical beat, especially music we particularly enjoy. Moreover, the extensive involvement of movement-related regions of the brain when listening to music offers compelling evidence for the joint evolution of music and dance.
Even more compelling evidence for the joint evolution of music and dance can be seen in the fact that we don’t even need to be consciously attending to music to feel the urge to move in time. For example, the sound of a rhythmic beat has been shown to increase activity in the putamen even when we're not consciously paying attention to it.
Of course, classic disco is not the only rhythmic music out there. Any music that contains strong rhythms, whether in the form of a song, a symphony or a movie soundtrack is likely to encourage us to move our body in time. However, in addition to its natural ability to make us move by nature of its rhythmic structure, I Will Survive — which, incidentally, has sold over 14 million copies — also has something of an ace up its sleeve.
Rhythmic movement is most comfortable for the majority of people at a periodicity of just under 2 Hz. In musical terms, that means we find it easier to synchronise with music played at a speed fractionally under 120 bpm.
What's the tempo of I Will Survive? 116 bpm: smack dab in the middle of our rhythmic movement sweet spot. And I Will Survive is in great company. 116 bpm is the same tempo as Mark Ronson's Uptown Funk and Daft Punk's Get Lucky. You may have noticed that they're not only hugely successful songs, but pretty effective dance floor fillers, too..
Music is a ubiquitous phenomenon, present in every known human culture throughout history. Curiously, our desire for it far outstrips its apparent utility. Unlike other desirable activities such as eating or having sex, both of which are necessary for the survival of our species, music provides no immediate evolutionary advantage.
So why does it feel so good to throw on a pair of headphones and listen to our favourite track? The answer may lie in the way music we love manipulates our brain chemistry.
The pleasure centre
Both eating and having sex are — neurologically-speaking — rewarding. Both activities activate the brain's pleasure centre and cause dopamine — a chemical substance that facilitates communication within the central nervous system — to be released.
In fact, research has shown that, when listening to music we know well — and find pleasurable — dopamine is released multiple times during each track, and at distinct times in relation to moments of peak pleasure.
When we experience a 'peak pleasure' moment while listening, it's related to the release of dopamine at that precise moment. Interestingly, this release comes from a primitive part of the brain — the Ventral Striatum — connected with emotions and feelings; a region that we share with other animals.
However, this moment of peak pleasure is actually preceded about 10-15 sec by a release of dopamine from a different part of the brain — the Dorsal Striatum. This is critical to our understanding of how we respond emotionally to music, because that's a part of the brain that is implicated in expectation, specifically emotional expectation and anticipation.
High as a kite
In other words, when our favourite part of a track is approaching, we get an initial hit because we're anticipating what's coming up. Then, when we reach the best bit, we get another hit that 'seals the deal', so to speak. For a brief moment, we feel high as a kite.
And it just so happens that the so-called dopamine reward system is activated in a very similar way when we eat and have sex. Which may help explain why listening to music can feel so good..
To learn more about harnessing the power of the dopamine reward system to create more intense musical experiences, visit thexfactoruncovered.com.
There is a single statistic that should make anyone interested in building a stronger music industry stop and think: 53% of all music listening is done via headphones. Combined with the fact that the average person spends almost 4 hours every day — orone sixth of their entire lives — listening to music, and it really should give pause for thought.
Why? Because it adds fuel to the growing fire that the future of the industry is in the way it can serve up a highly personalised experience. Music has evolved from something we create together to something we listen to together to something we experience predominantly alone. The most common musical activity today is listening to recorded music. And the most common way of doing so is via headphones.
An interesting upshot of this is that the myriad social influences that cloud our decisions about what we 'want' to listen to go out the window. With headphones, we can listen to anything we like and no one else need ever know. This opens up a veritable pandora's box-worth of opportunities for personalising the experience.
Of course we don't only experience music alone, and the live industry continues to blossom. But there too there exist many ways the experience could be personalised, not least of which is the 2nd (3rd?) coming of VR. Looking increasingly likely to take hold this time, it will be interesting to see how successfully the major players in the music and tech industries can implement it for music fans. And how effectively they'll personalise the experience.
Of course, not everyone wants a tailored, convenient experience. What about the surge in vinyl sales, for example? If vinyl is your thing, go right ahead and revel in the subtle nuances of the black plastic disc, build your collection, dare to be different. I grew up on vinyl, I'm right behind you.
But keep in mind that vinyl is now, and will forevermore be a niche market. It may tap into our desire for nostalgia for both those who knew it originally and those for whom it's a hipster throwback, but it's too clumsy, too fragile, to to appeal to the average person. And even if it did make more revenue in 2015 than on-demand ad supported tiers of streaming services, such as YouTube, Vevo and Spotify’s free service, even with its recent surge it only accounts for a tiny fraction of the revenue generated by paid tiers of such streaming streaming services.
So back to the future. The concept of targeting has evolved into a highly sophisticated beast. We're living in the age of hyper targeting, with all manner of goods and services being served up according to our alleged preferences. The question of interest to me is how to get at those preferences? As I've said before, play counts and user profiles are useful, but they're not useful enough. We need to focus on how listeners experience music, then tailor that experience to precisely fit each individual.
And that's the bottom line. With over half our music listening now taking place via headphones, the time is ripe for a new hyper-personalised fan-centric model.
A new beginning. What does it mean to you? A new job? A new relationship? Perhaps a new lead singer?
For me, it started about a year ago. I began to think about what I've accomplished professionally over the last couple of decades. I suppose when one reaches a certain age such thoughts become inevitable. I felt a *shudder* mid-life crisis looming.
From thought to action
At first rather casual, my thoughts became increasingly focused, and slowly transformed into action. As a scientist and musician, I considered all the papers I'd read, all the research I'd carried out myself, all the music I'd written and performed, and everything I'd been lucky enough to learn from colleagues all over the world. I set about compiling a list of not just my achievements but the entirety of my professional knowledge.
As the list progressed, some underlying themes began to emerge. First, I actually found myself relatively pleased with my accomplishments and experiences, and relieved to feel that perhaps my life had some meaning after all (in case you find yourself in a similar position, I highly recommend making a concrete list of everything you've achieved and experienced — I'm confident you'll be pleasantly surprised)!
Second, I observed that, although much of what I knew about music had potentially far-reaching, practical implications, the way that knowledge was disseminated meant that it did not reach a very wide audience. Every year, hundreds of scientific studies on music are published, yet they remain largely inaccessible to the population at large. Sure, there are books about music and science written for a more general audience, but none of them approach the topic from a practical angle. And I wanted to change this.
My professional experience can be distilled into three pillars of knowledge concerning how the world around us — and in particular music — stimulates the mind, captures the heart and seduces the body. So I began to think about how I could apply that knowledge to make it more...well, useful. And I slowly realised that this knowledge could be used to quantify the so-called X-Factor, that intangible quality that elevates great music above the rest. Great music makes us feel something, and research has shown that it affects our mind, heart and body in measurable and predictable ways. I realised that these effects, and the musical features that give rise to them can be used to quantify that special something in the music we love.
With this revelation, I began drafting an outline. I strived for an engaging, practical guide that would connect music fans more deeply with the soundtrack to their lives, help music creators write more successful music, and show music professionals how tocreate more engaging experiences. The outline grew into a solid structure, and slowly transformed into an 11-chapter book entitled The X-Factor in Music, Uncovered. It reveals the science behind what makes the world's favourite music so successful.
One year on, and my new beginning had born fruit. And it tasted good.
Giving something back
And having embraced one new beginning, I'm about to embrace another. The X-Factor in Music, Uncovered launches next week exclusively on the crowdfunding platformIndiegogo. Available for a limited time only in Softcover, Hardcover and eBook formats, if you're a member of my professional network on LinkedIn you can get advanced access to the campaign and take full advantage of the early-bird discounts on offer.
Why am I doing this? Well, over this past year, I've come to appreciate the importance of solid networks for both personal and professional development. I've been inspired to start blogging about music and science, and have been publishing weekly posts for six months now. During this time, I’ve received a wealth of insightful and critical feedback, and developed new relationships with people all over the world. My professional network has grown immeasurably. And so I'm giving something back.
So, if you're a member of my professional network on LinkedIn, simply send me a personal message, or comment on this post, and I'll send you a private link that offers early access to the campaign and the chance to get The X-Factor in Music Uncoveredfor a very special price.
It's no secret that the music industry is in turmoil. The transition from analogue media to digital downloads to digital streaming over the last couple of decades has seen great shifts in the way the industry is structured. And it continues to evolve. Spotify's latest financial results reveal massive growth in listenership, yet at the same time increased losses. After nearly a decade of operation, and despite 90 million users, Spotify has yet to make a profit. I don't think streaming per se is bad at all, but clearly there's room for improvement. And with the rise and demise of a different service or app almost every month, the playing field continues to evolve.
The soundtrack to our lives
Ok, so the business side is a bit off. But what about the music itself? What about the songs that form the soundtrack to our lives? It's tempting to say that music today is rubbish compared to 'the good old days', but is that really true? After all, every generation says the music they grew up with was the best. Could it simply be nostalgia rearing its friendly head to interfere with our objective perceptions? To some extent, certainly.
Let's also consider the changes in the way music, particularly hit music is created. Teams of songwriters are more common now than they used to be, and, as is the case in any superstar industry, a relatively small number of them reap the majority of the success and rewards. Same goes for the artists themselves. But that doesn't necessarily make the music they create any better, does it? (I don't know, what do you think?)
There's a great tradition of songwriting stretching back decades (centuries if we move beyond the age of popular music), and it's produced some phenomenal pieces of cultural history. Far from bashing songwriters, I'd like to suggest an additional approach to enhance their craft which would at the same time help develop the industry as a whole.
Focus on the experience
My view is that in order to create the best, most engaging music possible, one has to understand how that music is experienced by the listener. Not just whether they 'like' or 'don't like' it, since studies have shown that self-reported preferences judgments do not accurately reflect how much a listener actually enjoyed a song. No, if one wants to create songs that keep listeners coming back again and again, it's important to dig a little deeper.
Now of course, there are some major initiatives moving forward with this. A whole host of music tech companies have emerged in recent years, all hungry to take advantage of the mass of data generated by the digital revolution. From song features to play counts to user profiles, there's a phenomenal amount of data out there. But still, these companies are approaching it from the wrong angle.
Not one of these companies (and feel free to correct me on this) considers how listeners actually experience music, how they perceive it, understand it, or respond to it (non-verbally). Play counts, user profiles and MIR-driven music features are all well and good, but they are broad characteristics that are limited in terms of actionable insights. In short, everyone's analysing the wrong features.
Take, for example, how limited most music recommendation systems are, or how poorly computational models can explain what makes a hit song. With apologies to my colleagues working in this field, they're pretty terrible. And it's because they're focusing on the wrong features. We don't just listen to music, we experience it, and it's that experience that we should be quantifying.
The great thing is that the same alternate approach I'm suggesting for these tech companies to make better use of their data is the same approach that songwriters and composers could use to create more engaging music for fans to listen to. I'm a firm believer that there's no such thing as a bad song. But there are great songs. And it's great songs we all remember. Understanding the listeners' experience, and creating music that offers a maximally immersive experience would give any songwriter looking to create a lasting piece of cultural history a firm leg-up.
By understanding the listener' experience, then, one can create music that is more engaging to listen to, music that is more likely to have long-term success. Combine this with a better, more profitable industry driven by the same fundamental approach, and it's a win-win.
And it all starts by understanding the listeners' experience.
Imagine asking Pablo Picasso, one of the most innovative painters and inventor of Cubism, what he thinks about creativity! In 2008, Apple University had a training program for new hires to learn to think like Picasso. The digitalization gurus were not intimidated by the weird Picasso’s thought that “computers are useless. They can only give you answers.” All people can be creative and Apple sees creativity as a big success factor.
For me it was Pablo Picasso who changed my way of thinking. I was learning a new piece by Johann Sebastian Bach and was indulging in the beauty of the music up to the point where I had a feeling that I am not playing up to my capabilities and I just did not know what to do to improve my interpretation. The beauty of the piece and seeming perfection of the melody were preventing me from playing it well. The eye opening was the Picasso’s phrase that the beauty arises out of the destruction - “Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction." I understood this phrase as a challenge to throw away or destroy all pre-conceptions, fixed thoughts and ideas, ready answers and start from the scratch. I decided not to take the creativity of a great composer Bach and the beauty of his creation as something sacred. It was an invitation to start my own creative process. “Everybody has the same energy potential. The average person wastes his in a dozen little ways. I bring mine to bear on one thing only: my paintings”
There are people who have new ideas every day, it is a rare and precious talent but everybody can have plenty of ideas too, it is only the question of freeing them. “I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else” I love the thought of starting a new idea without a rigid plan but with a flexible mindset that would allow more variations of an original idea. Try it out – it is true for any subject. “You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea. An idea is a point of departure and no more. As soon as you elaborate it, it becomes transformed by thought”
Pablo Picasso believes that the successful people do not see any hindrances in the development of their ideas. “Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not. ” The idea becomes you and leads you further. The employees of “Google” are encouraged to put a question “what if..”, it is a productive way of using fantasy at work too.
Technological progress proves that “everything you can imagine is real.” “There is only one way to see things, until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes” This is a change of perspective advice that can bring new vision.
Picasso teaches us to have a solid foundation - “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” Lifelong learning was important for him; he was constantly pushing the borders and developing his skills: “I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
Some people think that having more time, more money and more of anything will bring more creativity, but the lessons of Pablo Picasso prove the opposite. He was radical in his restrictions but at the same time, he was innovative in the use of very concise means.“For a long time I limited myself to one color—as a form of discipline.” If I do not have red, I will take blue.”
Picasso was never tired of experimenting and trying. He was doing hundreds of sketches of the same object until he was happy with the result. The continuous iteration led to outcomes that are more creative. “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” “Action is the foundational key to all success.”
My favorite lesson was Picasso’s advice “Bad artists copy. Good artists steal.” By “stealing” Picasso thinks of going one level deeper, learning about what you like about the thing you copy and making it your own by incorporating some elements from it.
He was not afraid of negative feedback. He was so devoted to the result that he just never thought of not achieving it. “I do not seek. I find.” “He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't. This is an inexorable, indisputable law.” “Only one person has the right to criticize me. It’s Picasso.”
As musicians, we are carriers of influence, whether or not we are aware of it and whether or not we intend to be. The sound and messages we release through our art form directly impact our listeners in powerful ways. This is especially true of the youth and adolescents of our society, who are still extremely malleable to the world around them. I remember sitting in the car with my two little cousins, ages five and eight, when "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk came on the radio. They both started singing every word at the top of their lungs. And when Katy Perry sang during the Super Bowl halftime show, the kids at the party sang nearly every lyric verbatim, putting me to shame because I didn't know all the lyrics, and I'm aspiring to be a pop artist. It began to shock me just how acutely youth are being impacted by the music they listened to, and how much attention they're paying to the music being played around them.
I believe that those who really love and care about music are the ones who grew up listening to songs that touched them and spoke to them in a profound way. I remember being in middle school when the music I listened to defined so much of my identity. As professional musicians, it's no doubt that so many of us can identify with music being a keen agent in shaping the person we have become over the years. Thus, in return, it's almost our unspoken job to create a sound that will be amplified to the next generation, impacting them and impacting our society in return. If we can gain a more comprehensive awareness of how our art form is making a difference around us, we will undoubtedly become better musicians – musicians with a purpose.
The popular music of our day reflects the culture of our day. We can see the fingerprints of a certain generation in the lyrics and sound of that time. One recent and almost outrageous example of this is the song "#SELFIE" by the Chainsmokers. It's a pretty spot-on commentary about the youth and media culture of our day. And in this present age, culture is changing far more frequently than ever before, reflecting styles of music that are evolving and birthed just as rapidly. Interestingly, it wasn't always so.
"There were times and places — in the Europe of the Middle Ages, as an example — where music might remain largely the same for hundreds of years," writes Selwyn Duke in "Influential Beats: The Cultural Impact of Music." "And it is no coincidence that in medieval times something else also remained quite constant: culture. It is clear to me that changes in music hew closely to changes in society’s consensus worldview. This explains why musical tastes change so quickly today: With no dominant cultural stabilizer, such as the Catholic Church (whose medieval influence is undeniable); the ability to transmit ideas worldwide at a button’s touch via modern media…society is prone to continual arbitrary change."
In other words, culture and music flow together. What our parents used to dig, kids of today would deem as lame. And in a few years, the music we think is cool now will probably be outdated. It's nothing against the music. It's just a representation, a manifestation of what's constantly changing around us. With that said, we need to be very aware of our modern day culture, but more importantly, we need to be intentional about the cultures we want to create and cultivate with our music.
Merriam-Webster defines morality as "beliefs about what is right behavior and what is wrong behavior." A quick Google search on the impact of music on morals will yield many results on the negative impact it has on society, especially in the realm of rap and hip-hop music. But in all styles of music nowadays, there are a plethora of songs with lyrics that glorify sex, drugs, and violence. While research can't concretely link the cause-and-effect behavior of listening to these songs with directly inducing this type of behavior, many researchers and people agree that it surely encourages it.
I believe that morals and behavior, especially in teens, aren't completely steered by the lyrics they're listening to, because there are so many factors to building a moral compass. However, music can definitely play a significant role in determining what seems to be right or wrong, okay or not okay, and good or bad. Because of this, we need to become wary about the messages that we are putting out with our songs, but to take it a step further, what if the songs we wrote intentionally carried positive messages? What if they became anthems that declared hope and joy, triumphs over weaknesses, courage and love? We would have the influence to empower the hearts and minds of the next generation, and that is something to truly take hold of.
This is probably the most identifiable and direct impact music has on people in society. It makes us feel a certain way. Music sets moods and creates atmospheres. And as humans, we're so behaviorally influenced by the way we feel. That's why we throw on an upbeat playlist while we're working out, put on jazz on a romantic date, or get up and dance when a four-on-the-floor beat is going down. When I wake up in the morning, I know exactly what songs to play to get me focused and ready for what's up ahead in my day. Now that’s powerful.
Music has the potential to change a mood, to shift an atmosphere, and to encourage a different behavior. In fact, the average American listens to four hours of music each day! Just imagine what kind of an impact music is having on our emotions throughout the day, whether we consciously realize it or not. With emotional impact, the most important thing to consider is: What am I feeling, and how do I want my listeners to feel when they hear this song? Because what you're feeling will help determine what your listener will feel, and that carries a lot of weight.
So in short, music has the power to culturally, morally, and emotionally influence our society. Thus, the more intentional we become with the sounds, messages, and moods we create and release through our music, the more powerful we will become in making deep positive impacts. We have the mandate and authority as artists and musicians to change the world around us because of the influence we carry, and that truly makes music something worth dedicating a life to.
"A person does not hear sound only through the ears; he hears sound through every pore of his body. It permeates the entire being, and according to its particular influence either slows or quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens or soothes the nervous system. It arouses a person to greater passions or it calms him by bringing him peace. According to the sound and its influence a certain effect is produced. Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance. This shows that the same energy which goes into the form of sound before being visible is absorbed by the physical body. In that way the physical body recuperates and becomes charged with new magnetism." ~ from 'Mysticism of Sound' by Hazrat Inayat Khan ~
Dave Morris is a twenty-year-old aspiring singer/songwriter from Boston, Massachusetts who was raised in Southern California from an early age. Morris followed in his forefathers’ shared interest, music; he began singing since he was just a kid and after his father taught him how to play the guitar, his songwriting started developing to what it is today. After high school, Dave ventured further down the California coast to study Business Entrepreneurship and Music at Point Loma Nazarene University where he could focus on his craft. Morris, while busking the streets in Europe, came into contact with Oshane Kirlew, one of Paradice Records’ founders, and from there talk of backing Morris’ pursuit became more and more of a reality.
At the tail-end of summer 2015, he released a four song EP entitled “Echo My Love” where each song chronologically explains his experience inside love’s definition: 1) Nice to Meet You - light-hearted beginnings, 2) Pause - all about the idea of taking a break in a relationship, 3) Echo My Love - a song asking for the reciprocation of feelings, 4) Strangers - the two are now strangers as they were before they met. With the help of Paradice Records, Dave Morris will become a more recognizable name as his music is infiltrated through the connections and resources available in and around this independent record label. Dave Morris’ genre could be described as an R&B/Soul feel with underlying indie electronic beats and rhythms.
"First sliding into the frames of the DopeHouse's front pages last week with the neo-soul sounds of "Ghost" with Santos, rising R&B star Shacar liberates his 5-track EP, Chapter Two: Absent Hotel. NYC, 9PM.
Chapter Two is an earnest glimpse into issues we can all relate to, because, humans: "Loss, heartbreak, selfishness, ambition, faith" and combined with the boardwork of Ollie Beats, SAVON, Kxngs and more, the project gives a natural apperception into these matters without trying hard.
While "Selfish" features all the great attributes and idiosyncrasies that are requisites for modern day R&B, "Holy Hell" allows the New Yorker-by-way-of-Florida to flex his rap superhero persona. "Far Away" is a poignant, yet bouncy song created to inspire listeners to reach for those dreams, no matter how out of reach they may seem, while the closing cut, "Unity" — complete with a sample flip of Queen Latifah's 1993 hit single, a few light shades of jazz and even a little Big K.R.I.T. — is a slow rider which, with everything that has been unfolding this month, is more relevant than ever."
It's been a melancholic couple of days, so I'm excited to bring ya'll some jazzy vibes to get those heads bobbin', feet tappin', and hips swayin'. Shouts to Matty D for sliding me the hauntingly dope visuals for Shacar's new single, "Ghost," a bluesy record about heartbreak and trying to forget past flames after chucking the deuces.
Peepeth out the EARMILK premiere of "Ghost" below, and stick around for more ghastly details following the jump.
If "Ghost" is any indication, Shacar is a cat you should be keeping serious tabs on. His unique sound and Harlem Renaissance-type steelo in this flick is refreshing in an era where seemingly everyone's trapping like some locc'd-out fur traders. The New York-by-way-of-Florida blap king flaunts a silky sing-songy steez on this ditty that blends well with Santos' equally smooth feature verse. Well-played, gents.
Twitter @Gark Mavigan ™
Isn’t it a dream of every one of us to have a partner who would pick up the most subtle nuance in a conversation and would understand what we are intending to say but do not want to put into words? I guess you doubt if there is such a person in this world. However, the scientists are optimistic and suggest that you should find a musician! The recent research shows that an early musical training would teach a person to understand every emotional cue in speech. It teaches to hear very precisely every changes of tone and recognize the emotions in sound – very valuable quality in our everyday life! The daily processing of acoustic tones and especially the efficiency of the processing helps to show incredible results: Richard Ashley, associate professor of music cognition at Northwestern, found that musicians might be able to sense emotions in sound after hearing them for only 50 milliseconds–just 1/20th of a second! Oliver Grewe, a biologist and musicologist, points out that the gift of quickly identifying emotion has implications in all arenas of interpersonal communication. Beside the better language proficiency, a musician would be able to hear your voice in a noisy crowd and might even follow what you are saying… This quality is obvious even for a non-musician if they observe the orchestra where individual voices of instruments intertwine into a beautiful carpet of a whole symphonic work!
But you do not need to be a professional musician to excel in an empathy – an ability to recognize, interpret and respond appropriately to the emotions of others. The scientists from the Cambridge University David M. Greenberg, Peter J. Rentfrow and Simon Baron-Cohen say that listening to music can increase empathy. They raise a whole range of interesting questions like what kind of music can increase empathy, can music decrease empathy, based on musical preferences and thinking styles. I particularly like a simple exercise that helps to train the empathy that I know from my early musical training: ask yourself what the music makes you feel during listening to a particular piece and try to find one word to describe your feelings. This exercise is not trivial, I tried it with several musicians and even they found it tricky with some pieces but if you do repeatedly, it brings fruits!
A neuroscientist Jens Wöllner (2012) showed that people with higher levels of empathy are able to perceive and identify a musician’s intentions with greater accuracy than those with lower levels. So it is a positive circle: the more empathic you are, the more receptive you are to the performance of a musician who is also empathic and communicates the emotions. It leads to greater enjoyment of musical performance and increases the chance of experiencing chills – strong emotional moments. I like the quotation of Oliver Groewe: "Music is a recreative activity. Even if it is relaxing to listen to, the listener has to recreate its meaning, the feelings it expresses. It is the listener who gives life to the emotions in music.” Another psychological trick – projection – does the rest of the game. A singer Joni Mitchell said in an interview: “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”
But how much empathy is healthy? Professional musicians have a reputation of being overtly emotional and highly sensitive – not a necessarily positive quality to put up with in a daily life. Another statistics show high rates of depression among musicians due to too many stimuli and failed filtration. It is very informative to go through internet blogs where there are heated debates if it is true. (I would refer you to Google – just type in “are musicians highly sensitive/emotional?) Musicians work with nuances that would not be possible without high sensitivity. It is a philosophical question if musicians are born with fragile mind to permit the perception of various stimuli or if they develop it during their lifetime. The richness of sensory details that life provides belong to the “virtues” of high sensitivity. I am thinking of more intensity in everything around us: more subtle shades in clothing, more refined taste while eating, the fragrances and smells in nature and surely the sounds in our daily environment. The perception depends not only on higher sensitivity but also on ability to concentrate. Again something, musicians learn in their music training. Pearl Buck, an American Pulitzer prize novelist, finds the right words for a creative mind of a musician. “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To them…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.”
Twitter: @Anna Sutyagina
First show of the New Year at Freddy's Bar in the Big Apple on Febuary 19th, Shacar is back, working and building on his stamina, his story-telling and adding more elements to his music and performances. "Before anything I've always been a performer, you know? So now this is my year. I'm ready to vibrate with my audience. I'm ready to start giving the performances I've dreamed about. I'm ready to start levitating haha." Shacar has been laying low, adding to his craf what he knows about music to make it better for his audience and fans. "Song structure, keeping my lyrics intricate yet simple, having more vocal dynamics. I don't want to just write something that is rushed or on someone else's time. I want to improve my story-telling and what I'm actually trying to express." Releasing a brand new Ep in February, "Chapter Two: Absent Hotel NYC, 9pm", it follows up "Chapter One: Screaming Without A Voice" which was the installment. Expect great work from great producers and maybe even some collabs?
Written By: Eric Lopez
Andre Smith better known as Shacar, signed to Paradice Records in the summer of 2014 and since then has dropped a number of tracks (which can be streamed and downloaded on soundcloud.) Earlier this summer he released his 4 track Ep album "Screaming Without A Voice." Shacar was Born in Clearwater Florida but calls St. Petersburg his home. Shacar believes his music is the representation of love. " It will unite, empower and be a path for a lot of individuals who wants to reach their high-self yet may not have that exposure. I'm bringing a purity of love to the industry." Growing up, Shacar listened mainly to Motown records artists, such as The Temptations, Frankie Lymon, Michael Jackson, etc. People around him often said he had an "old soul" and many believed it had to do with the soulful music he grew up listening to. "Honest expressions, experiences and relief from my own journey. I'm not here to sugar-coat or to create fallacy. I'm here to give people something to feel better about, feel wiser, and feel stronger." Just to name a few artist who Shacarlistens to on a regular are Lauryn Hill, Frank Ocean, Amy Winehouse, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Willow & Jaden Smith, and Joey Bada$$. "I'm into our youth right now and what we're in the process of building"- Shacar. Within the next few months, expect to hear more music, more videos and blog posts about Shacar and his musical growth in the industry. Stay Tuned!!!
(You may check out more on Shacar and his music on Motownfluence.com)
Written By: Eric Lopez